Tiny Graces

Yesterday was awful, and now I have plenty to catch up on. I’m happiest when I’m working, I guess, but all the same…I’d like to layabout for a few more days and stuff my head full of fun things. Alas, administrivia and wordcount beckon.

On the bright side, I pulled a beautiful four-shot this morning, and here it is for your delectation. It smelled great, and cut with a little cream, tasted even better. And one of the kids loaded the dishwasher already, so that’s one less thing I have to do. Such little things–a cup of coffee, a dog’s nosing at one’s hand, finding the dishwasher already loaded–make life bearable. When I look to find what makes life worth continuing, it’s the tiny graces that end up outweighing all else.

I wish you a day full of small, beautiful things, my friends.

Khan’s Daytime

Sometimes, Khan doesn’t want to be tucked in for his daily rest. Instead, he half-naps outside the covers, keeping a watchful eye and enjoying the air. I don’t mind, for I know a bear is a wild thing at heart, but sometimes he mutters about needing to be on guard during the daytime, and I get concerned.

He tells me not to worry, for he is a bear of much strength and canniness, as evidenced by his many mighty feats during the Nightmare Skirmishes. He is a bear of much tenderness, too, and doesn’t wish me to be concerned. Perhaps he does just want some air, but there’s a warning glint in his dark eyes.

So on days he wishes to be outside the covers, I take extra care. I check the street an extra time before crossing, I reread thrice before I hit “send”, I drink plenty of water and try to be as gentle with myself as I am with my loved ones. And when I crawl into bed at the end of the day and Miss B hops up to settle herself for the night journey, I hug Khan and thank him.

What for? his eyes say, and I settle him in his usual spot.

“For caring,” I say, and open the book I’m currently reading.

It’s good to care, and to be cared for.

Peace, Process

Maybe I’ve recovered from the zero draft of Maiden’s Blade, because I’m looking at the sheer amount of revision that book will need and feeling the need to wail and gnash my teeth. It won’t help, and a lot of the work is supplementary materials–character sheets, footnotes, etc.–because if I’m going to do a doorstop epic fantasy trilogy, I need to keep names and character arcs somewhere other than my aching skull. It used to be I’d simply stuff it in my cranial corners, but with going back to piano and all I need all the extra bandwidth I can get.

I also have a book on “the poetics of The Tale of Genji” that I want to dive into, dammit, and I can’t until I bloody well get the zero draft in at least reasonable first-draft shape and sent off to yon patient editor. I’m dangling litcrit in front of my face like a carrot before a donkey, which means I’m much more tired than I thought.

I’ve had a few moments lately where I simply stop and look at things in my house. When I catch myself thinking about old hurts, often my eye will light upon a framed print, a plant, a tchotchke I remember placing with care. The idea that I’m forty-two this year, I’d a dul-gurned adult, and that I have arranged my life mostly to suit myself is still shatteringly exotic. I am hideously, unabashedly lucky. From the Nighthawks over the piano to Rembrandt’s Athena in my office, from the glass apples to the half-burned candles on the mantel, from the glass fishing floats to the statues of goddesses watching over the domicile, from the bookshelves arranged exactly as I prefer them to the books gathered wherever I happened to be reading them, from the knitting on my desk to the Princess’s knitting on the coffee table, from the Little Prince’s playing cards (he practices throwing them, I don’t know) in random places to the rehabilitated plants everywhere there’s enough sunlight to fuel them, my refuge is beautiful.

I suppose every May I think about the price of surviving and the measure of success. I worry that having a place to rest will dull my edge, which is just the hypervigilance talking. I’ve gone from considering just-plain-enduring a single day a success to having larger goals than sheer brute survival. Having those larger goals feels like asking for too much. Don’t push it, all this could vanish.

I wonder what I could want, if I’d been raised by better-adjusted people who actually wanted me. I wonder what I’d consider natural and reasonable to ask for. I wonder who I’d be without the scar tissue. I suppose every survivor does.

Right now I am trying to teach myself that I am allowed some peace, that it is a good thing to have, that my sense of peace is a process so if it breaks I can figure out how to fix it, and that lasagna is not necessarily a hideous miscarriage of perfectly good pasta. (That last one is more of a personal preference than a Grand Life Goal, but I might as well tack it on.)

