The (Non)Burning Table

Awake early, but not up then. I set an extra alarm about an hour before get-up time, because I need that hour. I crave the quiet, the solitude, the darkness. When I don’t have that soft, internally focused time, the anxiety mounts daily until I hit the edge of burnout, bare nerves sparking like uninsulated wires.

Now I’m up. I even did the dishes while waiting for the coffee to finish–and I’m already one up on yesterday, because I remembered to put the ground coffee in the Bialetti.

Small mercies.

I need to have a chat with the child who has taken responsibility for cleaning the kitchen, who seems to think I won’t notice if the “cleaning” consists of filling the dishwasher with the least number of bulkiest pans possible and then leaving the rest piled in the sink and on the stove because “it won’t fit.”1 I mean, props for figuring out a way to partially escape the chore, but that’s not how this should be done.

I suppose I’ve put off having that chat for so long because I was beaten as a child if I didn’t clean the kitchen “properly”, including (at intervals best described as “random, and you must be a mind reader to discern them at all”) wrapping a rag around a butterknife to clean carved grooves on the legs and on the border of the dining room table. As you might guess, there are FEELINGS involved with kitchen duty, and I need to be in a place where I’m dealing with what’s actually happening instead of responses to what happened decades ago before I embark on discussing the issue with the young person in question.

…and now I’m thinking about how satisfying it was to “deal with” that table. Before I broke off contact with childhood abusers, they held a “garage sale”, and I ended up taking the table. Guess what I did with it.

Go on, guess.

If you guessed “beat the shit out of it with a hammer, took all the bolts and hardware for scattering alongside a highway, and let it be dumped” you’d be quite right, my friend. My only regret is that I didn’t stage a fiery death for the wooden article in question, but honestly, it was only a table and not responsible for my angst. Not to mention there might have been carcinogens in the varnish, released by hungry flames.

Though dancing in a circle and screaming while it burned would have been intensely therapeutic, cancer chemicals or no.

Anyway, Sir Boxnoggin is almost frantic with desire for a walk, and I think today is the day we start training him for runs. He was too young when we got him2 but now I’m absolutely certain his bones are finished melding and he’s in good shape. Plus, I’m on a program with significant walk breaks while I recover from a few injuries, and there’ll never be a better time to ease him into the manners required. Poor Miss B has become too elderly for even gentle runs; a morning walk tires her out for the entire day.

So that’s my Tuesday, my chickadees. Later this morning a new writing post (three things about characters) will be up on Haggard Feathers, and very soon3 that site will transition to a different model, with one free post a month and other weekly writing posts (as well as a weekly open thread) paid-subscription-only. For right now, though, you can taste-test the NaNoWriMo posts to get an idea.

Off I go. I might even escape the worst of the rain, though honestly, living in the Pacific Northwest, why bother?

Edging In With the Lake

I’m edging back into piano practice again, and it feels good. Of course, every time I play this I expect to see a red-eyed Natalie Portman, but that’s a price one pays.

I want to finish this book of exercises and go back to doing Bach. Next year I’ve got to start working seriously on my Goldberg Variations Before I’m 50 bucket-list item, so it would be good to practice before then. And a session after dinner starts the evening most agreeably; it forces my brain into a different mode that makes it easier to not-work before bed.

Bonus bit: Long-time readers will know I put a Swan Lake reference in the Valentine series; it was super fun. I did have thoughts of doing a short story with a psion bounty hunter who also dances, but it died on the vine. Probably for the best, the last thing Danny needs in her life is to shoot someone in a tutu.

It’s almost the weekend, my dears, and the holidays are almost over. We can do this.

Over and out.

Civic Duty, Done

I was up at 5am after a restless night worrying about parking, and consequently I need more coffee if anything is going to make sense today.

That’s right, chickadees. I was on jury duty this fair misty morn.

The dogs were a little bemused at being yanked out of bed for predawn walkies, and despite napping while I was performing my civic duty they’re as worn out as I am.

I scored a reasonable parking spot (that meant walking only a few blocks) and made it there before the jury room opened. Brought plenty of books, snacks, had bottled water, a five-subject notebook in case the Muse bit while I was waiting, and everything I could possibly need packed into trusty old Herbert1. There were two trials, so after a short video on unconscious bias, half the jurors were randomly selected for the first and the rest of us waited.

And waited. I knocked off about twenty pages of my book before the jury coordinator came out with her microphone (the jury waiting area even had a kitchenette, it’s amazing) and said, “Well, they settled at the last minute, which sometimes happens. So you guys are free to go and you don’t have to call in the rest of the week, you’ve done your duty. Thank you.”

