Know This Song

I finished the zero of Incorruptible on Friday, and consequently have spent the last two days trying to avoid working. I’ve thrown myself into housecleaning that didn’t get done with a release and a zero finishing at the same time, and it was still almost physically painful to not-write.

I watched a lot of documentaries. I obsessively played a lot of Summoners War. I took the dogs on very long rambles, which means I have an interesting blister and Sir Boxnoggin is all but dancing in place wanting a proper run but not as energetic as he would be if we’d simply stayed home.

I should be feeling rested. I should be ready to tackle a fresh round of work–Atlanta Bound needs a revision once I prep the last chapters for the serial, the full Roadtrip Z box set news a top-to-bottom revise once I finish that, and concurrently there’s the Robin Hood in Space and the portal fantasy to decide about. I’m also hearing rumbles that the epic fantasy might be coming back to me with an edit letter, so I’m not short of things to do. I’m not even short of the order to do them in.

What I am short of is patience and focus. Two days of aggressively not-working only made me short-tempered and silly. I know that I always need more downtime than I think, I know that the irritation is just a phase and I’ll try to work, run up against a wall, take another day off to watch movies and cry thinking my career is over, and finally wake up the day after that ready to work and wondering why I started sobbing for no reason.

I suppose it’s good to know my own decompression process, but it never gets any bloody easier. The only question is one of degree.

Maybe I’ll start work on Dolls instead. Watch some Wong Kar-wei movies, always a joy and delight. Play yet more Summoners War. Run twice a day instead of once. Go to the grocer’s.

Well, maybe not the last bit. Having to leave the house and be pleasant in public will be like pouring lemon juice on a mass of paper cuts. But in any case, I know this song, I’ve heard it before, and in a little while I’ll be all right again. At least finishing *mumblemumble* books and going through however-many releases means I know I’ll survive this. I have every other single time before.

The suspicion is still painful, but again, I know this song. I’ll hum along, and wait for it to end.

Over and out.

King and Gemini

Spent most of the holiday yesterday working, of course. I didn’t mean to, I just sat down to tinker with a scene that had been giving me trouble and…the next thing I knew, it was lunchtime. After shambling out to eat, I decided I had too much momentum to quit.

The next thing I knew, again, it was time to turn the oven on and start making dinner. It’s been a while since I’ve fallen into revisions like that, and I’m grateful it’s finally happened. Momentum is better than drag.

This morning, standing on the deck while the dogs went about their business, I could see my breath. The days are still warm, but the nights are becoming crisp. The year has truly turned, thank goodness. I can’t wait to see the back of 2018. It hasn’t been as bad as some other years, at least not personally, but I will be extremely glad to shut the door upon it and kick a wedge underneath to keep it closed. Too much bad luck happening to people I care about, and too much fascism in the air.

I’ve also been on a Stephen King jag, my brain rebelling at research reading. I tried Doctor Sleep, but the ongoing misogyny was jarring. I mean, King’s never been a feminist–just look at IT, for God’s sake–but I was hoping for something like the terrible objective lighthouse beam of compassion he turned on Jack Torrance and his alcoholism. I was really, really hoping…but no. It’s been a long time since I set a King book aside; I think Tommyknockers was the last one–but I had to.

Instead, I’ve gone back to his earlier works. Not my favorites, but the ones I perhaps didn’t get the first time around, being extremely young. Like Christine, for example, which is really well-constructed. ‘Salem’s Lot, another hideously misogynistic book, is nevertheless a book that has internal consistency even in its horror.

It’s that internal consistency I miss most when I read King’s newer stuff. The ending of Needful Things was probably the first time I ever saw it slip1, and it boded ill for later. The place where that consistency is truest, of course, is in the short stories and novellas, so I’ve gone back to Skeleton Crew and Different Seasons and Night Shift, perhaps my favorite of the anthologies.2

I’d forgotten John D. MacDonald’s foreword to the last, which is a fine piece of writing in and of itself and has one particular bit I always think of–how writers read everything with either grinding envy or grinning contempt, so to speak. Of course, the fellow who wrote the Travis McGee books could spin a yarn or two, there’s no question.

