Rested Monday

I’ve surfaced blinking into Monday, wondering what the hell happened. I actually slept last night, I have caffeine standing ready as I type, and the birds are going mad in the back yard. The smoke is gone, and weather-heads are using words like “fire-season-ending rain” for later in the week.

It can’t happen soon enough according to yours truly. I’ve missed falling water with a passion, as I do every summer, but the smoke just put a capper on the longing. Also, the dogs were exhausted from being on high alert for basically an entire week, nervously waiting for the fire they could smell to engulf us, so they barely moved all night too.

Consequently I’m starting Monday rather late but feeling somewhat rested, which is not at all a usual thing lately. And an idea for a new romantic suspense (Romancing the Stone meets Treasure of the Sierra Madre) crawled inside my head and doubled this weekend, too, though I didn’t write any of it–just dropped a sentence or two into a throwaway Scrivener file and let it go. If it wants its time at centre stage, it’s going to have to wait until the paid projects grind through.

I did spend some time with Seeker, Slinger, though. It was nice to poke at something solely for home consumption.

My email tells me a box of author copies will arrive today. I’m just not sure which book. Normally this would mean putting together a giveaway, but lockdown being what it is the less time I spend in public places (like the post office) the better. I do have some audiobook codes; maybe that will do for a giveaway. Or maybe I might skip this month.

Six months into a pandemic we could be dealing with effectively if there were non-fascist adults running the federal government, I am beginning to run out of both hope and energy. I’m told this is unavoidable, a sign of adjusting to a new normal. It makes sense, I just still don’t like it.

So today is for serious wordcount on The Bloody Throne and a new chapter in HOOD, which has just entered its final phase of its final season. Maid Marian, Little John, and Friar Tuck are off in a spaceship to find King Richard and bring him home, while those left planetoid are fending off Prince John’s advances, and poor Guy of Gisbourne is stuck in the middle. I do love a good villain redemption, as long-time readers will know.

I’ve been watching quite a few Donnie Yen movies lately. It’s extraordinarily healing to watch that man land a punch or two. Every time he kicks the shit out of someone on-screen, my heart gets glued a fraction or two back together.

Small pleasures, yes. But they’re mine, and on a Monday I shall cherish them. I wish you likewise joys, my friends.

Magnolia, Centre

The Pacific Northwest is a bit strange. Magnolias do very well here. (So do rose bushes and figs, but that’s a different story.) I was be-bopping along, walking the dogs in the heavy, apocalyptic smoke (the world is burning, natch, ah well, had to happen sometime) when we were forced to pause under a big magnolia for something that apparently smelled AMAZING to two canines.

It struck me, looking at the branch hanging over my head, that the tree doesn’t give a good goddamn about anything. It just… grows. And for a moment my own burden of anxiety lightened, looking at the new buds.

Take where you can get it in this year of our disaster 2020, my friends. There are new leaves on at least one magnolia in the world.

The dogs finally had huffed all they wanted, and we moved on. But that moment of calm was a treasure, and I keep thinking about it. We’ve all been knocked ass over teakettle, but even in the spinning there are moments to be found at the centre.

May you have at least one, if not many, today.

Smoke, High-Strung

The sun is a red disc hanging low in the sky, it reeks of smoke, and I can’t stop coughing. Running today is going to be an adventure, I can just tell. At least this is what we have the treadmill for; I can run inside and not perish. At least, hopefully.

The smoke is from the California and Oregon fires; we’re right on the border between Oregon and Washington. Come afternoon it will probably stream out to sea, but in the meantime we’re breathing it. I can barely imagine what it must be like in California right now. Last night my writing partner remarked “I said 2020 could go die in a fire, and I guess it took me up on the offer.”

I’ve been using the D&D fanfic to keep myself going. There’s a certain Murder Himbo NPC my character’s getting involved with, which is a lot of fun. In game and in fiction, it’s super hot. In real life, it’s a restraining order waiting to happen, and I’m exquisitely glad for that division. It’s fun to play my psychotic teenage id constrained only by dice rolls and the whim of the DM, but it’s also good to crawl into my nice safe bed with the dogs each night.

I mean, I love me a good murder himbo, but I wouldn’t want one around the house. Imagine the cleanup.

Today is for dropping a lit match onto the carefully stacked kindling in The Bloody Throne. Throne is Book 3 (The Poison Prince comes out in November), so it’s the payoff I’ve been building towards for two and a half massive chunks of text. I’m also in the last half of the third season of HOOD, and just about to write Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and Little John breaking a planetary embargo to bring back King Richard and end Prince John’s reckless, despotic rule. So each writing session is slow but paradoxically mentally a bit easier than usual, because I’ve stacked all the blocks carefully and now just have to make sure they fall in the correct pattern when I yank the keystone out.

