Broken Hook

Broken, yes. Still good?

We have a set of large red cappuccino cups the kids have used as cereal bowls for decades. They’re huge, chipped, and incredibly useful. They’re also showing their age, like any beloved long-term item.

The handle broke off one of them while the kids were doing dishes. The Prince made an amazing catch, trapping the bowl between his hip and the counter with enough force to arrest its fall, but not enough to dent or chip it.

Bowl’s still in use, and I think I’m going to hot-glue magnets to either end of the handle. I can use it to hang things on the fridge, or it might go on the space above the cupboards where I daubed magnetic primer and then chalkboard paint. We’ll see.

I keep making new things out of broken bits. Some of them work, some…well, at least I gave it a try.

Have a good weekend, beloveds.

Little Kindness

blank
A tiny bravery.

If all goes well, this will be a silk tree. Of course, a lot depends on if I’ve provided the right growing conditions, and if the seed was truly viable and not damaged by recent weather. If it doesn’t work out, the tree one block over will produce a new crop of seedpods next year, and I’ll try again.

Assuming we’re still here next year, that is.

There’s just a hint of green, and it’s by no means certain. A hundred things could go wrong. I have another seed in a similar pot, and will try to coax both along. Over and over I plant, and whisper encouragement, and wait.

If everything goes as I hope, there might be a sapling in our yard next year, but that’s no guarantee either. Insects, rot, drought could all strike–we had a tiny oak that didn’t survive last summer’s 115F heat dome. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) But who knows? Maybe we’ll have a silk tree eventually, with its marvelous powdery scent for a few weeks in summer and its pretty pink and yellow blossoms.

Of course, by then we might not be in this house, or something. No guarantees there, either.

But still, it’s important to whisper a little love into any seedling one can. I’m feeling low and drained these days, my beloveds, and doing my best to hold on. A little kindness, a tiny murmur, a small corner where the growing conditions can be tweaked and helped along…it’s all I can do. I don’t know if it’s enough, but it’s what I’ve got.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, dear ones. These are terrible, extraordinary times, and we’re all on our last frayed nerve.

See you Monday.

Victory, Price, Laughter

blank

I should have known that every victory on the first Monday of 2022 would exact a price. It was going so well, too! I finally got repair for the dishwasher and the kitchen sink scheduled, not to mention some actual work on Hell’s Acre and Sons of Ymre #2. I went to bed feeling reasonably content, even if things are not exactly ideal.

Alas, Past Me was apparently an unforgivable optimist. But maybe I’ll feel better about her habit of being hopeful after coffee. I suppose writing while uncaffeinated, as I am currently doing, means a touch of growl seeping into my voice.

The upshot of all this is that there’s errands today. Hopefully I can get them done with a minimum of fuss and retreat homeward, giving ground very slowly and making the year work for every inch it gains. The stage after the loss of sunny optimism is grim determination, teeth sunk into the hide of the monster and my claws working deeper and deeper, seeking a vital hit.

On the bright side, the heroine in Sons #2 is talking. She’s far different than the heroine in #1, which is only to be expected, and I think she’s just exactly what’s needed. But I made a mistake in the very first scene, and it’s such a deep and integral one I have to go back, rip out three-quarters of what I did yesterday, and rework it.

Of course, I’ll probably find out after reworking that said heroine won’t talk unless I have it the way it was originally written, which means I’ll need to throw out most of what I planned for the book itself and restructure from the ground up simply because a single character simply won’t cooperate.

I am not quite complaining about this, mind you. Realizing a mistake earlier rather than later is a gift. Plus, it’s far better than being so stressed the words refuse to come out at all, which has only happened two-three times in my entire life and is so awful I never, ever, ever want to endure it again. I’m trying to find the funny side–I’m arguing with the voices inside my head while my entire career is telling lies (which, let it be noted, manage to show a certain truth if I’ve done my job right) for a living.

Put that way, it is indeed kind of funny. So is the prospect of each individual errand I have to run today. They’re all hilarious if I look at them the right way.