It was nice to be thanked several times for showing up. Also, somewhat ironically, the fellow making the loudest stink about hating jury duty (despite this being only his second time called) was in the first group, so the rest of us didn’t have to listen to his bellyaching and got to leave while it was still morning.

Some days the Universe hands you a break.

Nevertheless, I am somewhat at sixes and sevens. I had forgotten all about jury duty until my phone calendar reminded me after dinner last night, which was why I’d put the damn reminder in but was also an unpleasant jolt. Staying up almost all night worrying about parking didn’t help. I fixate on something different every time I have to leave the house for a new location, I swear. Plus, it’s kind of stress-inducing to EVER go to the courthouse.

Right next to the jury room was a Family Law counselor; that particular office dispenses protection orders all day too. There was a woman there with three small children filling out paperwork, looking harried and sleepless, and I longed to tell her I’ve been where you are, it gets better, I’m so sorry.

But I couldn’t, and when I left the jury room she was gone. I hope she and the little ones will be all right. I drove home through mist, seeing traffic heavy in the opposite direction, and stopped only to pick up milk.

You’d think my own adult and almost-adult child would back off on the cow squeezings, but I guess not. Their bones are FANTASTIC, thank you.

Now I’m home, hungry, and cross-eyed with lack of sleep. It’s a good thing they didn’t put me on a jury, I probably would have dozed sitting up during opening arguments.

I was struck, sitting in the waiting room, by how… well, how cooperative and civilized the entire group was. There was some grumbling about the hour and the parking, but everyone was mollified by the illusion of special treatment and the several professions of gratitude, especially in the video played for us. It was interesting to see the appeals to vanity clothing the lesson about unconscious bias– “most people want to make fair, just decisions, and this is a way you can do that, even by doing something so simple as recognizing you have biases because your brain needs them to make sense of all the information it’s soaking in!” I had positioned myself under a television screen, not wanting the damn thing nagging at me while I read, so I watched the screen far across the room and the expressions flitting over people’s faces as they watched and listened.

It’s all material, for a writer. Everything goes into that giant hopper in your head, ready to be plundered for a telling detail or a lifelike setting.

Anyway, appeals to vanity work wonders, I’ve done my duty to the body politic today, and I have a fresh cup of coffee. I won’t get a lot of work done, but I’m free for the rest of the week, so I feel unexpectedly liberated.

And very, very tired.

All in all, a productive morning, albeit in ways I wouldn’t have chosen. At least I know I’ll sleep tonight. Frankly, I’d better. Feeling this woolly-headed and lethargic is unwelcome indeed.

Happy Monday, everyone.

On the Holidays

I hate the holidays. Publishing shuts down, you can’t get an answer out of anyone–unless it’s “I’m salaried and clearing my desk before I get a vacation, but you can work right through because you’re freelance, can’t you?” Also, the shops are full of overstimulated children with misbehaving parents clamping down quite unreasonably upon them, both stressed because they can’t service the TV-fueled expectations of gross consumerism. And let’s not even talk about the racists at the dinner table that nobody will challenge because “holidays” and “let’s all get along.”

Fuck getting along. Racists deserve to be challenged wherever we find them, kids shouldn’t be dragged through holiday crowds, no parent should be tormented into stress-related breakdown because they can’t afford whatever toy is hot this year for their spawn, and I won’t repeat what I think should be done about publishing.

You can tell I’m in it today. I’m pushing to get the zero of Finder’s Watcher done, or at least hit the 50k mark for NaNo that will give the book enough critical mass to drag me across the finish line, then it’s straight into bloody revisions for that epic fantasy. Which means I’ll be producing a novella’s worth of text in just under two weeks; tell me again why I do this to myself?

Oh. That’s right. It’s my job, and if I don’t write, we don’t eat. Simple!

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m simply remarking upon suboptimal conditions.

At least the dogs let me sleep in a wee bit today. Though I have to leave the house to pick up last-minute supplies for Thursday I can do so at my own pace, and–thanks be to all the gods–it’s raining. Which means the dogs will be miserable during walks and hurrying to get home, but at least I’m in a good mood.

What’s that? Good mood? Oh, yes. This is just a particularly sharp-edged good mood. I’m not upset, I’m just testing my sword’s keenness and eyeing the battlefield. And I don’t have to spend my holidays with racist fucks because I stopped speaking to those “family” members long ago. Not only that, but I did finish a zero lately, so I can use that fact to batter at imposter syndrome.

You can tell it’s the last week of NaNo; my Week Four guide will go up around 2pm PST. You can sign up to get it on my Substack, Haggard Feathers; I’ll be taking next week off while I recover and choke up a steaming lump of revisions. I’m thisclose to writing “Rocks fall, everyone dies,” and throwing up my hands.

We all know I won’t, but threatening it makes a book behave most of the time, so one works with what one has.