That’s a lot of mixed metaphors, but you get the idea.

I may have to take a couple days off soon, because my wrists are still hashed from the portal fantasy I wrote during my semi-nervous breakdown and also from spending the weekend dumping out 16k or so of the D&D fanfic on top of regular work. The spirit is more than willing–work, running, or game sessions are the only times I forget everything else happening in the world–but my flesh is beginning to think I’m a bit of a martinet.

Ah well. Ice, stretching, and ibuprofen are the order of the day. I am wondering if it’s worth taking the dogs out for a walk in this smoke-haze. Boxnoggin is a Sensitive, Nervous Fellow, and is already skittish from the few days of high winds. He really, really doesn’t like the smell of burning. Miss B is sanguine, of course–not much disturbs her as long as I’m nearby. She has largely consigned both winds and smoke to the realm of “things my goddess does I don’t understand” and leaves them to me to sort out. Which is as it should be, but Boxnoggin still thinks he has some sort of responsibility to Take Care Of It, and of course he’s manifestly unfit so it stresses him out.

I keep getting nervous, high-strung pets nobody else will take. Gee, I wonder why.

I’m glad of my own precarious bubble of safety today; I wish I could share it with everyone on earth. Be kind to yourselves, dearly beloveds. Right now, survival–in whatever forming whatever fashion–is winning. Illegitimati non carborundum, and all that.

Bastard Latin, yes, but it gets the point across. Happy Thursday, over and out.

To The Leashes

Well, I’m awake. At least, some simulacrum of awake, I suppose, since my eyes are open and I seem to be enduring consciousness.

I wasn’t allowed to work once I started making dinner on Saturday, so yesterday was spent with chores and poking at things that don’t qualify as work, per se. I’m not sure if this means a return to normal productivity or I’m just using all the dread as fuel the way I used to harness deep anxiety; I suppose time will tell.

The most fun I had this weekend was dumping out a fair chunk of text loosely based on our D&D sessions. It feels like writing fanfic, and in a way I suppose it is. But it’s hilarious, it’s zany, and it’s not work, so I was allowed to spend most of yesterday rolling around in it and chortling happily to myself.

My nerves are a little steadier this week. Like grieving, adjusting to disaster requires certain stages, and while one might go through two or three of them at once, they all have to be at least touched or one won’t reach the other side.

Not sure if there’s another side to reach, but I am balanced delicately on surface tension like a water bug, and attempting to keep my step light indeed.

The heat doesn’t help, but then again, when does it ever? The dogs are at least as grateful for the air conditioning as I am, though, and spend most of their time sprawled on cool tile or hardwood. Boxnoggin is taking his mandate to keep Miss B alive very seriously; she is an old lady and really needs a companion to boss around in order to live her best life. He doesn’t mind being bossed since he just does as he pleases anyway, and the resultant spite from being balked in her quest to supervise his fuzzy ass is keeping Miss B young.

Just goes to show one always needs something to live for. Sheer stubborn spite will do.

So. It’s a Monday, I have a full day’s work before me even though it’s a holiday. But since it’s a holiday, I won’t work too hard, just hard enough to scratch the itch of writing a combat scene or two. Plus, I’ve got to get out the door before the heat builds. The fur-beasts need walking, and even though I can use the deep anxiety for fuel, I also need to work off the edge of it with running so it doesn’t wear my body and brain out like a well-loved toy.

And now, to the leashes. The dogs can’t walk themselves, and the books won’t write themselves. It is, not gonna lie, nice to be necessary for both.

Happy Labour Day, my chickadees. May we all labor only as much as we wish to today, and may those who would oppress us roast upon their own fires.

Over and out.

Bee Ware

You might not be able to see it, but the crack between the concrete and the dirt behind the sign holds the entrance to a beehive. On warm mornings they are busily flying in and out, pollinating, gathering, doing their bee business. The people who live there put the sign up a couple weeks ago, and I think they absolutely mean to leave the bees alone long-term since they’re not harming anyone. Which makes me feel good; every time I pass plenty of the little fellows come to say hello and play tag with Miss B.

When I’ve felt like humanity is a shitshow not worth saving this week, I’ve thought of this–people quietly leaving the bees alone, merely putting up a sign to protect both the hive and passers-by. And somehow, it makes the rest of us worth fighting for.

We don’t have to be awful. And really, most people aren’t.

Gods grant I remember it.

Tree, Arc, