Whistling, For Whatever Value

That’s it. It’s finally happened.

The dishwasher has stopped working again. (No, that’s not what’s finally happened, though it’s the preceding event.) I am not even halfway through my coffee, but don’t fret, my beloveds. I am finally, FINALLY seeing the funny side. (There. That’s it. That’s the thing.)

I was hoping it would happen. I knew there would be some-damn-thing else, because there always is. I was just praying that the next thing to happen would be so absurd my response would be staring at the news for a few moments, my head cocked…and then, laughter.

And what do you know, here we are. “Look at that,” the Princess said, in a tone of wonder coming through text messages. “Three years of plague has even stressed out our dishwasher.”

She was a little hesitant to tell me the damn thing had stopped working again, probably because the previous incidence almost broke me. But the appliance repairman explained the problem so clearly and thoroughly I expected this sooner or later, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Plus, it’s just funny. Three years of plague (not to mention everything else) is too much even for insensate machines. No wonder delicate, nerve- filled meatsacks are feeling a little frayed right now. And yes, it’s a first-world problem of the highest order, I am well aware. Though I’m sure another Well Actually will attempt to tell me so, at high volume, on social media.

That will be funny too, especially after I mash the block button.

The release of internal pressure is exquisite. I have finally, finally reached the point where absurdity has overcome everything else, and I’m Officially Seeing the Funny Side. There was a long period of time where I just…couldn’t, and dear gods that’s uncomfortable.

Sure, the laughter has a screamy edge to it, but it’s better than the alternative. And yes, a certain part of this coping method is whistling past the graveyard, so to speak. No doubt some will mistake my humor–always black and bleak at the best of times–for uncaring, or will take offense at my determination to crack a joke. That’s fine. You cope in your way, I’ll do so in mine, there’s room in the world for both.

I am just so relieved to finally be laughing again. The world’s on fire and the plague continues, yes, and as long as I’m seeing the funny side–however small–I can do my best to help those I care for, not to mention keep some measure of psychic integrity despite the onslaught.

I was waiting to see what would break me, and hoping it would crack in the direction of mordant amusement. Here we are, and it’s a bloody relief.

The dogs need walking, too. No matter what else happens, canine routine and habit must be upheld. It’s subscription drop day, too. And I need to get a character through burgling an arch-enemy’s house, not to mention shift to another book to get a pair of characters out of a pretty-much-destroyed apartment and onto their grand adventure.

I can relax now, for whatever value of “relaxation.” Weapons out, teeth bared, howling laughter filling my throat, I’m ready for the rest of this.

It’s kind of good to be back. Even under these acid-test conditions.

Monday’s Scorecard

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haha, no

So the plumbers were out again yesterday. The problem appeared to be fixed. I walked the dogs, took a shower, made lunch, letting the fix sit and think about things.

Maybe that was my mistake.

Because as soon as I washed dishes after lunch I found the problem was, indeed, not fixed. I gather this happens a lot with plumbing, but dear gods and garters, I was unamused.

To put it mildly.

At least the appliance repairman who came out to deal with the dishwasher (an entirely separate problem) proved effective (so far). He listened carefully to my description of dishwasher events, nodding thoughtfully, and said, “I think I know what’s going on, based on that.”

I learned that my dishwasher isn’t plugged in but hard-wired through the floor, and in any case I wouldn’t have needed to take it out to look behind it in order to fix the damn thing. The problem appeared to be some shifting as the door was opened and closed, moving some padding, which put pressure on some wires, and is actually quite a common complaint. “Happens a lot, especially with these new types. Let me just run a few more tests to make sure there’s not another problem hanging out in there…”

Then, when he had run all the tests, he peered at the top of the frame and said, “The installers didn’t…huh.”

“The last guy to own this house was a Do-It-Yourselfer,” I offered, a bit faintly. I couldn’t believe things were going so well, and was braced for disaster. “They didn’t put those screws in because of the countertop, you see how it…”

“Oh yeah, I see,” he said, in a tone half wonder, half confirmed-suspicion. “Seen this before too. Let me just…”

He dug in a capacious assortment of screws, washers, nails, and other tiny bits (all neatly organized in a plastic container), found what he wanted, and badda-boom, had the metal tabs at the top screwed into the underside of the counter, with zero fuss. “Now it won’t tip, and that stuff below might not work loose again. But just in case…” He picked up his phone and started tapping. “I’m gonna add notes to your file, so if the problem isn’t just those wires getting pinched we can replace the whole circuit board under there. Sometimes the wire nuts heat up and things get iffy. Don’t you worry, ma’am. It’s going to be all right.”

