Revisions, Safety, Post-it

It’s odd to be actually sleeping, instead of just lying in bed while my brain serves up millions of “what ifs” and “worry about this-es”. I did a lot of digital housekeeping lately, just generally attending to loose ends before starting a merry-go-round of revising the epic fantasy and reformatting ebooks.

The concomitant feeling of safety, and the pressure-release of being out and away, is doing good things. The relief when I attended to the last bit of housekeeping was so profound as to stagger me; I’m glad I was sitting down.

Things aren’t ideal, but at least I don’t have that energy expenditure hanging about my neck, an albatross of politeness siphoning away energy needed for other things.(Like writing, like revising, like getting these reformats done… you get the idea.)

In any case, I spent hours on a single scene yesterday, ripping at the underpinnings and ending up with something that looked very much like the initial work, but with a completely different thrust and tone. Sometimes you have to get down to the foundations before you can fix what’s wrong. Usually I’m a lot better about noticing something’s gone wrong during the initial writing, but sometimes… well, sometimes I’m not.

That’s what revision is for.

Still, I’m feeling the drag of “this is the third book in a series, it’s already 168k, it’s going to be bigger, why do I get myself into these things, just set it on fire, I hate everything.” It’s a usual, albeit uncomfortable, part of the process. I’ve got an extra week to get the revisions in and I should have known, because they always take three times as long as one thinks they will–about as solid a rule of thumb in publishing as there is. The only time things don’t take thrice as long is when they take six times as long.

At least there’s coffee. And at least there’s a lot of energy freed up by finishing housekeeping. I hadn’t realized just how deeply some things were bothering and draining me until I stepped away and felt the relief. I call it “the energetic bends”–so much pressure, removed so abruptly, makes for a short, uncomfortable period where one realizes just how bad it was. The trick is not to beat yourself up with “why did you stay so long, then?”

The only solution I’ve found is putting a Post-it with “just be glad it’s over” somewhere I can glance at it several times a day, like among the crop of notes festooning my desktop. They range from quotes to character lists, and one more doesn’t hurt. Quite the opposite.

Anyway. Now it’s time to get the dogs walked, run my poor corpse now that all the snow is gone, and stagger home to fall into revisions once more. I still need to reward myself for finishing the last zero draft I stabbed to doneness, but I can put that off until I get this revision out the door and then, then maybe I’ll give myself a double prize.

Not quite sure what it will be, yet, but now I have the time–and the energy–to figure it out.

It’s a nice change.

Kindness, Escape

Spent the weekend doing revisions as well as reformatting ebooks and the like; most of those changes should be wending their way downstream. New editions are always a chance to catch the things that didn’t get chased down and thumped before. Even with a million pairs of eyes during the publication process, some stuff slips through. It’s inevitable.

What I did not do was rest. Today it’s back to solely revising the third epic fantasy; all my engines are focused on that. The second year of lockdown is about to start and my ability to focus and push under pressure is beginning to fray at the edges.

Once that’s done it’s on to revising HOOD‘s third season, preparatory to the editing process. I still have to make a final determination on the next serial–it will either be Hell’s Acre, the alt-Victorian trilogy, or Division Seven, the mutant secret agents story. I’m leaning towards Hell’s Acre because I like the language, and I’m not wanting to engage with current-day stuff right now.

I need an escape.

I think we could all do with an escape or two, frankly. I just want to crawl into my stories and never come out. I’m sick of utterly avoidable disasters and broken promises, hatefulness and cruelty. It’s the last that gets to me.

It takes so little effort to be kind. Kindness is the natural state, it’s the lowest energy requirement. It puzzles me: Why do so many people actively choose to stew in violent hate, why do they seek out reasons to be shitty? Why, when it’s so easy to just… not? Imagine what humanity could do if dickwads quit wasting their energy on spewing vileness.

I write because I must, but sometimes I think I also write to try and answer why people do some things. Pouring myself into certain characters’ skins, even if it isn’t on the page–because I have to understand the villains to see how they’re going to act in the story–is an effort to understand.

The dogs are very clingy this morning. I think they can sense my nerves are raw. Or maybe they just want their walkies, since it’s a relatively warm morning. A week ago we were in snowpocalypse (I think? Time has lost all meaning.) and now it’s very mild in the high 40s (Fahrenheit, of course) with crocuses and the like taking advantage of the sudden balm.

Maybe the snow was the last gauntlet to run. It would be nice to have an end to something. Normally I enjoy winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Lately though, I feel like I’ve done nothing for the last winter except sit and stare in deepening horror. I know that isn’t true, but it feels like it.

