Small Rituals

Blurry, but just right for catching in dog coats.

The season of harvest is upon us, my friends. Which can either be cheerful if chirped with bright optimism, or creepy if intoned with dirgelike seriousness.

These plants have been changing by small increments every time the dogs and I walk past, and we’ve reached the time of year when their seeds tangle even in Boxnoggin’s slick fur. Of course, they’re right where Boxnoggin and B like to stop for a bit of serious sniffing and possibly some liquid unloading, so I spend the next part of the walk picking wee bits out of their hair.

They enjoy the game, I think. Anytime Mum fusses over them is a good time.

Weather has finally become reasonable, pumpkins and spookytimes are everywhere, and I’m about to start accumulating bags of candy. No, we won’t be handing them out this year–the pandemic is still going on, and besides, the doorbell sends the dogs into paroxysms of rage I’m afraid might unmoor what little sanity they have left.

Indeed, no handing out candy this year. Which means the kids and I are going to have to eat it all. Silver linings, and all that.

Have a fabulous weekend, my beloveds. Look for the small things, the tiny rituals. And don’t forget the candy.

However Eventual

I heard the trains last night.

In summer, clear skies and prevailing winds mean we don’t hear them often; summer is mostly for distant airport-noises instead, on long breathless sunny afternoons. But when the autumn mists and cloud cover move in, late at night when the windows are closed, the cries of moving trains reappear with an eerie underwater quality.

Especially when one is up well past dark reading true crime, as I have been lately. The stories are horrible, yet the idea that somehow there’s a narrative structure–and an ending, however eventual, to every horror–is comforting in times of great distress and uncertainty.

And aren’t we having those now, my friends? You betcha.

Yesterday, curled up tightly on the couch with proof pages for The Bloody Throne, I took some time to watch the rain fall. Each drop was a welcome guest; the kids were home and the dogs quietly satisfied with the entire pack assembled. Miss B and Boxnoggin are most comfortable when all of us are within sight and smell–Boxnoggin, in particular, is excited when he senses a pack member is about to return. He has a positively unerring instinct for the moment just before a pedestrian who belongs to him (or a car bearing said human) will appear.

Today is for yet more proofs. Six hundred and fifty pages is a lot, and I have to consider each one separately, with a fine-tooth comb. It’s taken almost a week to get a hundred pages out of the way, probably due to massive burnout, but things should free up relatively soon now that I’ve found my groove.

Said groove is fragile. I’m still lying on the edge of the abyss, trying to breathe. The gasps aren’t quite as deep or close together, and my heart is beginning to come down from redline. Work helps, of course; retreating from social media helps even more. The tension between retracting for my own sanity and the necessity of some marketing (never my strong suit, though I’m trying like hell lately) is marked.

But at least I’m out. In a little bit I can get to hands and knees, and maybe even gain my feet with a particularly daring effort. Then comes walking away, probably to find another sinkhole. There’s never any shortage, especially with *waves hands* all this going on.

The season has turned. The windows are all closed, even at night. Switching to flannel sheets can’t be far behind, and Miss B is putting on her winter coat. Boxnoggin cuddles very close at bedtime, which is now a blessing instead of a sweating miserable curse, and the heated mattress pad is his new best friend. (Mine too, but that’s beside the point.)

It’s about damn time. I thought summer and its attendant discomforts would never end. The trees are shaking off heat stress, firs dropping damaged needles and rhododendrons damaged leaves as new growth emerges fresh and green; they’re scarred but vital.

Healing means they’ve survived.

Dogs need walkies, my corpus needs its (relatively) high-speed shamble, the proof pages need attention, subscription drops need to be prepped. Peace is tenuous, but deeply welcome. Renewal inherent in rain fills lovely cool grey days. My own survival seems a little more assured, a little more possible.

After all, I heard the trains last night.

The Value of Burrowing

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Morning fog is a welcome, soothing blanket. The damp chill means these fellows are making their yearly reappearance.