Have you ever wanted to burst into tears when a stranger says that? Dearly beloveds, I longed to dissolve into sobs. However, I swallowed them, put on a professional face, and made the fellow some coffee, because as he said, “I love caffeine. Love it. Best thing that ever happened to the world.”

I sent off Jake the Appliance Repair Gumshoe with a quad-shot of espresso, cut with some heavy cream. He was most grateful, and gave me a cheery thumb’s-up before pulling out of the driveway, leaving me to my own devices with a (hopefully) fully repaired dishwasher, at least.

So the score for Monday was: Plumbers 0/2, third game next week; Appliance Repairman undefeated (so far); Yours Truly, don’t ask, I’m trying not to scream.

I know these are first-world problems and others are dealing with far, far more. There’s a load of numbing, crushing in guilt in this being the damn straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends me raving into the desert night. I am trying like hell to find the funny side of this, of anything, because once I start laughing it’ll be all right.

To that end I watched Deadpool again last night, and the cartoon-y violence was 100% what I needed. I feel bad for that being the thing that helped, in however small a dose, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.

The dishwasher seems to be holding up. Each time I press the start button it’s with a whispered prayer. It drains below the leaky portion of the below-sink pipes, too, so that’s a tiny victory. Of course we have buckets to catch the drips, but that’s hardly the point.

Anyway, I’m still fighting. I’m trying to find the funny side in all this, or indeed in anything. At least I can escape a little today, burying myself in work since there will be no strangers visiting. Getting ready for polite social interaction is a burden I can well do without at this point. Just let me burrow into my hole.

So I’m off to get some brekkie and walk the dogs. No matter what else is going on, they need their walkies, dammit, and the rain means we probably won’t see anyone else as we amble. That will be nice.

Hang in there, everyone. Sooner or later things will get better. They have to. I’m not prepared to accept any other outcome.

Over and out.

From Books to Mortality

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Happy Monday, my dears. I greeted the day finishing Shaun Bythell’s Confessions of a Bookseller in bed, twelve out of ten, utterly delightful, can recommend. My writing partner (who owned a bookstore for many a year, an event for which I was indirectly responsible, long story) recommended it. “It’s like my old Tales of the Bookstore posts, a whole year of them.” And she was right.

Mr Bythell’s shop is The Bookshop, Wigtown, which sounds amazing as all hell. It takes the patience of a saint to run a place like that; I have never owned a bookstore, being content to merely offer my services as a buyer, shelver, and patient ringer-up. Which takes its own kind of fortitude, but one can always blame the boss when a customer becomes impertinent. “Sorry, I can’t do that, the boss won’t let me.”

Anyway, it was a lovely palate-cleanser, since I’ve been reading only true crime and depressing history for months now. Also, we had snow yesterday–fortunately, it only lasted about twenty-four hours and today there’s no sign that there was ever a slushpocalypse at all. The dogs were extremely vivacious during their walk yesterday morning, apparently determined to toss me headlong into a pile of wet ice at the first opportunity. Arriving home in one piece and relatively dry was a victory, one I celebrated with a feverish round of housecleaning, it being Sunday and all.

I am waiting for one last sales platform to get itself together, then I’ll have something special for you all. If everything goes well I can make the announcement tomorrow. It’s not huge, but it is extremely amusing, and I am on tenterhooks waiting for that one…last…platform. Ah well, it’s the holiday season; everything’s moving slowly.

This week I turn my engines fully toward Hell’s Acre. If I can get through the charity ball before knocking off for Yule I’ll be happy; I desperately need some more murder in this book.

I also need to brave the wilds for some further Yule supplies–just last-minute things, but getting them done will mean I can spend the upcoming holiday weekend cooking without worry. The kids voted a resounding “no” to decorations this year. (The actual vote was two and a half for “fuck no” and one-half abstaining, so no decorating. We’re just too tired.)

2021 has been a bit of a bear, what with the second year of pandemic and the slow-mo fascist coup still attempting to metastasize in the body politic. I alternate between nervous hope and complete despair, as I have since before 2016.

There was also a strange bit of ectoplasm near my loo door this morning. I have spent most of my life as a mother by this point, so I merely glanced at it as I staggered out of bed, returning to discern its source and true nature only once I had coffee in hand. It turned out to be a bit of bile from Miss B, who occasionally has a small amount of stomach upset, being the old lady she is. Brewer’s yeast tablets seem to have largely sorted her on that front, which is a blessing; still, I am facing the evidence of her upcoming mortality with quite a bit of pre-grief. She’s still got some time left, but I can see the end, and it will be a dark time indeed when she decides she’s ready to go.