Gods grant me the strength to hold up each one and turn it to the light in order to catch that funny side, however small and bleak. No doubt I’ll feel much better after a morning run, too. Yesterday was my first day back on the pavement in about a week (what with holidays, disasters, and Bad Weather making it Literally Unsafe To Step Outside) and the endorphin hit was most welcome, indeed. Plus it’s been over two weeks since our booster shots, so every single person in the house is as protected as possible.

There’s going to be something funny in all this. There has to be, and by every god that ever was, I will find it. If I must go down nibbled to death by a tidal wave of papercuts, I will go down laughing. Sure, it might be screamy breathless merriment, but merriment nonetheless.

Laughter is one of the 100% reliable ways to banish demons, after all. And now it’s time to finish this coffee, get the caffeine worked into my muscles, and walk the dogs, who could not care less about the rest of the world as long as they get their kibble, snuggles, and other assorted daily rituals.

If you hear a faint, screeching laugh upon the wind, beloveds, don’t worry. It’s just me.

Let the Tuesday games begin.

Year Three Begins

blank
The sound of shatter.

It’s a brand new year!

The dishwasher has stopped working, there’s a leak under the kitchen sink, and the tire pressure sensor light is on, but it’s a new year. Amazon has decided to start penalizing authors because e-thieves are pirating their books, but it’s a new year. The CDC has decided to sacrifice lives for the economy as if they’re Republicans, losing what little moral and scientific authority they had left, but it’s a new year.

December 25th rolled around with a new item here at the Chez. The Princess picked up some cheap crockery at the dollar store, and we began the day by shattering a plate apiece, by either deceleration or hammer, on the back walk. The kids are enchanted with this, and can’t wait to do it again next year.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, holidays are…problematic, for me. Every single “holiday” I endured growing up was a nightmare of mounting pressure until the inevitable raging explosion from one of my adult caretakers. At that point, the worst had happened and all I could do was endure.

There’s a certain relaxation in, “it’s happened, all I have to do now is hunker down.” So this year, as the pressure and tension of anticipating the worst on a “holiday” mounted, I decided to do something about it. And lo, it worked.

The sound of breakage triggered the release valve, and the rest of the day was actually pretty nice. It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed Christmas in decades, frankly, and the kids were absolutely thrilled. Everyone got a plate to break, we all pitched in with the cleanup, and then there were good things to eat and a cosy blaze in the fireplace all day. The kids are bound and determined to do the same thing next year, if the pandemic doesn’t end up getting us after all.

…yeah, you can tell even my agathism is taking a beating. We’re in Year 3 of the Pandemic, after all. If one goes historically, this is the year things will get sorted (the Spanish Flu basically took three, I’m going to cover my ears and scream if anyone says, “but the Black Plague…”), at least on the epidemiological front.

I also received some…let’s call it “news”, on Boxing Day. Not unexpected, and I was prepared and braced, but it was still deeply uncomfortable and called up a lot of complex feelings. I’m not surprised things started to go haywire just afterward.

So here we are in 2022. May this year be better than the last, however incrementally. I’ve got a load of work this morning, including making bloody phone calls to get the leak under the kitchen sink sorted and the car’s tires checked. Of course everyone will be doing everything they put off last week because of the holiday, so nothing will get done in a timely manner, but that’s to be expected under current conditions.

There’s nothing to do but keep going. I sent off yet another book–the second Ghost Squad novel, Klemp’s book–last week too, very early but that’s better than late. Now I can turn my entire engines to Hell’s Acre, and also spend some time on the second Sons of Ymre book. I intend to work until it becomes an impossibility; it seems the only way through.

Welcome to the New Year, my beloveds. If all else fails, try breaking a cheap plate or two. It worked wonders for us, I’ve gotta admit.

Excelsior, and all that.

From Books to Mortality

blank

Happy Monday, my dears. I greeted the day finishing Shaun Bythell’s Confessions of a Bookseller in bed, twelve out of ten, utterly delightful, can recommend. My writing partner (who owned a bookstore for many a year, an event for which I was indirectly responsible, long story) recommended it. “It’s like my old Tales of the Bookstore posts, a whole year of them.” And she was right.