I’ve blathered long enough. Time to get the dogs walked, my own reluctant corpse run, and then to crawl into the end of a hot, murderous summer in an imaginary land. Getting the third and final book arranged will do me some good, I hope.

Happy Monday, everyone. We made it to another week, yay us. Now let’s see if we can endure through.

Over and out.

On Privacy, and Cleaning

The snow is mostly gone, which means (according to the dogs) that everything is back to normal and they have forgotten there were even snow days at all. Consequently, the trace of white lingering in the backyard represents a Change and thus something Boxnoggin has to bark at. The humans must be alerted to Change, because Change is Bad.

At least they got a long ramble yesterday, so as far as they’re concerned, everything is swell.

I am engaged upon two projects at the moment–a revise of the third book in an epic fantasy series, and some digital housekeeping. Pandemic lockdown’s been going on for over a year now; I’ve largely adapted to video calls and the like. The lockdown adjustment period was a marvel of people reaching out, pulling together, and caring for each other–which is, don’t get me wrong, still going on and is wonderful beyond measure.

It was also a helluva gift for predators of varying kinds, taking advantage of the open doors and grace. Which is fine–I’d rather help those who need it despite the risk. Yet now with things settling1 I have hit the wall, and am taking a good hard look at some of the things I’ve allowed into my space(s).

It used to be I would just let things go, smile and nod and Put Up With It until I reached a breaking point, grabbed my katana, and cut a problem right in half. Which solves a great many things but also baffles onlookers, because up until that point I am flexible as a contortionist and accommodating as all get-out. I’ve been attempting to alter that pattern, because the fallout takes up a lot of time I could otherwise spend on pleasant things.2

And sometimes it’s not even a predator. Sometimes–and this is something you’re never supposed to admit, as a woman–there are people one just doesn’t like. And that’s perfectly okay! Heaven knows there are people I just rub the wrong way.3 With nine billion of us on the planet, it’s ridiculous to expect to like or be liked by everyone. Deciding not to spend time with someone you dislike doesn’t make you a bad person–far from. It can, in fact, free you up to spend time with those you do like.

Now, there are people one dislikes that one has to be professional with for the sake of getting along, or even just having a reasonably calm time at one’s job. That’s not what I’m on about here. I’m talking purely personally, which gets a little strange since I’m partly a public personality, what with social media giving access to creators in unprecedented ways. I’m endlessly glad I’ve had only middling success and am not famous, which just douses this particular dynamic with jet fuel and lights a match.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get creeps, or stalkers, or people who want to be published and think feigning friendship is the way to get there, or even just the lonely. My natural inclination to be as kind as possible has been weaponized against me before, and that’s left a mark. Plus, I don’t take vacations or days off, really. The nature of the work–being basically a freelancer supporting an entire household–means no time for it, and very little time for keeping up with the telly or even streaming the New Hot HBO-or-Whatever Series. So the people who want access to me for, let’s say, non-friendly reasons tend to get sorted out pretty quickly, and I’m vigilant.

Sometimes they work their way in, though, especially when the digital “doors” open up because there’s a catastrophe and I’m actively seeking to be as kind as possible to as many as possible. I realized lately that I’d been avoiding certain places where I used to find a lot of solace and support because of this dynamic, and I don’t like it.

Which means it’s time for cleaning. It’s spring, might as well. I did a whole thread yesterday about the struggle of leaving behind people you care about in a space that no longer feels safe, and how it’s okay to protect yourself. It’s advice I wish I would have had when younger. This sort of cleaning is a difficult, painful process, not least because one naturally wants to accomplish it without hurting or harming the innocent, so to speak. For me, it’s best accomplished slowly, in patient stages, and well before I reach the katana phase.

Being a public person means one is going to get a certain amount of creep swirling around one’s mentions, comments, and the like. It’s a hazard of the job, but one doesn’t have to deal with it everywhere. It’s perfectly natural and reasonable to keep some spaces private; the world is not owed access to every single moment of your day, despite the inevitable pressure to open up for it. And if your decision to keep some parts private gets you yelled at by Certain People, that says more about them than it does about you.

By their works shall ye know them, and all that. Plus, if we’re dispensing homilies, those who mind that you’re keeping some spaces private don’t matter, and those who matter won’t mind.