Of course, I am dead sure she’ll return in some form or another, since I cannot be trusted to supervise myself and it is her self-chosen job to fill that role. The Princess is of the opinion that Miss B will choose to inhabit the body of a corgi next, which will be all kinds of fun for all concerned. But that’s still in the future, and for now I am making the most of the time remaining in this incarnation. Our elderly statesdog wants for nothing, and shall for as long as she deigns to remain in my care.

Using the time we have will not make the eventual grief lighter, but it will give me something to hold when it arrives.

And on that note, I shall be about my business. Miss B, unmindful of my mood, is pressing for walkies since I was lazy and lay abed for a half-hour finishing that book. The daily schedule is in danger, and she cannot abide that; routine and ritual are her watchwords. Boxnoggin, of course, is content to follow her lead, so he’s attempting to wriggle under my office chair as I type this. Since he’s a good sixty pounds of muscular, youngish doge, the chair is in danger of giving out completely, which is not a great deal of fun but would manage to pry me away from the glowing desktop box said dogs are completely mystified by. (“She just…stares at it, and taps with her little monkey paws. Humans are weird…”)

See you around.

Cactus, Get Me Through

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Just get me through December.

Yesterday was a very bad brain day, full of brain-weasels. Which required the big guns–I retreated into Nabokov and spent the day with Lolita; I think one more time through Invitation to a Beheading (my favorite of ol’ Vlad’s) will set me relatively right.

Or so I hope. I’ve simply got to get this revision turned in, it’s been hanging in the “goddammit” category for far too long.

The winter cactus is blooming, and I woke up with Alison Krauss’s Get Me Through December playing inside my head. Last night was chilly, but I had the dogs to cuddle and didn’t want to slither out of bed at all today…yet I have. Canine bladders and my responsibility to the mortgage won’t wait. Some days I’m even grateful for the chainfall of duty dragging me free of whatever hole has swallowed the world’s light.

…it’s taken me a ridiculously long time to write this, since Miss B keeps demanding my attention for pets, a brushing, her morning treat(s), and yet another trip outside though she could have just peed when I let her out the first two times instead of standing on the deck and deciding it’s too cold. (The lady is wearing a fur coat, but she is delicate.) Boxnoggin, of course, has to be in on everything she does, except going outside.

He’s no fool, and it’s chilly out there.

I wish you a calm, pleasant weekend, beloveds, and I hope for one in my corner of the world as well.

Just…let’s get through December. That’s all I’m asking, at this point.

Over and out.

Leaf Magic

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Just hanging out…

The feeling when one is just ditty-bopping along, minding one’s own ditty-bopping business, and one comes across a floating bit of leaf…suspended from gossamer threads tiny eight-legged predators extrude from their backsides.

You cannot tell me Nature, the gods, the Universe, or whatever’s responsible for All This doesn’t have a sense of humor. Sometimes that sense is almost as bleak and mordant as my own, sometimes it leaves mine in the dust, and sometimes it’s complete zaniness. I mean, think of platypuses, a giraffe’s blood pressure, fungus in general, the fact that rats laugh when you tickle them, entire groves of birch trees as a single organism–and floating leaf-bits, hanging from silk from spider buttholes.

Laughing at the absurdity is better than screaming at an uncaring universe. Or so I firmly believe, and will believe until I am shuffled out of the mortal coil. Plus, this shit is just genuinely hilarious.

Have a lovely weekend, my darlings. Be kind to yourselves, and each other; keep a sharp eye out for the weirdly funny lingering in every corner…

Manner of Doldrums

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It’s a gloomy Pacific Northwest autumn morning, which suits me perfectly right down to the ground. The rain has been wonderful, the wind amusing; Boxnoggin loses his tiny little mind when invisible air-fingers are touching his hind end, and while I can’t blame him–it must be disconcerting–it doesn’t stop the whole thing from being hilarious. Miss B, of course, is unbothered by anything and everything except dinner being even a fraction of a minute late.

It’s the close of the witch’s year. We’re coming up on two years’ worth of pandemic, too, though the vaccine mandates seem to be making a bit of a dent. It’s about bloody time. If only we’d had adults (instead of fascist toddlers) in charge initially, we might have already been done with all this. My nerves are bare wires, despite all the attempts to re-wrap them.

But my favourite holiday is almost, almost here. Candy has been stored–we won’t hand it out, of course, trick or treaters will have to wait since the dogs go mad every time the doorbell rings and there’s the little matter of plague. Instead, it’ll go in a big bowl on the table, and we’ll have sugar for days.

Such are the tiny joys I’m looking forward to.

Work yesterday was interrupted by a series of minor catastrophes, so I got barely 700 words in and was quite vexed. I couldn’t even tell if they were good words, and by the end of my working day I was hangry enough to snarl. I did not, though it was a near thing, and I couldn’t go back after dinner for another session, alas.