I have not slept for two nights. Insomnia is dreadful; I would wish it on no-one. I was doing quite well sleeping regularly before 2020 hit, but my body and brain have hit a limit and I am being warned, in the clearest possible terms, to get some real goddamn rest, willya?

I did watch Kurosawa Kuroshi’s Cure yesterday. It’s exactly the type of movie I like, a masterpiece with the exact right ending. The Criterion subscription is turning out to be a lifesaver, since I’ve decided I’m not allowed to work until I sleep, which could make for a very long weekend indeed.

Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. Mushrooms know the value of burrowing deep to ride out inimical conditions; so can we.

I’ll see you on Monday, my beloveds.

Torrent, Not Stream

Rain! Glorious, beautiful, tapslithering, life-giving rain. My soul is expanding again, the trees are regaining their turgor pressure, the gutters are full, and the gardens are drinking.

Miss B is unbothered, save for the fact that rain is a Change and All Change Is Questionable. Boxnoggin, poor thing, hates falling water and is curled up tightly on his bed in my office, staring mournfully at me. Not only has his human allowed such a thing as skywater to happen, but the window is open and he can hear it.

He adjusts to the rainy season a little more quickly each year, he just hates change worse than Miss B does. Any shift in the status quo is regarded as deeply dangerous, and requires him to either bark madly or glue himself to my side while he figures out what the hell. I’m sure the deep joy with which I greet the damp puzzles him as much as it soothes.

Walkies are going to be interesting today.

This week marks rather a change for me in other areas. I’m shifting things around so I’m not looking at social media so much. I don’t know whether this is a temporary fast or a long-term solution, I just know I’m exhausted and I cannot keep staring at the trashfire. I’ll still be around, don’t worry about that. But…I just can’t function with *waves hands* all that, all the time.

I seem to have discovered a hard limit. My capacity for endurance, while great, is not infinite. It’s looking more and more like my physical symptoms are burnout rather than The Plague™, which is…well, at least I haven’t lost my sense of smell. The scratchy throat and full nose have retreated somewhat, but the exhaustion remains. I could easily go back to bed and sleep another twelve hours or so.

Yet another reason to back off social media. It’s odd, but with The Plague™ and lockdown, this is the most social I’ve ever been. Video calls and checking in on folks has consumed a great deal of my energy, and I’m approaching the point where it’s unsustainable, especially with the kind of workload I’m having to engage in to keep the mortgage paid. Someone else will have to do the check-ins for a while; I just can’t. I’m tottering under a heavy load, and my emotional knees are starting to go.

But at least there’s rain. Winter is my productive season, and when the rain starts it’s a sign that the words are about to become a torrent instead of a stream.

There is an avocado ready to be smushed onto toast for brekkie, and by the time that finishes there should be a short slackening in the falling water so Boxnoggin will only have to deal with drizzle instead of outright monsoon. Then I get to run, in the rain, finally, at last.

Things are looking up. I mean, the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head is still deep and wide, but there’s work to be done and the sound of drops hitting the roof to ease my soul.

I wish you a pleasant Monday, my beloveds. I hope you’re having something as pleasant as falling sky-drops are for me.

Tiny, Stripey Friend

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Ohai, little one!

This lovely stripey friend rode my shoulder all the way up the hill, while the dogs trotted alongside us, and then kindly posed for a snap. They didn’t speak much, being wholly occupied with their work, but I think they gave me a kind glance before diving into the heart of the flower.

Of such small things hope is made, I suppose. Neither of the kids are ill, I can still smell and taste, and nobody’s running a fever. So it’s probably not The Plague™. It’s becoming more and more likely, in fact, that my body has simply had enough of me working myself to exhaustion and is registering a protest the only way it can.

Said body does signal service carrying my silly self around, poor thing; I should be gentler with it. Of course it likes running–once the running’s done, of course, and I do try to give my corpus the nutrition it needs or wants with very little trouble or bitching.