Now it’s time to ramble the dogs, for the snow is gone and they are eager to be back to our regular schedule. I also get a run today, since the melt has been accomplished to the point where I’m fairly sure I won’t slip and break my fool neck while attempting warp speed on icy pavement. I’m nervy and anxious to get out the door, but before I go, I’d just like to reiterate: It’s okay to keep some things private, or to put up the walls and declare some parts of your self not-for-sharing. It’s also okay to leave a space where you no longer feel safe; like the airplane disaster videos say, you must first adjust your own mask before helping anyone else with theirs.

This is difficult as all get-out, and should you find it overwhelming you’re not alone. It’s a hard thing, and it takes time.

But you–yes, you reading this–are worth it. And (though I often forget as much) so am I.

Over and out.

See What We’ve Saved

The instant the slush goes down to something below “fall and break my fool neck” proportions, the happier the dogs and I will both be. Boxnoggin is practically going mad without his rambles, and I’m not far behind.

It was a hard weekend, though peaceful because of the snow. Even with the sloppy melt going on, there are still areas of blank white, nice and crisp. Watching the powder fall was soothing; the ice storm a little less so. And I am, truth be told, slightly tired of my feet being numb, even in several layers of socks.

All told, though, I like the cold better than heat. One can always put on another layer or sip something warm. Sweating, though–that leads to chafing, and dear gods how I hate chafing.

I did get a lot of knitting done. The Princess’s best friend and the Prince both have nice new chenille blankets, and I had eight skeins of a chunky wool blend that’s mostly turned into scarves at this point. A great deal of the fun of knitting is giving things away.1

I finished Kieckhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages recently, which was an enjoyable read; next up is Kelleher’s The Alliance of Pirates. I’m really looking forward to the latter, and maybe it will chase the Viking stuff out of my head so I can focus on the revisions that need to be done without a whole ‘nother epic fantasy series trying to tear and claw its way out.

Some books are possessive. This one, however, needs to wait its turn. I’m pretty sure it’s unsellable, which has never stopped me before but which does mean it has to fill in the gaps and cracks between other working projects. Of course nothing is as delicious as stolen time, and writing in said stolen time is the sweetest fruit there is.

And of course maybe I’ll suddenly get the urge to write something about pirates. I hear Black Sails is really good, so I can possibly distract myself with that.2

It’s hard for a lot of people right now. It’s yet another six-month pandemic anniversary (some of us have been in lockdown for a whole goddamn year) and we could have been done with this before now if reasonable science-based adults had been in charge. A lot of us are grieving, or in holding patterns unable to grieve as well as cut off from necessary contact. And let’s not even talk about the fascist coup and all that bullshit.

At least there are dogs, and the beauty of fresh snow. There’s the secret stealthy sound of melt in the gutters, there are books and quiet and the fact that even if we’re in lockdown, we’re not precisely alone. Every day we’ve spent hunkered at home, every time we put on a mask, we’re Doing A Good. We’ve lost a lot, yes. Who can tell how much we’ve saved because most of us have been doing what we should all through this?

The trouble with the thankless work of saving is that it’s invisible.

It might seem like faint comfort, but I’ll take it. The thing that’s getting me through is caring for those I’m responsible for, and reminding myself that staying in and masking up are ways to show I care. I’m a natural hermit; the isolation doesn’t wear on me. What does is the loneliness and sadness of those I care for.

I know it’s rough. Most of us are quietly doing the best we can; sometimes that gets lost in the noise of the selfish. They are few indeed, but very loud. Of course the sonic assault is one of their primary weapons, to distract us from noticing how tiny and petty they are. Otherwise we might just stop letting their selfish selves ruin things for the rest of us.

Imagine that.

It’s time to play with the canines a little, working off a bit of their energy until we can go rambling and let them stick their snoots in the usual spots. Then a shower, and to the grindstone of revisions. Getting books through publication is akin to cliff-climbing–one handhold at a time, exhale, use your legs, it’s about the whole route not just the next hold.

Best to get started, then. Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Remember, we can’t see what we’ve saved–but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Breathing-Quiet Melt

The melt is underway.

There was at least eleven inches1 of nice dry powder.2 Then the ice storm moved through yesterday afternoon and evening, leaving a coat of clear varnish over every surface.

This morning it’s still cold, and there’s still almost a foot of snow, and the dogs still won’t get a walk. But little bits of half-liquid stuff is coming off the trees, the subtle breathing sound of freeway traffic in the distance has returned, and if you stand on the deck you can hear the creaking under the ice-glaze as the snow underneath melts.

The water is speaking. It’s like being in the throat of massive, dozing creature. I keep listening for a heartbeat.