I’ve stopped asking why the Muse wants particular things at particular times. Right now she wants King, and King she shall have. She’s probably turning over the last batch of research reading I stuffed into my head in her hands, humming, while she finds all the edges and polishes them.

That bitch polishes sharp, let me tell you. I’m just glad she isn’t yelling for some Bukowski, who was a champion heavyweight in the misogyny department.

Time to lace up my trainers and take Sir Boxnoggin on a run. Miss B, getting older but not very much wiser (as dogs do) will stay at home today, and that is going to make her a trifle upset. She’ll need some pets and attention when we come home, and will probably chase Boxnoggin around the house, just to show who’s really boss.

We all know it’s her, but she still feels the need to remind the bouncy young Lord van der Sploot that she is the Dowager, and she will not be overlooked. As the Princess often says, I went and got a dog just like me–on both counts. Boxnoggin, like Odd Trundles, is my happy-go-lucky side, and Miss B is my get-down-to-brass-tacks. It probably comes from me being a Gemini.

In any case, it’s time to get back to work. A particularly thorny revision question needs some sweat and feet pounding the pavement to work itself out, and I’d best get started.

Over and out.

A Dark Day-Eye

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These fellows caught my attention at the garden shop yesterday. I brought none of them home, having learned the hard way that “full sun” is not something one gets with seventy-year-old fir trees hanging around. But it was nice to talk to them, to see all the green things…and to get an iron trellis for a certain part of the yard. I almost got a hydrangea vine to put on said trellis, since those do all right in shade, but in the end thinking of digging another hole in that corner undid me and I left with supplies but not a single plant.

It had to happen sooner or later. There weren’t even any sad little lumps on the clearance racks begging for a home. I’m grateful, I suppose–I am full-up on save-this-poor-soul projects at the moment.

Have a good weekend, dear Readers, and I hope you find something beautiful during it.

Re-Tuning Rituals

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I haven’t been able to drink alcohol since the stomach flu, and good gods above, do I ever miss it. It’s not that I can’t function without, it’s just…man, getting to cocktail hour and pouring myself a measure to celebrate getting through the day and take the edge off my nerves was a welcome ritual. Now I’m doing things like stretching and drinking ice water, and it’s just not the same. Sure, I’m healthier and all that but I would love a little fuzzy soft-focus come 5PM.

I hadn’t realized how much that small ritual was a signal for me to relax and let the end of the day proceed, to look over the day’s work and fix egregious typos. It’s also nice to just let the story sink into the bottom of your brain and turn the entire problem of what comes next over to your subconscious. Those giant engines below the floorboards need something to do while I’m sleeping. Left to themselves they just come up with nightmares, and while those are sometimes instructive, they’re not terribly useful.

Sometimes I think one’s entire life is seeing how fast a primate can come up with new rituals in changing conditions.

Anyway, I took most of yesterday off since Tuesday ended with finishing the first revision of Atlanta Bound. That was a monster of a revision because I’d written the zero so lean and at such a furious pace, moving from handhold to handhold. Crossing that particular task off my list was extremely satisfying. Trying to unplug and chill Wednesday was…not as satisfying. The flywheel inside my head, still spinning from the Afterwar release and the revision of The Maiden’s Blade under a severe time crunch, ramped up again to get through another revise, and didn’t want to slow down or stop. The knowledge that I’m courting burnout if I don’t schedule in and force myself to take recovery time is a very thin rail to keep me plunging off the cliff, indeed. I itch under my skin if I don’t write, and I have about twenty-four hours before the discomfort becomes acute and I must write or begin scratching, snapping, and sparking.

So today I took my sweet time getting out the door for a run, and dawdled on the way back with Miss B, who was ecstatic to be rambling New Places. I have subscription stuff to send out, that will eat up about an hour.1 I’m allowed only a little bit of work today, but it’s going to be on Robin Hood in Space, which I’m tentatively titling HOOD.