But the constant fear and agony of hopelessness is wearing upon my poor physical self, I think. I don’t know how to make that go away, because it’s saturating the very air.

Yet my heart keeps on beating. My lungs keep on working. The stories still leap and gambol inside my head, demanding to be told. I keep trying to love without reserve. And a small piece of terrestrial life rode my shoulder this morning, basking in early-autumn sunshine, before hopping off to make a fine meal in the very depths of a flower.

Maybe it isn’t all just hopeless bullshit. Maybe.

Be gentle with yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. Above all, mask up, wash up, and get your jab(s). You’re important, and we need you.

See you next week.

RELEASE DAY: HOOD, Season Three

I have been an extraordinarily busy bee lately! HOOD‘s third and final season came to a close in May, but pandemic woes and hassles put off its wider debut. I meant to have this out in early August at the latest, but the world had other plans.


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HOOD: Season Three

Robb Locke’s trapped in a high-security Panoptikon and Sharud is under embargo, the military governeur Notheim’s fist is tightening around the throat of the entire system for his master Jun Planetagen, and all hope is lost. Somewhere at the edge of charted space, the true ruler of Anglene is drifting in a wrecked flagship.

If Marah Madán can reach Gran Parl Riccar before the oxygen runs out, she can not only save Robb but also the rest of Anglene. It’s going to take all her wit, all her resources, and a collection of spies, codejackers, rebels, and outright criminals, not to mention betraying her other childhood friend–Ged Gizabón, a dangerous adversary with secrets of his own.

Anglene is boiling, ready for yet another bloody civil war–and when it ends, Jun will be not only the Parl but the unquestioned dictator of the entire galaxy. Unless Marah and her ragtag alliance can stop him.

No hero ever stands alone…

Now available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Amazon, and direct; print edition available here.


I loved writing my little Robin Hood…in SPACE! I especially loved the feedback from serial readers as we got to things I’d been planning and leaving Easter eggs for all through Seasons One and Two. Writing and finishing a final season under pandemic conditions was…not ideal, let’s say. But every time I thought “maybe I should just stop this, refund everyone’s subscription, and walk into the sea” someone wrote me saying that the last chapter had gotten them through something horrid, or that they were eager to know what happened next, or thanking me because they could look forward to weekly chapters of Robb and the gang’s death-defying stunts.

Like clockwork. That sort of thing makes a writer endure.

I wrote a little bit before about the literary influences of the serial, and there’s an Apple Music playlist. (I had to leave Spotify, my friends. Long story.) But if I absolutely have to be one hundred percent truthful, a lot of the serial’s genesis lay in a particular BBC series, and a particularly fine-nosed actor’s portrayal of Guy of Gisbourne.

Plus there were all the neckbeards writing me about how my faster-than-light communications (fittles, in the serial, for FTL), not to mention travel (starsteal), generation ships, and other stuff didn’t obey their particular neckbeard ideas about how sci-fi should be written. I was getting my ovaries all up in their space opera, and they didn’t like it–to complete the job of pissing them off, there’s a whole chapter stuffed full of Star Trek references, because if you’re going to come for me about sci-fi, assholes, you’d better come correct, and even your holy Asimov and Heinlein, not to mention Roddenberry, did a great deal of hand-waving. I shall not apologize for my own McGuffins.

The series is completely finished now; all three seasons are out in the wild, and there are plans for an omnibus edition. But for now, I’m going to take a breath and marvel at the fact that this particular season, written during lockdown and brought out under acid-test conditions, is finally having its book birthday.

A huge and hearty thank you is due to my beloved subscribers, without which this trilogy (not to mention Roadtrip Z) would not be. Said subscribers are currently funding Hell’s Acre, which I’m having a lot of fun with. The direct support, allowing me to tell longer, more complex stories which might not find a home in traditional publishing, is positively amazing. So, thank you, my friends, and I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve got planned next.

