Finding a Way


Every time we reach this particular slice of sidewalk during morning walkies, I think I really should get a picture of that. The cracking and litter remind me of the Westron Wastes in Hostage to Empire.

Most deserts are fine upstanding biomes with a surprising amount of life thrumming just under their surface. Even salt waste as cracked as this little section of sprinkler runoff provides food, shelter, and solace. Of course there’s a locust tree overhead, which you can somewhat see from the wrack and litter–as well as a maple seed.

Life finds a way, even in tiny inhospitable corners.

Have a lovely weekend, my beloveds.

Days Off and Electronic Sobbing

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I stayed up relatively late last night finishing the bulk of the copyedits on The Bloody Throne (book 3 of Hostage to Empire, which is wending its way towards publication slowly but surely). I think it’s pretty much done except for one last brief pass to tuck in a few stray threads. It was written last year during lockdown (like a couple other things) and my body remembers the stress and strain. I was wondering why I felt so nauseous and unsettled reading some of the passages before I remembered when, precisely, it had been created.

The body knows, my friends. It always knows.

Fortunately this morning is cloudy and very cool. It’s the first time in weeks I don’t feel like I’m gasping for breath, and I’m not sweating while standing absolutely still. It’s GLORIOUS and I want more. The weather app says the heat will return tomorrow, but after that it might taper off a bit. A high of 75F is ever so much nicer than a high of 85F. I know people who live in warmer places will scoff at the PNW’s delicate mushrooms, but honestly, I live here for a number of reasons, not least the temperate clime.

We’re about a week from the ebook version of Moon’s Knight being officially out too; the print version should have been released today but isn’t propagating through channels just yet. Ah well, that’s the cost of testing new distribution methods. And honestly…I don’t think the book will do much. Of course, this is a constant refrain; part of pre-release nerves is the deep unshakable belief that one’s book will sink like a stone, with nary a ripple.

As soon as I finish the Bloody Throne copyedits for realsies and schedule their turn-in, I think I might attempt to take a day off. The kids are making noises about tying me to the couch again–jokes, I’m sure, but with a glint in their eyes I recognize from the mirror.

I get super nervous on “days off”, though. A day without writing causes an itch to begin under my skin, and the discomfort mounts until I literally, physically have to write in some fashion. Of course I usually solve this problem by working with something I deem unpublishable on “days off”, but a significant number of those projects have actually sold, so…I’m not sure what to do. I’m happiest while working, which is fortunate because if I ever stopped the entire casa might sink into a mire, House of Usher-style.

Past Me also put the entire Nibelungen cycle on the playlist at some point, so that’s thirteen hours of Wagner playing in the background. I don’t know whether this was a prescient choice or a penance. I know I can halt the queue and change it at any moment, but I’m curious how this will play out. I may have to alter it slightly and go on one last Pink Floyd binge before summer ends and I can’t listen to them again until the next summer solstice. The poor music algorithm doesn’t know what to suggest to me next, throwing up its digital hands and reduced to electronic sobbing.

One thing I’m going to try not to do today is look at the news. I feel incredibly guilty, since it’s long been an article of my faith that part of a writer’s job is never to look away from the hard bits of living. We’ll see if I succeed. The torment of falling down on my duty by not looking may well outweigh the damage of gazing at the fire.

In any case, the copyedits are almost done and dusted, and once they’re finished the only thing left on that trilogy will be proofs for the final book. It’s not a bad story, I think, but unfortunately a constellation of outside forces conspired to make it extremely stressful. Soon, good or bad, it will be over, and that will be a relief. On to fresh fields and pastures new, so to speak.

I hope you get a chance to breathe today, beloveds. It’s been a while since I could take a deep lungful, and it feels sinfully good. Be kind to yourselves, and excellent to each other.

Over and out.

Habit’s Wake

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I suppose one could describe my current state as “in a mood.” The business of publishing is fit to drive one to distraction, and a particular neighbor is running a pressure washer for hours at a time while the noise goes right across my nerves, dragging spikes and sandpaper.1

It could be that I need a win, however small. It could also be that I’ve hit the limit, so to speak, in many a way. Living with extreme empathy, while great for pouring myself into a character’s skin and figuring out their motivations, is a distinct drawback under current conditions. The number of people who seem to have precisely none while I got a quadruple measure is heartbreaking.