Mr Bythell’s shop is The Bookshop, Wigtown, which sounds amazing as all hell. It takes the patience of a saint to run a place like that; I have never owned a bookstore, being content to merely offer my services as a buyer, shelver, and patient ringer-up. Which takes its own kind of fortitude, but one can always blame the boss when a customer becomes impertinent. “Sorry, I can’t do that, the boss won’t let me.”

Anyway, it was a lovely palate-cleanser, since I’ve been reading only true crime and depressing history for months now. Also, we had snow yesterday–fortunately, it only lasted about twenty-four hours and today there’s no sign that there was ever a slushpocalypse at all. The dogs were extremely vivacious during their walk yesterday morning, apparently determined to toss me headlong into a pile of wet ice at the first opportunity. Arriving home in one piece and relatively dry was a victory, one I celebrated with a feverish round of housecleaning, it being Sunday and all.

I am waiting for one last sales platform to get itself together, then I’ll have something special for you all. If everything goes well I can make the announcement tomorrow. It’s not huge, but it is extremely amusing, and I am on tenterhooks waiting for that one…last…platform. Ah well, it’s the holiday season; everything’s moving slowly.

This week I turn my engines fully toward Hell’s Acre. If I can get through the charity ball before knocking off for Yule I’ll be happy; I desperately need some more murder in this book.

I also need to brave the wilds for some further Yule supplies–just last-minute things, but getting them done will mean I can spend the upcoming holiday weekend cooking without worry. The kids voted a resounding “no” to decorations this year. (The actual vote was two and a half for “fuck no” and one-half abstaining, so no decorating. We’re just too tired.)

2021 has been a bit of a bear, what with the second year of pandemic and the slow-mo fascist coup still attempting to metastasize in the body politic. I alternate between nervous hope and complete despair, as I have since before 2016.

There was also a strange bit of ectoplasm near my loo door this morning. I have spent most of my life as a mother by this point, so I merely glanced at it as I staggered out of bed, returning to discern its source and true nature only once I had coffee in hand. It turned out to be a bit of bile from Miss B, who occasionally has a small amount of stomach upset, being the old lady she is. Brewer’s yeast tablets seem to have largely sorted her on that front, which is a blessing; still, I am facing the evidence of her upcoming mortality with quite a bit of pre-grief. She’s still got some time left, but I can see the end, and it will be a dark time indeed when she decides she’s ready to go.

Of course, I am dead sure she’ll return in some form or another, since I cannot be trusted to supervise myself and it is her self-chosen job to fill that role. The Princess is of the opinion that Miss B will choose to inhabit the body of a corgi next, which will be all kinds of fun for all concerned. But that’s still in the future, and for now I am making the most of the time remaining in this incarnation. Our elderly statesdog wants for nothing, and shall for as long as she deigns to remain in my care.

Using the time we have will not make the eventual grief lighter, but it will give me something to hold when it arrives.

And on that note, I shall be about my business. Miss B, unmindful of my mood, is pressing for walkies since I was lazy and lay abed for a half-hour finishing that book. The daily schedule is in danger, and she cannot abide that; routine and ritual are her watchwords. Boxnoggin, of course, is content to follow her lead, so he’s attempting to wriggle under my office chair as I type this. Since he’s a good sixty pounds of muscular, youngish doge, the chair is in danger of giving out completely, which is not a great deal of fun but would manage to pry me away from the glowing desktop box said dogs are completely mystified by. (“She just…stares at it, and taps with her little monkey paws. Humans are weird…”)

See you around.

Consumable Affection

blank
Oh, fudge.

The Princess has made her first batch of fudge for the season. This year she’s experimenting with darker chocolate–the current batch is made with 70%, and I think we could stand to go a little further–and she will also, because she loves her mother, attempt part of a batch with walnuts.

Well, she knows she’s technically capable, but she’s a purist, and considers my yen for walnuts in fudge to be just short of unholy. Kind of like raisins in challah, which I am in total agreement with her about.