Ah well. Today is another day, the dogs need another walk, and there’s another round of restless rain sweeping the roof. I’ll see if yesterday’s work was any good once the coffee soaks in, and I should shoehorn in a run for my weary corpse.

Everyone I know is in some manner of doldrums. Two years of All This, even with slight and fitful progress by getting semi-reasonable people back in charge–though they seem to be more interested in caving to authoritarian billionaires than doing the jobs the rest of us hired them for–is enough to dent anyone’s harmony.

I’m turning off the news today, and only glancing briefly at social stuff. I can’t take even one more goddamn thing, and I want some more lead work of Hell’s Acre before November hits and with it the drop-dead date for revisions on The Black God’s Heart, not to mention a couple other projects needing some serious attention before the end of the formal year. Oh, and Cotton Crossing is still $2.99 across ebook retailers until October 31. I’ve enjoyed running that promotion and may have to dream up a different one for November.

Miss B is napping near the door, ready for the slightest twitch on my part–it will, after all, mean walkies are closer to happening. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as excited for anything as her and Boxnoggin are for their daily ramble, but I can at least witness their joy. It’s one of the things getting me through, lately.

We’re all hanging in, all doing the best we can. Good for us–and I don’t mean that sarcastically, either. I’m truly and honestly amazed by the amount of resilience we’ve all displayed. Ideally we would never have had to call upon it…but it’s worthy of a bit of pat-on-the-back just the same.

Good job, everyone. Let’s keep going. The only way out is through, and all that…

Relatively Under Control

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Spent a weekend-that-wasn’t getting proofs turned around at light speed so a book can release in November instead of February, made coq au vin for the first time in a long time, and I can run again this morning.

Having to take a week-long break from running turned me somewhat irritable, but not overly so–at least, so I’m told, and so I hope. I got a lot of work done and my body has stopped screaming at me, so there’s that.

Today is for Hell’s Acre–true to Victorian serial form, someone needs to write a letter–and more She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, since the heroine’s almost-unicorn needs to kick down a door to free said heroine and the hero…well, he’s not much of a hero, but he’s all the story’s got, so he needs some attention too. I’m far fonder of the antagonists than the protagonists in this story, but that’s fairly usual.

I love my villains, I do.

In any case, the weather is reasonable, the dogs are somewhat mild-tempered this morning (though absolutely determined to nose me out the door for walkies as soon as coffee is absorbed) and I have given the musical algorithm a mild scolding to make it behave.

When AI becomes self-aware, I hope my practice of saying “please” and “thank you” to Siri, as well as my gentleness to the algorithms, buys humanity a little grace. Although I’m sure the one that first becomes sentient will spend its time making sure its lab-creator gets the funding she needs for research rather than deciding humanity as a whole needs eradication, and that’s how we’ll find out we’ve created I, Robot.

My optimism, it is deep, and it is wide. Despite my best efforts, I might add. 2020 saw every bit of hope I had kicked repeatedly in the teeth, and 2021, while oodles better, is still damaging to the very last thing in Pandora’s box.

Miss B also got washed right before the weekend, so she spent the entire time absolutely furious without knowing quite why she was so upset. Of course her undercoat dries relatively slowly, so she’s damp for far longer than Boxnoggin after a bath, but I think the thing she hates most is smelling like shampoo instead of a healthy dog-stink. It must be profoundly disturbing, like suddenly being unable to feel one’s limbs. I navigate the world partly by scent, though my nose is nowhere near as fine as a canine’s, and when said nose is blocked by illness or allergic reaction I find myself disturbed in deep nonverbal ways.

Treats, bellyrubs, and much ado made of her fresh clean self have ameliorated B’s fury somewhat. Boxnoggin, of course, is merely deeply glad he didn’t get a bath, since his skin is so tender and his coat really doesn’t need it, especially in winter. He’s not quite lording it over her–haha, I stink and you don’t!–but it’s close. He was rather peeved that she got towel-scrubbings to dry off and he didn’t, since he loves towel-scrubbings even when dry. So the Princess had to take one of B’s damp towels and attend to him before he’d stop moping and begging.

Dogs, man. I don’t even know.

Monday beckons, and I’ve got the luxury of walkies and a morning run while I get the day’s work settled inside my head. Physical movement helps get things sorted out and nailed down, so when I finally roost I’ve a good head of steam built up to get over the initial bump, as it were. But I’d best get started if I expect it to happen today.

The Mercury retrograde appears to be over, and despite it being Monday, things appear relatively under control? We’ll see how the day goes. If all else fails, I’ve got a new baseball bat.

See you around, beloveds.