Advent Madge, and Clarence, Too

Gallow & Ragged

April was difficult. Between recovering from several birthdays, late celebrations of said birthdays, freaking out over approaching epic fantasy deadline, and worrying about everything under the sun, it’s a wonder I didn’t lose what little sanity remains to me.

I did wake up today with Jody Watley and Glenn Campbell duking it out inside my earworm space, so at least there’s that. And I have, courtesy of a bead show, some new chandeliers to try earring designs with.

There’s also this beautiful lady:

Her name is Madge. I did some work for Dee’s Darlings, and Madge decided to come work for me for a bit as a thank-you. She is adorable and gets along well with Veronica and Isabelle. (You’ve met Veronica the Office Oracle, Isabelle is…difficult to explain. Maybe later this week.) Veronica in particular is happy to have an amanuensis, though Madge’s shorthand is impossible for anyone but her to read.

Veronica: CHICKEN SCRATCHES. AND I’VE NEVER SEEN A CHICKEN.
Madge: YOU CALL IT SCRATCHES, I CALL IT JOB SECURITY.
Isabelle: YOU TWO AREN’T FIGHTING, ARE YOU? WE ALL NEED TO GET ALONG.
Veronica: NOBODY’S FIGHTING, IZZIE.
Madge: *scribbles furiously*
Isabelle: ARE YOU SURE? BECAUSE I COULD BRING YOU SOME FISH–
Madge and Veronica, in tandem: NO FISH.

…yeah, things have been interesting around here lately. I should tell you guys about Clarence the Squirrel. It’s more of a title than an actual name, because Clarence is “the squirrel what’s actually got the peanut, you see,” and dinner hour a la Chez Saintcrow has gotten really strange since the kids love to put out a handful of peanuts while we eat, then wait for developments.

Anyway, the Clarence is the mug what’s got the peanut, and Ralph and Jeff are the mugs what don’t, and the deck has become the scene of a dinnertime drama almost Lynchian in its feverish intensity. (I almost made a Blue Velvet ether-sniffing joke the other night and caught myself just in time.) Clarence constantly wishes to keep their find from Jeff and Ralph, and the instant one of those picks up a peanut they become Clarence. (It’s kind of like Olsen Twins, who, being older no longer vibrates at such a high frequency.) Jeff and Ralph usually team up against the Clarence, and once a squirrel loses a peanut they become a Jeff or Ralph.

Understand? Good, because I didn’t for days and the kids had a sort of “Who’s on first” routine they were running. And poor me, with my head stuffed full of preindustrial technology and travel times, not to mention worrying about the damn mortgage, didn’t quite catch up with the train for a bit.

Parenthood, man. It never stops being a complete and total trip.

I even got some gardening done this weekend, which only brought home how much more there is to do. Maybe I’ll just grow nasturtiums this year instead of turning over the veggie garden.

In any case, it’s time for a run, and if I play my cards right, I can finish the zero of The Poison Prince this week. It would be nice to get that corpse on the table so it can be revision time instead of “I keep stabbing this book and it won’t DIE” time. Of course once I do, it’s time to get the zero of HOOD‘s Season One out. Then there’s revisions on Harmony, and and and…

…so, just as usual, my chickadees, I bid you a fond farewell until tomorrow, and vanish, cackling, in a cloud of scented smoke.

Reading Weekend

She Wolf & Cub

We had a huge (for us) dinner party Friday that edged towards Saturday morn, which, since I was fighting off the Little Prince’s cold (the one he thoughtfully brought home from school for us) and remain in the status of fighting off said cold, was perhaps not my best move, but what can one do?

Consequently, the rest of the weekend was spent cleaning, coughing, and reading, somewhat in that order. I finished Overy’s The Bombers and the Bombed, which was interesting but extremely difficult to read, then moved on to Lane Moore’s How to Be Alone, which in some places was full of things I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear someone articulate (especially in early chapters) and then…kind of not, but that’s a lot of memoirs. I moved on to An Iron Wind, which was…not what the cover made me think I was getting. I know that’s not the writer’s fault, either, but there was plenty else to side-eye in said writer’s assumptions.

There was one pretty incredible piece in the last, though, which was more than worth the rest of the book. Talking about the Warsaw ghetto, Fritzsche noted:

“Self-help could not ensure collective survival, because the German overlords had expropriated and stolen the resources of the community.

–Peter Fritzsche, An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler

Just that single sentence articulated the problem with Republicans’ constant “let charity or the market take care of poor people.” When corporate and rich overlords have expropriated and stolen the resources of the national community, or of marginalized communities (which are part of the national despite every attempt of cruelty-based conservatives to say otherwise), there’s nothing left for those communities to practice self-determination or self-help with. This gets overlooked in propaganda about the “lazy poor” all. the. damn. time.