It was good to have a weekend in. I mean, for over a year all our weekends have been in, because we’re in lockdown trying desperately not to spread infection. The Princess works at a grocer’s so we’re pretty sure at some point the plague will come home to roost, but at least we can be in the habit of not giving it to anyone else and we’re all in low-risk categories.

At least there’s that.

The photo on this post isn’t recent; it’s from the previous time we had snow.3 Generally it melts within a day; I can count on one hand the number of times it’s stayed longer in the, oh, let’s see, almost two decades I’ve lived in this town? I mean, I’ve been in the PNW most of my life at this point, but there’s something to be said for living in one distinct ville for a long while.

The deciduous trees have ice filigree on their branches; the cedars and other evergreens seem to be shaking off the coating first. I wonder how the cherry down the street that was flowering earlier last week is faring. As soon as the melt reaches a certain pitch4 I’ll be able to ramble the dogs. They need it–they’ve been wrestling with each other in the living room to take the edge off, but it’s a strategy with diminishing returns.

Today I start prep for an epic fantasy revision. Which will require stacking the previous books on my desk for reference while I go through and mutter at every instance of square brackets in the manuscript, mostly bearing some form of “look this up later, Future Me.”5

Past Me had a sense of humor. In fairness she wrote most of the damn book during lockdown and fascist coup, which will put a dent in anyone’s cognitive horsepower. Still, every time I see the brackets in the damn book I have to stop and look at my office ceiling, drawing in a deep breath and throttling the urge to scream.

Meanwhile, the dogs will probably be startling at branches and stuff hitting the roof as the melt accelerates. There will, I am sure, be a lot of barking. But with the warming up I can maybe slither out of a few layers, and hopefully by afternoon the street will be clear enough to ramble, if not run.

All in all I am very bruise-tender right now. One can have the thickest of skins, but repeated walloping still hurts. I dislike loving something so much and being so very bad at it that an intervention is suddenly called. Best just to quietly step aside and let others have it.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post, or probably not. Here’s hoping the melt continues, and that soon the dogs–and I–will have fidgets worked out. I haven’t run in days, and the strain is beginning to mount. It will be nice to get out and think about things while pounding the pavement, just as soon as the weather clears.

Over and out.

Resentment, Body, Détente

So. 6k+ on HOOD‘s Season Three yesterday. The crisis is written–the apex of the season and incidentally of the entire serial–and now all that remains is a few scenes’ worth of falling action. I could have pushed through an all-nighter and gotten at least the scaffolding of those in, but it would mean more work later fixing fatigue errors. So I did the Reasonable, Adult thing and went to bed, resenting every moment of it.

There’s a particular state where I do indeed actively resent anything that isn’t writing. I’m still there this morning. Even this blog post is only glancingly acceptable because it involves typing. What I really want to be doing is writing that falling action, getting the characters to the new equilibrium.

Which means Guy of Gisbourne, Alan-a-dale, and Robin Hood have a scene that needs to happen, Maid Marian and Little John need to have a conversation followed by Guy’s visit to the woman he’s loved since childhood, and Robin needs to stand in the ruins of his own childhood home. I think I can do it in three scenes, now that I’ve gotten some sleep and food in my reluctant corpse.

I shouldn’t be so mean to my body. It’s hauled me around, largely uncomplaining except with good goddamn reason, for a very long time now. We have somewhat of an armed détente; we’ve both done things we regret. Parents, men, and society have tried to make me hate my closest and oldest friend, the flesh that carries me. Working against that current is difficult, especially when I’m used to escaping into worlds of my own creation.

The fact remains that my body is my ally, and when I stopped lobbing shells at her, she was more than happy to relax into a peace without negotiation, pettiness, or ill feeling. I don’t deserve that grace, but she offered it without rue or anger. Better than I deserve, I suppose. We can’t live without each other, so I should stop being cruel to her and myself.

I suspect that particular trick will take a long, long while; I’ve been working on it for about a decade. It’s hard to shake the first thirty-odd years of training and the constant cultural (and advertising) yelling to lose weight, be fuckable, you’re too old, you’re too ugly, buy this product, starve yourself, who do you think you are?

Patriarchy’s biggest victory is getting women to hurt themselves. Wrestling that weapon away from the grasping invisible hand of the market is huge, uphill labor.

I’m sure my body will like a few days off with the relief of finishing this zero draft. Before that can happen, though, I’ve got to finish absorbing the coffee both of us like, walk the dogs, and give the ol’ corpse the running it craves to purge stress hormones and stretch the lungs. Then it’s back to writing, where each word echoes in the secret hollows of my bones, the threads of my capillaries.

