Cracked, And Serviceable

My favorite mug has survived a bookstore fire, losing its handle, having its handle glued back on, having the glued handle fall back off, and various other mishaps. It still works, though it’s a bit battered, and I plan to use it until it doesn’t.

The fact that it yells “I AM GOING TO HEX YOUR FACE OFF” is just…a bonus. I forget where I saw that particular term–I think it was in a Harry Potter fanfic about Bellatrix (and she’s probably the character who would most likely utter such a thing, unless Molly Weasley got really angry) and it just encapsulates my every feeling before sweet, sweet life-giving caffeine goes down my throat.

I’ve rarely had things stay in my life. The mug has lasted longer than my marriage at this point, and given me quiet steadfastness the last years of said marriage utterly lacked. That’s enough reason to keep it around.

Plus, every time I see its smoke-scarred glaze, I’m reminded that we survive, we endure, and just because a thing is cracked or discolored doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful and worthy and good. The older I get, the more I appreciate the cracked, discolored, and still quietly serviceable.

My other favorite mugs say It’s Motherfucking Tea Time and She Who Must Be Obeyed. I…suppose that says a lot about me, but nothing Readers didn’t already know.

Remember, even if we’re cracked, we’re still useful, beautiful, and worth keeping. Have a good weekend, chickadees.

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.

Peanut Blackmail

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. The Princess brought home a big bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts, and is leaving handfuls on the deck.

For the squirrels.

“Maybe if we’re nice to them the hijinks will stop?” she said, when I raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, my dear sweet springtime child,” I said (for she is), “blackmailers never stop if you give them what they want.”

Time will tell who’s right, but I have a weapon standing ready by the back door.

Just in case.

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?

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.

Burden, Borne

It’s that day! The Complete Roadtrip Z is now available in ebook directly, or from the distributor of your choice. That’s all four seasons of the serial in one handy (and very large) chunk. (The paperback edition is here.)

The genesis of the Roadtrip books is a long ongoing conversation with my writing partner about just who would survive the zombie apocalypse, and how such an apocalypse would be likely to spread, assuming it was viral. There are other considerations–a bacterial or occult zombie-making plague was ruled out early in the game, since Mel loved biology in school. (She and I have another ongoing conversation about mass conversion in shifters, but that’s neither here nor there.)

We talk sometimes about survival, and about how it’s going to be the people who are already used to scraping by that are going to make it during the initial catastrophe and the secondary wave of bad-luck deaths afterward. I’m sad to say that without Lee’s help, Ginny probably wouldn’t have–and without Ginny, Lee might never have made it out without the survivor part of him deciding to do some dreadful and perhaps unnecessary things. They needed each other badly.

There’s also Juju, who’s had the deck stacked against him all his life, and who’s pretty sure any new world from the toxic ashes from the old is going to be just as bad for him. I’m not sure he’s wrong, either, but at least he’s got people watching out for him now.

I didn’t know who would survive when I started writing. I knew where the survivors would end up, but not what that group would look like when it got there. Some people I badly wanted to survive made it; some people I really wanted to see make it didn’t. The kids could probably tell you about me staggering down the hall after a long day of writing, tears on my face as I begin making dinner.1

There was plenty of poring over atlases, checking tactical layouts, researching average meteorological conditions, and more than one emails to Mel saying “Ask the Boy Scout2 how he’d solve the problem of xyz, please?”

Lee, however, was based mostly on my maternal grandfather. He was an honorable man, and Lee is all the best of him rolled into one quiet package. Not that Papa was a silent fellow, unless he got serious. Most of the time he wanted to laugh through life, and he could make anyone laugh with him. He liked hunting, percolator coffee on Sunday mornings, and Wile E. Coyote. Even now, if I hear the meep-meep, I can hear him laughing. He had a stuffed Wile E. atop his gun cabinet, and he was the one family member I deeply regretted not being able to speak to.

I got to see him once before he passed, but he didn’t ask why I wouldn’t talk to them. Instead, he took me through a calendar of old military planes and told me about each one, especially those he worked on in Korea.

It was his way of telling me he still loved me, even though he didn’t understand.

Now that he’s gone, I hope he understands why I couldn’t answer what he wanted most to know, and forgives me. And I hope he gets a kick out of me putting a man he’d like into a book.

Ginny came from a different place. I wanted someone who would be at a distinct disadvantage during an apocalypse, someone comfortable with civilization and thinking it was permanent or even particularly “civilized.” One or two readers said Ginny was too stupid to live, but in each situation, she’s trying to respond as normally as possible. It wasn’t the best coping mechanism…but it was hers, and while Lee and Juju got everyone through physically intact, it’s to Ginny’s credit that they got to the end mostly emotionally intact. Sure, everyone involved will need oodles of therapy, but that’s to be expected when the world falls apart.

I was experimenting with serial format all the way through, and I must thank my Readers for their patience with said experiments. Thanks to those who allowed me to Tuckerise them, too–your characters are as sharply and finely drawn as I could make them, and if a few meet gruesome deaths, well, that’s to be expected in any book of mine, right?

I think it’s good that it ends where it does. (Of course I do, or I wouldn’t have ended it there.) I’m pretty sure my grandfather wouldn’t have read it–his taste was more Zane Grey, though he had a soft spot for Louis L’Amour, especially Last of the Breed–but I’m also pretty sure he’d be tickled pink to know a character was based on him. I ain’t interesting, he’d say, but his blue eyes would hold a little pleased twinkle.

Some of my work is offerings to the dead. Not so they stay down, but so I remember them by doing what I love most, and what is sometimes the only gift I can give.

So thank you to you all. I’m writing HOOD as a serial now, but Roadtrip Z will always hold a special place in my heart. I was able to play, to expand, to practice both bringing each episode to a good end as well as keeping the much larger (good Lord, it’s easily 200K words in final form) story and its various arcs clearly in mind. It was a helluva ride, and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself now that it’s over.

I mean, I know what I’m going to do, of course. I’m going to write more.

But maybe, with the omnibus finally out in both paper and e-formats today, I’ll take a bit of a rest and think about how those I’ve lost are still with me. Not just because I write them, but because I carry them wherever I go. If it’s a burden, it’s one I bear proudly–and one I’ll keep writing underneath.

See you around, guys.