Afterward, I bounced pretty hard off a first-person present-tense book that was a critical darling last year, and ended up with Murder By the Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’s London. It should hav more properly been “a” crime instead of “the” crime; Dickens’s London outright loved to be shocked. The more I read about Dickens, though, the more I realize just what an asshole he was. He basically hung Ainsworth out to dry after using his friendship to edge further into publishing, and let’s not even talk about what he did to his poor wife. Then again, this is the guy who fridged Nancy (and, let’s be real, 95% of all the women in his books, one way or another) and spent a great deal of his later life replaying Nancy’s death for paying customers. Dickens built his career on female bodies

Dude was gross.

Anyway, I needed the hours spent on the couch reading and making notes. It was good to get out of my own head and into other peoples’. And I always forget what a joy it is to spend a day reading. Like Laura in Sleeping With the Enemy (it’s not perfect but it is one of my favorite books), rediscovering days that are wide, and deep, and long as a child’s is enough to satisfy most hungers, and I can crawl out of the dream of a book several hours later, blinking and surprised.

I’m reasonably rested and somewhat reasonably renewed, which is good because I have to shift gears and work on both HOOD and the epic fantasy at once. I can feel the latter gathering for its slide to the end of the zero draft, and may that slide come swiftly.

At least with the dinner party done my social calendar is clear for weeks, which is just how I like it. Staying home and feverishly typing to pay the mortgage is my new vacation, just like my old vacations. I’m ready for a couple of my books to be done so I can move on to writing other things–as well as prepping Harmony for publication and doing a revise on Incorruptible. Never any shortage of work, and that’s how I like it, especially nowadays.

But first there are dogs to run and the day’s work to settle inside my head as I do so, and yoga to get out of the way near lunchtime, and and and. At least I can retreat from the sunshine our part of the world is afflicted with this season, crouch in my cave, and imagine whole worlds.

It’s not a bad life. Not at all.

Pondering

Rattlesnake Wind

Here’s a short list of the things I’m wondering about lately:

  • Reading about the bombing of Europe in WWII, I came across a description of the frantic effort to save cultural treasures from the air war. In particular, a Botticelli was spotted on the floor among men drinking tea, and it halted me in my tracks. I know the painting, of course, and I thought about what it would mean if it was lost in a bomb attack before technological advances made the art galleries available to anyone with a few spare bucks a month to pay for electronics.
  • The democratization of media–“highbrow” and “low”–made me think of this Sententiae Antiquae piece on classical learning and how it functioned as a gatekeeper for a long time…until, that is, technological advances opened up access. Nowadays, of course, the rich just pay for their kids to flood schools with the leftover prestige of yesteryear.
  • Nora Roberts is suing that CopyPaste Cris woman. Which is great, but I’d love to see Amazon as a codefendant, because we all know they’re profiting from the book-stuffers and plagiarists. They refuse to take down stuffed or plagiarized books until public outcry reaches a certain pitch, they don’t offer refunds as a matter of course, and if one is so unfortunate as to publish solely through them, their terms and conditions make it difficult if not impossible to get recourse (financial and otherwise) against plagiarizers or against Amazon itself as a bad actor.
  • It’s also very…interesting that the moment Amazon does take any steps to cut down on book-stuffers and plagiarists, the scammers in question already have a back door, one they share through their forums and “author” loops. Some of the scammers even have their own dedicated KU reps. I’m sure those “reps” get bonuses for their pet authors gaining “sales rank.” I am naturally a suspicious type, and I smell something foul in the water.1
  • Gelatin used to be only for the higher castes, which makes me laugh and laugh.

Just little things I ponder, turning them over and over inside my head and examining them from different angles. I think a lot about how the infrastructure for electronic communication isn’t ubiquitous, though it feels like it is when you’ve enough money to get an entry device (even a smartphone). I also think a lot about humanity’s habit of war and what it costs not only in terms of blood spilled but also cultural progress frittered away.2

I ponder and I wonder, and sometimes I find a piece of the puzzle that leads me in a different direction entirely. Such is life. I’ve met people who dislike the sensation of active thinking–there are quite a lot of them–and I don’t understand, finding it quite pleasant.

Right now, though, I’ve got to stop the wondering and get out the door. We took yesterday off, and while the enforced rest did both Boxnoggin and me good, we’re both itchy and a little peevish this morn. Miss B will be extremely peevish at being left home, but she is an Elderly Statesdog now, and is only taken on short jaunts. She gets plenty of exercise playing rough-and-tumble with Boxnoggin, and it’s keeping her young–but after mid-range runs she limps a bit, and while I know she would run her heart out if I asked, I wouldn’t.

What are you thinking about this fine Thursday morn, chickadees?

Adversarial Book

Took a bit of a sabbatical last week, at least from the blog and most social media. It was nice to do some deep breathing and restore my sense of proportion. I keep thinking I can save the world.

The world, however, either doesn’t want saving, or the job’s just too big for me. The latter isn’t so much of a consideration–I take on jobs too large for me all the time–but the former is. You can’t save those who want to drown.

