Poor They

Sir Boxnoggin and I found this unlucky bundle of feathers while out running. The crows have already been at them, and Boxnoggin was extremely interested, but I did not let him give more than a token sniff.

Poor birdie. Nature’s cleanup crew has already recycled most of them by now, I reckon. Such bright plumage, on such a grey day.

Achievement, Unfulfilled

There are now not one, not two, but three very rotund squirrels who take it as their personal mission to taunt Sir Boxnoggin whenever the opportunity arises. I’m pretty sure one is Batgirl, and though Olsen Twins is much rounder these days he’s just as nervous and his tail is a sad, sad little crooked thing. The third might be Preggers, but I’m not exactly sure.

Yesterday one scuttled up the fence by the remaining cedars and Boxnoggin went up after it. It’s a considerable board fence, but he still gained enough air–multiple feet, I tell you–to make me seriously concerned. That dog would rock an agility course, once he settled down and decided to seriously work it. As it is, he’s too young.

They said “three, three and a half years old” at the shelter, but if that dog was a day over two when we brought him home, I’ll eat every hat I own, without ketchup even. He’s old enough that running on pavement won’t damage his joints, thank goodness, but he is otherwise chewy and bouncy and full of the energy of youth.

Right now he’s prancing up and down the hall, ready to get out the door and go. We have a middling run today, and no doubt he’s eager to stick his nose in everything we pass. It will take him some time to calm down and actually work on our runs, but that’s okay. Gods know it took Miss B a few years to grasp the concept.

But those goddamn squirrels. They dangle their tails over the fence, chittering with amusement, and Boxnoggin goes absolutely mad. He head-butted the fence at high speed the other day, because Olsen Twins had vibrated right through it to escape him. If he ever catches one of those fuzzy bastards, it’s not going to be like Miss B’s infrequent achievement, where she freezes with the squirrel dangling in her mouth and looks at me, clearly asking now what? No, Boxnoggin knows what to do when he grabs a tiny bundle of fur–shake it until it’s limp, then disembowel it.

I kind of hope he never gets one. As much as I despise the nasty little arboreal rats, that seems a terrible fate for even their ilk. And then there’s the cleanup. Getting Boxnoggin into the bath isn’t the all-day event it was with Odd, but it’s still an undertaking, and carrying a wriggling boxer-terrier covered in squirrel guts into the house might manage to put a dent in even my zen.

I’m going to finish the first HOOD book for NaNo, which means I need to get Atlanta Bound revised posthaste in order to shove HOOD into that daily work slot. I’m only halfway through. Maybe tomorrow I’ll splurge and finish it in a candy-fueled haze. Thank goodness neither the squirrels nor Boxnoggin have access to sugar.

It’s the little mercies that keep me sane. Or, relatively sane.

I hope your Samhain is fun and fruitful, my friends. May the turn of the Witch’s Year usher in the fulfillment of hopes for us all.

Except Boxnoggin. I hate to break a dog’s heart, but I want the squirrel guts to stay firmly inside the damn beasts…

Crawl, Resurrect

I resurrected at a crawl this morning. Both dogs are eager, anxious, and dancing; I am none of those things. I’m heavy, blinking, barely moving from one sentence to the next. I can’t imagine how I’m going to run. Maybe I’ll just let Sir Boxnoggin pull me along wet pavement.

I did have a nice weekend. I met up with the stellar April Daniels and had a lovely time nerding about the Eastern Front and various other things. That was pretty much the highlight; I also scored a couple books I’ve been wanting for a while like Caroline Kepnes’s You. Sunday was full of housecleaning and thunderstorms, as well as a trip with the kids to pick out their pumpkins. The month of no-added-sugar is going to end in a blaze of corn syrup, pumpkin guts, and glory.

What I did not do was work. Oh, sure, I added about 200 words in revision on Atlanta Bound, but my heart was not in it. I worked just enough to to turn down the itch under my skin, which means I am nervy this morning. The need to write has been physical for most of my life; if it ever ends I’m going to be seriously at sea.

The news is a dragging weight on every finger, toe, limb. The stories are ships upon an angry sea. I can feel the panic attacks waiting outside the charmed circle of medication, body and brain trying to respond to the danger. The worst is knowing I’m somewhat protected–only a little–and people I care for are in far deeper danger.

As soon as the coffee sinks in I’ll grab my running togs from the dryer. Sir Boxnoggin will dance and prance, Miss B will moan and yip at being left behind. I can’t take her today, it’s a slightly longer run and her elderly puppy self is not fit for it anymore. She’ll get praise and pets upon our return, and her daily exercise will come from wrestling with Boxnoggin. He is still young and chewy, and can run with me and play with her all day. It wears him out, she gets worn out as well, and with them amusing each other I can attend to work.

At least the rains have moved in. This is the most productive time of the year for me, and I’ve got a glut of work to take advantage of it. If I can just lift this crushing weight enough to breathe, I might be able to get some speed.

Let’s hope.

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

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.