And Athena, hanging in my office, is neither smiling nor frowning, simply gazing pointedly at my desk. That’s all very well, the Maiden says. But get back to work.

Aye-aye, Captain. Back to work it is.

Panic, But No Disco

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yesterday was cool, cloudy, and utterly exhausting. Not only is The Maiden’s Blade fighting me like a rabid weasel, but I’m also getting paralyzed by the fact that its deadline is approaching and I seriously doubt I’ll finish even a zero on time. It’s my own fault, since the previous book I was supposed to do for this publisher died on the vine and we had to shift to this one. So of course, when I said, “you can have ANY OF THESE OTHER BOOKS” they picked the longest, most complex one.

I don’t blame them, I kind of suspected it, and it’s nice to be working at full capacity again trying something new and even more complex than usual. But the scrabbling performance anxiety is unpleasant. A certain feature of deadlines is the almost-paralysis as one draws near, and I tend to push myself hard at the end of a zero draft anyway. It’s a double whammy.

Also, yesterday I went to a doctor’s appointment with a friend of mine. Being a calm, steadying patient advocate is something I’m apparently good at, and while I’m focusing on that I’m not thinking about other things. Unfortunately, the cumulative stress and worry smacked me with a panic attack once the appointment was over and I was heading for the grocer’s. I suppose I’ve been somewhat spoiled, since the meds brought me down from half a dozen-plus attacks daily to long stretches of weeks and months without. Apparently the habit of just focusing to get through them and not let anyone see vulnerability is still strong, since nobody even glanced twice at me all through the store. Finding out that I can still perform that feat isn’t comforting at all; I would gladly get rid of that talent born of practice if it meant I wouldn’t have panic attacks for the rest of my life.

Because they’re flat-out terrifying. Palms sweating, tunnel vision, rushing in the ears, heart pounding like a hummingbird’s wings about to explode, taste of copper, a tremor in the arms and legs one has to conceal so as not to appear weak or distracted, intensifying in random waves so one can’t brace for the next one…yeah.

Anyway, I got home without incident, the kids unloaded the groceries, and the Princess took over dinner. Just frozen pizzas, really, but it was one thing I didn’t have to do, so that was welcome. Dinner, a lot of deep breathing and some emergency meds later, I staggered to bed and collapsed.

At least the meds mean I can sleep, and not linger in a twitching twilight insomnia.

Today is for a run to work off whatever stress chemicals are still swilling around in my bloodstream, and some serious work on Maiden’s Blade. I can collapse the last two assassination attempts and torment the lady in waiting with a failure, and once I bring that arc to a close I can go back and see where the fabric of the book is hanging too slack or too taut and tweak the other arcs, adding some and reining in others, so it presents a unified fabric. Or at least, close to one, and the editor will be able to see flaws I can’t.

That’s the plan, at least. I should also leave the office window open, since Odd Trundles is upset that I won’t let him lick light sockets and has settled with his hindquarters pointed directly at me, and I know what that means. I don’t have a gas mask, so an open window it is. The poor fellow swallows so much air and it has to escape somehow, especially when he’s in a bad mood.

Hopefully your Thursday will be less…fragrant, my friends.

Over and out.

Energy

Electricity, Light, Energy, Technology
© Publicdomainphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I was going to write about Afterwar today, but I took an internal vote on my energy level and decided I’m maybe not quite recovered enough from the process of getting the book through publication.

I wanted to talk about how pretty much everything the Firsters do in the book is based on historical precedent, and also say a word about the Great Burn, but…yeah. Energy level. I’ll feel better after a run, but it’s blogging first and running after for the foreseeable future. It’s cloudy today, with spatters of rain, which means Miss B and I might avoid People Who Let Their Dogs Roam Unleashed, always a joy. I don’t mind the dogs, who are just dying to make B’s acquaintance, but I do mind the goddamn owners who want to talk to me after interrupting a working session with me and my beloved running partner.