Man, I can’t wait to start playing with the genre conventions of that particular tale.

There’s also a podcast interview scheduled for this evening2, so I wouldn’t be able to imbibe anyway. I miss the habit of relaxation and I joke a lot about writers having to fucking drink to put up with all the bullshit in publishing; maybe I should look into edibles instead because they’re legal in my state.3 Christ knows the bullshit isn’t going away anytime soon. Only the coping mechanisms change.

And now, having thoroughly depressed myself with that last observation, I’m off to do some formatting. Catch you later, alligators.

Morning Irritation

I was reading this piece in Current Affairs about Jordan Peterson (who sounds like a right git, really) and sheer irritation managed to roll me out of bed. Not so much at Peterson–I was married to a man whose verbosity others mistook for a higher grade of genius than the one he possessed for multiple years, and was mostly amused by the experience.1

What irritated me was this assertion:

Another part of it, though, is that academics have been cloistered and unhelpful, and the left has failed to offer people a coherent political alternative. (Nathan Robinson, Current Affairs)

Academics have not been cloistered and unhelpful, they’ve been systematically robbed of a reasonable living and saddled with make-work instead of being paid decently to teach. The “left” does have a coherent political alternative, it’s called don’t be a dick, and its simplicity is only part of the reason why plenty of asshats nitpick with it or shut their eyes and scream “la la la la, I can’t hear you!” Plenty of people want to be dicks, plenty of corporations want academics so busy trying to pay rent and feed themselves that they can’t fulfill their actual function, and pretending otherwise on either count makes you part of the problem.

Bloviating proto-fascists like Peterson are chump-change a dozen; they come in and out of fashion like the tide. I’m not even mad about it anymore, I just roll my eyes when yet another misogynist, racist, verbose jackass starts gathering converts who really just want an excuse to piñata-pin their insecurities on someone else and pick up a stick. I am irritated with the assertion that “the left” doesn’t have a coherent alternative. We do, it’s just that “don’t be a dick, for God’s sake” isn’t something the vast majority of selfish “conservatives” want to hear.

TL;DR: Peterson is yet another asshat on the self-help gravy train, and “don’t be a dick” is actually a coherent political platform.

Stacked-Counter Disaster

blank Well. Last week ended without me having developed pyrokinesis and burning everything in sight, so that’s good, right? Between doctor’s appointments1 and loved ones having difficulties and the ongoing dishwasher saga (still not installed, don’t ask, maybe Tuesday will change all that) and being behind on this monster of an epic fantasy (that they’re going to title something WRONG IMO but oh well, they know what they’re doing) and the Princess needing an emergency trip or two and the Little Prince needing some tough love when it comes to his homework AND the dogs AND AND AND…

…you get the idea. Every once in a while a week comes along where the universe, not content to load one up with a single disaster, crams ever more into a short timeframe and lights a match, smirking.

Consequently, I took yesterday off except for Regular Sunday Chores, but I’m still twitching. Normally I have the luxury of feeding my introvert nature, spending great chunks of each day alone.2 I also–because clearly I don’t have enough to do–broke down, got a domain, and put together the bare bones of a fan wiki.3 That part was fun; the problem with every other wiki or bulletin board install I’ve done in the past is trying to run it off my main site instead of just getting a domain and putting it there, which cratered EVERYTHING. I did it in fifteen-minute chunks in between washing up, hoovering, brushing and bathing the canids, and assorted other household maintenance items.

Consequently, today I’m kind of…staring and twitching, again. I have a chapter of Atlanta Bound to revise and wordcount on said giant epic fantasy to catch up on, a long run to get in, and all I want to do is go back to bed. Scraping the bottom of the barrel for emotional energy is beginning to feel hideously familiar, even though I’ve telescoped in a lot of other commitments. The only cure is getting some things off my plate, and that won’t happen without work.