I seem to have reached the limit of even my quadruple measure, to be honest. It pains me to feel that perhaps the bigots who were screaming “fuck your feelings”, refusing to mask up and take the pandemic seriously, are in effect reaping what they have sown. If it weren’t for the collateral damage–the innocent caught in their plague-bearing fire–I might even think it a wee bit justified.

We could have been done with this by now. A few weeks of paying everyone to stay home, vaccinating, and masking afterward could have fixed it. But no, some greedy corporations had to have their serfs kept sick and terrified, and some racists just had to have their fix of propaganda-laden cruelty.

I need a rest in the worst way, but if I take one work piles up and all I do is circle the house aimlessly, wishing I was working so at least I could peek into another world since this one is proving so unsatisfactory. And publishing, festina lente as it is, with the ones at the bottom producing everything the entire edifice depends on–the writers, in case there was any doubt–treated as embarrassing afterthoughts to be abused instead of the jewel of the whole system, well. It’s enough to drive one to distraction.

There’s coffee to swill, and walking the dogs to be done. The minutiae of daily life goes on. Maybe a run will help me feel better. Copyedits have landed, and at least accomplishing those will push a book (and a series) another step towards the finish line. But oh, I’m so tired; I just rolled out of bed under protest and I am already exhausted.

If not for habit dragging me along in its wake, I might decide to simply crawl in a hole and close it up after me. The thought holds a definite attraction.

What’s getting you through the day today, my beloveds? I hope it’s something pleasant. In any case, any way of getting through the day is acceptable. The important thing is to reach the evening somewhat intact.

Suppose I’d best get started. See you around.

Little Things, Right

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Much depends on a single magnolia petal, sprinkler-starred, lying in thick grass.

I’m struggling lately, my beloveds–as you can probably tell. Every time I think there’s a little hope, some-damn-thing else happens.1 I suspect my resilience is reaching a limit, and that is an Unhelpful Thought.

I’m trying to find little things to focus on–cuddling a happy dog, a tiny victory for one of my (grown, when did that happen, my gods) children, a sip of good coffee, a small break in the gasping, terrible heat of summer. If I pay attention to those, maybe I can get through all the rest of it.

At least there’s some rain today. Not much–a bare drizzle, tops–but it smells lovely and cleans the air, and a little relief from the heat is better than none. And walking the dogs mean I have to stop often and look at the things which interest them.

Like a single magnolia petal from a tree fooled into blooming again by the release of the heat dome, and tiny jewels of sprinkler-water glittering in the sun. Sometimes, looking at the small things, I know everything’s going to be okay.

I just hope I’m right.

Return, Usual Harmony

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…well, it’s Monday again.

Not that I mind, really. I just finished a difficult revision and have a crop of administrivia as well as fresh writing scheduled for the day. It’ll be nice to get some actual new-text production going instead of just trimming and tweaking formerly written stuff. I want a lot more lead time in Hell’s Acre than I have; it’s time to do a kidnapping or two.

So to speak.

I also have to move some things on the detailed writing schedule for the next few months. This career being what it is, all sorts of things are in flux until a contract’s signed, then it’s time to work like a demon. Generally I can plan a year or two in advance, but when I get to the six- or three-month planning mark the longer-range benchmarks often have to be thrown out or altered to bear no resemblance to their original form.

Specifically, the Cold North trilogy (also known as the Silmarillion Viking Werewolves) will have to be written around paying projects, but several of those spaces have also opened up, so we’ll see what fits in them. It means a much longer timeframe before the adventures of Solveig and her shieldmaid can meet the world, but such is publishing.

I’m just glad the irritation and crankiness from earlier in the month have gone their merry way; upping my running mileage and clearing a difficult project both mean some of the usual harmony tiptoed back into my corpus. I don’t like feeling prickly as a herd of adamantium porcupines; keeping a deathgrip on my temper is unpleasant (though necessary, because friendly fire isn’t) work.

Let’s see, what else can I tell you? I read a few Vietnam War memoirs this past week, and might read a few more; I also have Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, about murder in Ancient Rome.

I suspect I shall savor the latter with quite unbecoming enthusiasm.

The morning music queue is serving up a lot of Portishead, and I’m not quite sure what to think about that. I suppose I’ll just groove with it, since Past Me is the one who went on a mad trip-hop jag while finishing up revisions. I’ll add some Copland and Gershwin, not to mention some thrash metal, to confuse the algorithms later in the day.

I am large, I contain multitudes.

So today is for the last bit of finish work before sending revisions in well in advance of their due date (love it when that happens) and a great deal of administrivial paperwork set aside during the push to get said revision done. On the one hand it’s got to be done and has lingered long enough.