…I may also be a bit cranky today. The coffee is soaking in. It’s glorious to have coffee without nausea, so I should probably be in a better mood. I finally got the lady in waiting kidnapped, which means The Maiden’s Blade can move into its final third. The next scene is the princess worrying over her lady in waiting while attending a banquet, having to smile and act gracious while sick with stress and dreading the worst for her friend and companion; the one after that is the actual rescue, I think, which I am going to make bloody as fuck to drive home just how much the prince involved is Not A Good Guy Even Though He Does Good Things. Then it’s back to assassinations, imprisonment, a wife to murder and someone to frame for it.

I’m swamped. *cue Prince Humperdinck face*

I should mention that the light therapy seems to be working. A fifteen-minute shot of BRIGHT OMG EYES WATERING while I blog or take care of correspondence in the morning seems to ameliorate the 3pm doldrums. I might add another session near 3pm just to see if I can get an afternoon zing, but I’m afraid of it messing with my sleep patterns. I never, ever want to go back to perpetual insomnia. I don’t even want to get close to the edge of that particular abyss.

There’s some exciting stuff landing in my inbox, like cover mockups for the planned Roadtrip Z omnibus and kicking around ideas for Jozzie & Sugar Belle. I may just sell the latter through Gumroad as a curiosity, I don’t think many people will want to read the Nutless Kangaroo Shifter Teams Up With Stripper Witch zaniness. But it’s fun, and it’ll be out there for the people who are interested.

Time to get out into the grey rain and sweat a bit, even though all I want to do is write the banquet scene. It will be better for the planning I put in while my feet are pounding, and I’ll have more energy after running. Funny how that works.

Over and out.

Old Decrepit Me

Last week the stomach flu tore through our household like a hot knife through the solidified fat of your choice. I’m still a little weak-kneed, but I have an easy run scheduled for today and both B and I need the work. She was up and down with me the entire time; the only difference between a toddler and a dog watching you puke is that the dog wants to get their nose in the loo bowl.

It’s kind of exotic, the kids being old enough to want to puke on their own. Neither of them wanted me in the loo with them while they heaved. I mean, I don’t blame them, I hate vomiting more than just about anything else, but it’s kind of strange when your kids don’t want you to hold their hair, rub their back, and make soothing sounds. I contented myself with washing sheets, running bowls, and reassurance. Thank goodness we got sick round-robin instead of all at once; the Princess brought home a megaton of saltines and I had some PediaLyte stashed, and we had quite a few “get your own dinner” nights. All three of us sitting glassy-eyed at the table, staring at bowls holding minuscule portions of something bland, and every once in a while laughing because none of us could finish a damn portion.

Anyway, we’re all much better now. The kids, still young, chewy, and bendy, bounced back much more quickly than old, decrepit me. *sigh*

So today it’s that gentle run, with a few walking stops to make Miss B work at heel and distance, and a regular day’s work–revising a chapter of Atlanta Bound from zero to first draft status, then wordcount on The Maiden’s Blade. I’ve finally gotten to the part where I can do the kidnapping, so most of the run today will be thinking about that and putting the pieces together inside my head. Several breaks for water and stretching will have to result, too, because heaving (go figure) fucks up your back and being unable to stretch without retching is Not Fun. Even my intercostals ache, and my abdominals haven’t had this much of a workout since my dancing days.

Also, tomorrow is release day for Afterwar. Which, I’m sure, is a component of the leftover nausea. Release days are always high-stress, and this particular book had so. much. go. wrong. with the publishing process. I’m amazed the printers didn’t blow up and sink into a swamp, I’m still waiting for Yet Another Piece of Bad News and unsettled when none arrives.

On the bright side, the new dishwasher works wonders, and I was able to make rice noodles last night. I was stirring said noodles in a pot when I realized I wasn’t dreading cleanup and I was actually, finally, cooking again. So much of my identity is bound up in motherhood and feeding the kids, I feel somewhat at sea when I’m not performing that function daily.

And this morning a squirrel fell out of a fir tree, through an apple tree, and just narrowly escaped a wandering Siamese cat. The laurel bush the squirrel eventually took shelter in is suspiciously quiet, though the Siamese ran away with a bottle-brush tail. I suspect things are about to get very interesting in the New Kingdom of Backyard…

Stacked-Counter Disaster

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.