It would also be nice to have the kitchen put back together. Everything in the cabinets that the installers will need taken out in order to do their job easily has been living on the counters for…a while, now. I would never have thought such a thing would irk me–one of the accusations leveled at me since childhood is that I’m a messy person and mess obviously doesn’t bother me the way it should. I could find anything on my bookshelf or in my room in seconds flat and never lost my school papers, though, so I guess I wasn’t so much messy as it was a convenient thing to yell at me about. When the kids came along, a certain amount of mess didn’t bother me because Tiny Chaos Machines are gonna Tiny Chaos Machine, and there’s nothing to be done about it. I am…surprised, and a little baffled, that the kitchen being a stacked-counter disaster bothers me as much as it does. I mean, the house is crammed with books and dust and fun things, but I want to put the goddamn waffle iron back in its home.

Go figure.

This is turning out to be yet another year of things I didn’t question about myself because I was told them over and over by toxic caregivers proving to be not quite true. It’s unsettling, but also pleasant. Maybe that’s also costing emotional energy.

Meh. Time to get back to work. The morning run won’t accomplish itself–more’s the pity–and neither will the bloody books.

Over and out.

Cloaked

Lock, Rain Drop, After Rain, Drops
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Miss B is beside herself, since I’m in running clothes and she suspects, hopes, dares to believe I’ll be taking her with me. I will, but not until my coffee settles. It’s a goddamn Monday, and I need caffeine.

There’s a thing going around on Twitter–“describe yourself the way a male author would.” I’ll bypass the explanation of how we got there–it’s here if you want it–and also bypass a description of the most hilarious responses.

My own description? “Invisible.”

As soon as I typed it, I began thinking. Yeah, I’m over 40, and I’m carrying weight despite the running. I am by and large invisible to men now, except for when they want to cut in line and I hiss you know better like a venomous creature with exhausted patience. I’ve survived longer than I ever thought possible, which is part of why I have no plans for retirement.1 Food is a friend that does not judge, and I ate in self-defense for a long, long time. I hated–and still hate–predatory stares, men throwing things out their car windows at me whenever I lost a few pounds, the interruptions while reading or even just minding my own damn business on public transit, the need to be constantly alert because some asshole will assume I exist just to listen to his patter.

I am no longer a frightened child hoping my abuser won’t slither into my bedroom at night, no longer a teenager desperate for any affection at all, no longer a young woman struggling to keep her head above water. I’m past the sell-by date put on female beauty, and each line on my face is a lesson I’ve worked for. Now, instead of eating to pad myself against voracious male gazes, I’m actually losing that protective cushion. There’s a freedom to being a bitchy older broad, a release from the hunter’s gaze, that means I no longer need to keep a weapon within arm’s reach.

Of course, I still do. Relaxation is one thing, foolishness is quite another.

My cloak of invisibility is purely and simply age. Experience. Patriarchy’s toxic insistence that I only have value when I’m attractive to men, too young to fight back, and not possessed of the life experience to know better is exploded daily by the fact that I give zero fucks anymore and I am finally largely free of the roving eyes and catcalls.

I know I’m not safer, of course. I represent a bigger threat to patriarchy than ever, and my lack of perceived attractiveness won’t save me if a male decides he has to reinforce his fragile sense of self-worth with violence against any available female body. The danger isn’t gone, it’s just shifted.

Still…it’s good to heave a sigh of relief and know there’s a smaller chance of being accosted at the grocer’s, a smaller chance of beverage cans flying from car windows while I’m running, a smaller chance of some random guy thinking I want to date him because I’ve been polite, a smaller chance of stalkers fixating on me.

It’s nice to feel free, and I suspect the freedom will only intensify as I age further into invisibility. At the same time, there’s a ramp-up of my privilege–older white women may be invisible when it comes to catcalling, but we can shield others, deploying that cloak of unfuckability and perceived respectability (there’s a song chorus in that phrase, I can sense it) to cover those who protest to provide them with some safety as well as deploy said respectability as a megaphone, boosting those who have a hard time being heard.

If there’s a gift in my survival, it lies there. And also in the liberating feeling of being invisible enough to live my life largely unaccosted.

I can’t wait to get started on that.