And as usual on a release day, here’s a link to my Discord server, where fans can discuss at leisure. (Said link will only be live for a medium-ish while, to dissuade bad actors.)

It’s been a long, strange ride. I’m not even feeling release-day exhilaration, just the regular nerves and a faint sort of harassed wonder that it’s whole and complete, especially under these conditions. I suppose I should go put my head in a bucket and do some deep breathing.

See you around, my friends.

Reading All Night

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I’m almost cross-eyed with insomnia, which is on the one hand familiar–I’ve spent a lot of time in this country–and on the other, deeply annoying, since it’s nowadays the exception rather than the rule by dint of sheer hard work. Learning, as an adult, how to relax enough to sleep consistently was difficult indeed, and I know one bad night does not mean I’ll return to my previous state of constant, dreadful hyperawareness.

It’s just hard to remember as much.

It’s been a while since I was up all night reading, by far the most pleasant way to spend such sleeplessness. I finished Cornelius Ryan’s classic The Longest Day, which I’d never read before; I have his A Bridge Too Far and The Last Battle as well and will probably knock off one or both of them today. I don’t think I’ll be able to get much in the way of actual work done, but reading is important too.

It is a continual perplexity and grievance to me that I can’t read in a genre I’m actively writing in, while I’m actively writing in it. If I want to read paranormal romances, I need to stuff them in when I’m not writing them; same for epic fantasy or suspense. My inner editor goes absolutely bonkers and I end up trying to rearrange the text inside my head rather than reading and enjoying it, so I’ve learned to stagger and schedule my reading-for-pleasure. I suppose that’s why I tend to gravitate toward so much history. It’s oddly restful to read what I can’t change and will probably never write.

My productivity is going to take a hit today, but we’re still in a pandemic, so…I’m going to try not to worry much about it. Even my capacity for anxiety is started to break down under current conditions, which says a lot. Fortunately I can write something just for me, tell myself knocking off early to continue aforesaid history reading is research, and go to bed even earlier than usual tonight.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes, being Monday and all.

I suppose I’m still climbing, hand over painful hand, out of a pit of hopelessness. I haven’t quite hit the “everything is absurd and I must laugh to keep from screaming” stage yet, but I was startled into grim amusement during the long slow shoal between three and five a.m., the worse time in my particular insomnia cycle. You see, the thought I could just choose not to care about this went through my head, and the Three A.M. Wiggins, as the “what-ifs” which tend to crowd at that hour has been named chez nous, fled like frightened birds.

At least they didn’t lighten for takeoff like real birds. I felt a great flood of relief, but it was too late to attempt sleeping, so I just turned the light back on and read some more history.

Whether a poor silly human is sleepless or not, the dogs need walking, which means I should probably get some toast and strap said canines into their harnesses, in that order. Another jolt of coffee wouldn’t go amiss either, I’m sure–but that can wait until we get home. It’s a nice chilly morning, fresh and clear since we finally, finally got some rain.

Maybe that was the sleeplessness, my weary corpse glorying in the fact that summer might win one or two rearguard battles but is definitely and irretrievably in retreat. I know it’s many people’s favorite time of year, but I’m always happy to bid it farewell.

All of which is to say, I’m still hanging on, out here at the raggedy edge. One finger slips, then another, but my grasp is still relatively solid.

Relatively. So I’ll go put some toast on, tell the dogs they can wait for brekkie like always, take a deep breath, and start what’s going to be a day filtered through a lens of sleeplessness. Around 3pm it’ll take on the particular underwater wavering, another familiarity, and I’ll start counting down the hours until I can crawl into bed, grateful and hoping for a win at the roulette wheel of unconsciousness.

Monday and I are eyeing each other from foxholes, and I devoutly hope Monday knows the ancient rule of don’t start none, won’t be none. If the day forgets, well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to teach that lesson, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Over and out.