On the other, I absolutely despise bureaucratic triplicate. I often mutter, “Why doesn’t your mother commit murder more often?” and both children chime, “Because it makes paperwork, that’s why!”

…look, one has to go with the objection that works, and if the disdain for paperwork keeps me from running amok, I’ll use it.

One of the neighbors put in a backyard fountain this past weekend, so I suspect Carl, Sandra, and Jerry will disdain our plebeian birdbath’s stagnation for this new luxury. Being what they are, I suspect they’ll tear the damn thing apart in their enthusiasm and I will be treated to someone else screaming at the local fauna for once.

It’ll be a nice change. I’m almost looking forward to it.

Enjoy your Monday, my beloveds. It’s a tricksome day even in the best of weeks, but with all of us watching it can hardly do more than twitch, right? At least, we can operate under that assumption for now. I’ve the machete ready and I don’t even want to know what the rest of you have stashed.

Over and out.

Heat Damage

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The browned bits at the fir’s fingertips were soft bright green in spring. The heat dome crispy-crittered them, and the damage has spread a bit despite the better weather. Even on our morning walk the signs of terrible heat stress are everywhere. Even the ragweed had a hard go of it.

Global warming is real. I have no patience for anyone who willfully refuses to accept the fact, just as I have no ruth left for the selfish who choose to remain maskless and unvaccinated. (Yes, I am aware that vaccine access isn’t universal, so keep that objection to yourself because that’s not what I’m talking about and my temper is best not tried this morning.)

I’m head-down and buried to my knees in Sons of Ymre revisions. The last third of the book should go relatively swiftly, and that will consume my Friday in honorable fashion. I’ll feel a lot better once it’s done, and might even attempt a day off–for whatever value of “off” I can tolerate, which will probably just mean writing erotica.

We all have our coping mechanisms.

Have a lovely weekend, my beloveds. Stay cool out there.

Solved By Machete

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I’m in a positively dreadful mood this morning–indeed, I’ve been tetchy all week, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the heat, though it breaks at night to allow for sleep; maybe it’s work, though I’m always happiest with a surfeit of that; maybe it’s the state of the world. The Princess concurs, for she’s been in somewhat of a mood too; she thinks perhaps it’s processing a bit of last year’s (and ongoing) trauma.

The body remembers, no matter what the rest of one would like.

Consequently I’m trying very hard to be kind, especially in small invisible ways. There is nothing better than performing a few acts of kindness to lift one’s mood. Of course it’s selfish–one should be decent simply because it’s the right thing to do–but it’s at least enlightened selfishness, and it will do. Or so I tell myself, and hope like hell it’s true.

The damage from the heat dome is still rippling through plants in the neighborhood, and I’m sure through the animals as well. Some of the laurel volunteers I put along the back fence have crispy-crittered, and since the sprinklers are Having A Moment (someone will hopefully come by to diagnose them today) much of the yard is too. The tomatoes and other seedlings, watered by hand, are holding on; the pennyroyal that wasn’t grubbed up by squirrels (WHY, for godsake?) is actually thriving. So there’s a win or two lurking in the greenery.

Including the Zombie Rhubarb, which used to be near the lilac volunteers but was moved to a sunnier spot because it frankly refused to die even after the late, lamented Odd Trundles did his best to nest in it. I don’t know what that dog had against rhubarb–maybe he simply knew it’s not my favorite?

Still, I admire the plant’s absolute refusal to lie down and die. That kind of stubbornness is near and dear to my heart, so I’m even watering the damn thing. It’s flourishing like the hellebores now. I’ve told it flat out, “We don’t have to like each other for me to do my best by you. Uh, sorry about the dog…”

I think it’s forgiven me, despite Boxnoggin’s desperate desire to water it on his own. What is it with dogs and rhubarb? I have no clue.

Anyway, the day is jam-packed. There’s subscription stuff to get out the door, groceries to grab, dog walkies and a run to squeeze in, and damn it but I want these revisions done. Time to make a list on an index card, or I’ll get absolutely nothing accomplished. It’s a shame none of these problems can be solved by a machete, for I’m in just the mood to take a few swings. (Related: I really do need to get a wooden baseball bat…)

I suppose I should also get some breakfast, too. But before all that, it’s coffee to soothe my nerves somewhat, and Josh Groban on the play queue to do likewise. Something about the vibrato is entirely calming.

I’m hoping Thursday will decide not to be overly difficult. But if it is, I’ll get out the machete.