The Poison Prince has broken the 60k mark, and I’m beginning to think I can pull this off. There’s no reason for the dividing line between books 2 and 3 to be placed exactly where it is; I can slide it back and forth as the need arises. Everyone in this book is talking when I need them to get to the dying.

This is probably a common problem in epic fantasy creation. *snork*

I’ve been moonlighting with a couple other things–Sons of Ymre, and the other Watcher book. Neither are moving very quickly because I have to fit in wordcount around the big bulk of Prince. I want to be done with this book so badly, it keeps me up at night sometimes. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard, because if I end up pulling all-nighters I’ll need longer to recover when I finally get a blade in the bowels of this fucking book and it breathes its last.

*eyes former paragraph* I may be having an adversarial relationship with this bloody book. Anyway.

It’s a cloudy morning; hopefully there won’t be anyone with unleashed dogs at the park. I’m having to stagger Miss B accompanying me; she’s getting to the age where the shorter runs are all she’s comfortably capable of. Of course she wants to go on every run, bar none. She would gladly run her heart out if I asked it of her, but I don’t ask it. In fact, I actively discourage such a thing, being a cruel and unjust owner who wishes to keep her safe and sound for a few more years.

It was awful to lose Odd Trundles, but the awfulness was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that we expected to lose him at any point, so it wasn’t exactly a shock. B, though…when she ascends to the great kibble bowl in the sky, I’m going to be devastated. It’s going to hurt worse than just about anything.

All the more reason to take care now while she’s with me, and snuggle her a bit more. If I can get her to hold still for it–she’s always wriggling free to go play with Boxnoggin. He is somewhat of an elixir of youth for her, their wrestling, yapping, and chasing serving to exercise them both. She’s pretty pissed every time he goes on a run alone with me.

Poor Miss B. She just longs to supervise everyone and everything, like the busy little bossy bee she is. Speaking of bees, there are no doubt going to be plenty of them trying to infiltrate my skull. Maybe I should braid my hair to give them more places to cling instead of a ponytail.

Well, that’s my morning work cut out for me. I suppose I should get moving.

Over and out…

Nostalgic

Coming around the corner at the library and being greeted by this fellow made me laugh loud enough that I’m sure a librarian would have shushed me, had any been in range.

Working around happy, reasonable, creative people is so awesome. And yes, I was feeling somewhat nostalgic. Good ol’ Clippy, who used to frustrate the fuck out of me by showing up when I didn’t want him, and being nowhere in sight when I did

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Running the Canines

This is the sight that greets me if I look away from my desktop while wearing running togs. Lord van der Sploot is doing what he does best, while Miss B simply stares, clearly expectant.

Mum. It is time for the running of the dogs. We are patient, yes, but eventually I will crawl into your lap to remind you that IT IS TIME.

Of course, two minutes outside and Boxnoggin began to pull. He thinks that if we speed up we’ll get out of the rain more quickly. I don’t exactly blame him, he’s a slick-coated fellow and Miss B’s all-weather coat has spoiled us somewhat.

So running with him is just like it used to be with Miss B–a constant battle to get him to stop fucking pulling, dammit. He settles down after a few kilometers and begins working with me and B as a unit, which is the whole point. B needed years before she began settling almost immediately and still pulls sometimes, when she gets Very Excited by the prospect of a Strange Dog.

Now that we’re home and I’m in dry socks, with bonus hot tea, Boxnoggin has settled in his favorite dog bed in the living room. He’ll rotate between there and the couch, according to how damn tired he is and if he thinks there’s a prospect of something interesting happening outside he can bark at. Miss B is sacked out on one of the dog beds in my office, whistle-snoring. She’s an elderly dog now, and needs her rest.

You can also see Boxnoggin’s tail going so hard it blurs, which is a constant. Every day is an adventure as far as he’s concerned. Pets all the time! Snacks! Mealtimes at regular intervals, and treats for easy jobs like sitting down. One gets the idea he thinks this is doggie heaven. He’s even started begging for car rides, now that they include good things like going out for French fries. It used to be he’d shake and drool in the car, probably thinking we were taking him back to the shelter, poor fellow.

I’m hoping he’ll realize soon that he’s home forever, that even if he behaves badly he’s not going anywhere. The poor little guy hates to be alone–and little is a misnomer, he’s become quite portly, what with regular meals; his coat gleams and glistens quite shamefully now. Miss B just rolls her eyes and nips him when he starts getting all worked up thinking he’s going to be taken away. His rather, well, energetic nature keeps B active, trying to stay one step ahead, which was the entire point.

They’re pretty much made for each other, my little control-freak doyenne and her enthusiastic sidekick. B has plenty to do keeping him out of trouble, so much so that I suspect he will keep her alive just to see what happens next.

May it be so. In the meantime, they have naps to accomplish, and my tea is getting cold.

Over and out.