It’s Tuesday. If I buckle down now, I won’t have to leave the house again until next week. Wish me luck, dear ones, and I hope your day goes smoothly.

Me? I’m buckled in my armor, my sword is sharp enough, my charger is ready. Onwards and upwards, indeed.

Needs More Coffee

I had to add “coffee” to my to-do list this morning just to give myself something to cross off. But I haven’t been able to cross it off yet.

This is, I suspect, how Monday will go. Especially since there’s a holiday and I’m off running for a week to give my plantar fascia plenty of rest. Which means I’m going to be at sixes and sevens during the holiday itself, though I’m sure I’ll be too busy to notice. And there will be ham, so that’s good.

I did finish the zero draft of HOOD‘s Season Two before the weekend. It happened all at once, with very little pain, but the reverberations inside my head are a little unpleasant. I was probably due for a book that finished before I was really set for it, having always had to lunge after a retreating enemy so often. Catching the opponent’s army before it gets a chance to escape is a nice Cannae, so to speak.

Middle books in trilogies are always difficult. They get easier when I tell myself if the reader hasn’t read the first book, they’re going to expect to be a little at sea, let them be. I know a lot of editors want you to make every book in a series the first in terms of info-dump, but that’s never been the way I’ve rolled. I never expect to know everything when I read a series out of order, and I write for such sharp elves as myself.

I have always found it’s better to never underestimate one’s readers. My constant refrain when an editor asks me to dumb something down is Readers are smart, they’ll figure it out. I’m no cryptographer, but I like thinking through a puzzle on my own, and I suspect most–if not all–readers do as well.

Anyway. I had interesting things to say, I’m sure, but they’ve fled into the retreating fog of under-caffeination. I’ve to go looking through old book soundtracks for something nice. it’s Soundtrack Monday, after all, and there’s so much music out there. Maybe I’ll do a Viral Agent tune. (I always wanted to go back and do Fray and Bay’s story. They’re a fun pair.)

But first, coffee needs to be finished. I might even go back to the well for another jolt; today feels like it’s gonna need it. We’re in the home stretch for NaNo, after all, and there’s a food coma approaching on Thursday to get ready for.

Over and out.

Back to the Whetstone

Oh, my best beloveds.

Last night I went on a regular tear (on Mastodon and Twitter) about a certain article I couldn’t find. It was about Susan Pevensie making her own kingdom. I had it confused with Sarah Gailey’s most excellent Women of Harry Potter series, which I read at about the same time.

Lo and behold, this morning a very kind person on Mastodon knew what I was talking about, remembered it, and dug it up. So, without further ado, here’s the link–and it also has a companion piece about Susan at school. (The writer is also a fanficcer and novelist, if you’d like more.)

Sometimes we forget, dealing with the dregs, just how magical the internet is. My faith in humanity is quite restored this morning.

I probably needed it, because I spent last night reading Hurlothrumbo’s The Merry-Thought, all four in the series. Tudor England was a trip, yo. Then this morning I read a little Kwaidan, because I woke up from dreams of ladders and disasters, turned over, had another dream about thieves in my garage, and woke up in a cold sweat. Reading’s generally what I do to calm myself after terrible dreams, especially if my tossing and turning hasn’t disturbed the dogs, but maybe Japanese ghost tales filtered through a Greek-Irish lens was not the best choice, because I feel a little sideways.

But finding those two articles on Susan again made it all worth it. CS Lewis was a misogynistic turd. A very talented one, and you can see the ur-characters he was trying to repress peeking through the bars of his smallness-of-mind and religious poisoning… but still, his hatred of adult women, like Tolkien’s, is very telling. (Even if I do love Puddleglum and Reepicheep and Tumnus and and and…)

In any case, I’m glad for modernity, and for the ability to type into a glowing box, and for literacy, and for the vast treasure-trove of books on, and so on, so forth. Often I overlook the good things about the internet because the bad things–trolls, thieves, bots, nastiness–are so very, well, bad. It’s nice to be reminded of the good as well.

I suppose the dreams were a signal that my internal creative pressure has reached the requisite pitch, since physical misery bled off a lot of energy earlier in the week. It’s back to the whetstone to sharpen some words.

Even if a lion tries to keep you out of heaven, there are kingdoms to make here. And, after all, is it really heaven if a misogynist lion can keep you out?

Mug, Battle-Scarred

You can’t see it, but this mug is battle-scarred. It’s missing a handle and has minor smoke damage from the Great Bookstore Fire. It’s also one of my favorites, old soldier that it is, and ready to stand duty any time it’s taken from the cupboard.

And, as a bonus, it says I am going to hex your face off. Because I believe in fair warnings.

It’s been a heckuva week, my chickadees. I’m so glad it’s Friday. How about you?