She does several challah loaves with raisins each year around the holidays for her bestie, though, who adores such things. We call it “the Loaf of Sin”, because it makes us all laugh like loons. Of such things are affections made and expressed.

Have a lovely weekend, dear ones.

Shock of Recognition

It’s been an odd week. Of course, the last couple years have been odd, with spikes of weirdness piercing individual months. Endurance is the name of the game, and mine is faltering more than a little lately.

I hit somewhat of a nadir, so I pulled out the big guns. I actually–gasp!–asked for help, and while I was waiting for the request to wend its way through the labyrinth of electrons every email must traverse, I pulled out the big guns.

That’s right, I returned to Nabokov.

Dear ol’ Vlad’s gotten me through a lot. This time I blazed through Lolita and my personal favorite, Invitation to a Beheading, and now I’m deep in the garden of my second favorite, Ada, and the words have worked their magic. I have been nourished, and I think I’m recovering. But I want to talk about something smaller today.

In 1956 Nabokov wrote an afterword to Lolita.1

And when I thus think of Lolita, I seem to always pick out for special delectation such images as Mr. Taxovich, or that class list of Ramsdale school, or Charlotte saying “waterproof,” or Lolita in slow motion advancing toward Humbert’s gifts, or the pictures decorating the stylized garret of Gaston Godin, or the Kasbeam barber (who cost me a month of work)…These are the nerves of the novel. These are the secret points, the subliminal co-ordinates by means of which the book is plotted…

Vladimir Nabokov, “On a Book Entitled Lolita

I often talk about the “hidden hooks”, the secret places where a book’s tapestry is fastened to something solid in order to make it hang right. I hadn’t realized, though I’d read that afterword at least ten times, that Nabokov was talking about the same thing, though in his own inimitable style. Of course, a Perfessor of Reel True Litrachur will no doubt sniff that my work bears as much relation to Mr Sirin’s as a spavined nag to a gleaming unicorn, but that doesn’t concern me.

I gave what might be termed a violent start of recognition. (As ol’ Vlad might have said, a reader “leapt up, ruffling their hair.”)

One of the things giving me much trouble lately is a certain revision. I had to throw out some2 demands masked as suggestions, and once I did the work stopped resisting, dropping into high gear. My writing partner and agent deserve most of the credit, but a significant part must go to long-dead Vladimir Vladimirovich, who for all his genius struggled much as the rest of us do with writing a goddamn book.

There’s been a certain amount of Twitter Discourse lately on the perception that writing is just typing.3 The invisible parts of the process are difficult, time-consuming, and brutal in several different ways–and that doesn’t even cover the various pitfalls of actual publication, mind you.

Yet there are rewards, not least of which is reading someone else’s book for the fiftieth (or fifty-first, or thousandth) time and finding not only the solace and sustenance one needs but also hidden encouragement from one word-drunk wright to another. Of course he didn’t mean it thus, of course dear Sirin is long gone and probably wouldn’t have been interested in anything I penned.4

The connection remains. The recognition, the spark, the joy of finding a few words in a tongue one can decipher amid a mass of hieroglyphs, still endures. I desperately needed that reminder this week.

I can see finishing these particular revisions now, which is a distinct relief. More than that, a bit of hope has been infused into my bones again, though I have tried to avoid it–2020 kicked me in the teeth every time I gained a little bit of Pandora’s last gift, and 2021 shouted “hold my beer” in that regard.

The cockroach of hope, like my silly stubborn grasp on life itself, just won’t go away. After all, there’s work to be done, and I can’t give up as long as I have deadlines and obligations. The net above the abyss, slipping a bit lately, has caught on a nail.

So here I hang, listening to the whistling of the wind, weaving my own stories. The most I can hope for is that one day, someone else will catch upon a hook I drove into the fabric of my own work, and their slide for the edge is likewise arrested.

It’s a grimly beautiful thought, and I will hold it close for as long as I need to, today and tomorrow and afterward, until the end.