Writing is hard on the delicate structures of the wrists, it’s hard on the back; I don’t know about other scribes, but every combat scene or narrow escape hikes my adrenaline and fills me with characters’ pain or uncertainty. Ironic that the thing I long to escape into relies upon my body; every word is intimately bound with my flesh.

Even when I’ve hated her, she’s given her help unstintingly. She throws herself, often to the limits of endurance, at every task I set her to. She does her best, despite the ill treatment I’ve made her endure. Her complaints are always founded in deep effort; she never wants to betray me. I’m going to spend the rest of my life undoing the damage inflicted during the first few decades while she winds down, doing her absolute best to carry me while time, ill chance, and mortality gnaw at us both.

I wish I’d learned to treat her better earlier, but at least I have this opportunity now. Gods grant I don’t squander it.

In any case, it’s time to care for the corpse before I can achieve the end of the story we’ve both been working on for a long while now. Plus, the dogs are patiently (but energetically) waiting for their morning ramble. All of them are kinder to me than perhaps they should be.

May they teach me to be better, each in their own way.

Time Loop, Recovery

Between various bodily aches and canine upset tummies (Miss B is an Elderly Statesdog, and has Elderly Statesdog Problems) I was up and down all night. I really could have used some sleep after the weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. Groundhog Day is, after all, here.

Again.

I suppose I could have gotten up and done some knitting, but instead I lay in the dark and thought about things. The mind is always a sack of squirrels; it never, ever shuts off. I suppose some part of it is the genetic predisposition to anxiety triggered and reinforced by my upbringing. Consequently my main strategy to gain some rest is pushing myself to exhausted collapse, which isn’t exactly optimal.

On the bright side, I got a character stabbed yesterday, and since there’s no run today (the body simply won’t have it, for once) I can work through the consequences for long uninterrupted hours. That’s the plan, anyway. Anticipating uninterrupted work hours is a sure way to ruin and disappointment, but I can’t help myself. I long for some time to simply roll around in a world of my own creation, escaping from this one.

It might not be healthy, but it’s my job, and I like it. If I were caught in a time-loop I’d probably spend the day doing the same thing, for at least a century or so.

At least Miss B appears to have no lingering ill effects from the night’s games. She is, in fact, her usual spiteful, jealous, stubborn, lovely self. I’ve rarely been so pleased to see her muscling Boxnoggin aside to get in on pets and treats, or patrolling the hall as she attempts, once more, to boss every human in the house into a single room where she can supervise us. We don’t listen, of course, but without something to herd she is at somewhat of a loss, and Boxnoggin has decided he wants to be curled upon his fancy memory-foam bed in the living room until it’s time for walkies.

Part of recovery is the spinning mental merry-go-round married to physical lethargy. The tension between the two is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s just one of those things one has to get through. The body will not let go until it’s processed everything one pushed aside to survive an awful event, no matter how one ducks and dodges. Might as well sink into it, let it happen, deal, cry, scream, use the heavy bag, so forth, so on. Fighting the processing gets one nowhere.

I should say it’s never gotten me anywhere. The only way out, as I tell the kids, is through. Trying to avoid processing just burns energy I could use for other things, like getting this damn zero finished, getting through the epic fantasy revisions (third and last of a triptych, my gods), and figuring out the next serial–which I think will be Hell’s Acre, my alt-Victorian melding of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and The Da Vinci Code, with plenty of other things (the Roman Empire never fell, for example) added in. I’m going back and forth between that and Mandeville & Starke; we’ll see what I finally land on.

So if your brain feels like a bag of methed-out cyborg squirrels and your body feels like it’s been beaten with a club, you might be simply processing the last few years’ worth of constant trauma. I keep saying you’re not alone because if I can help even one person through the woods, I consider it time and effort well spent. We must save each other; goodness knows nobody else is coming to.

Now Miss B is nudging at my knee, knowing from the way I’m breathing and shifting that I’m almost done typing, which means it’s almost time for walkies. (Dogs, as well as human toddlers, are great believers in habit and ritual.) When I stand, the creak of my chair will alert Boxnoggin, and despite my aching body and exploding brain, I will smile because he will thunder down the hall full of excitement.

It’s not a time loop, but it’s a nice reminder nonetheless. It’s Groundhog Day, again. I don’t know how many more I’ll have with Miss B, but I plan to use each one to the full.

Over and out.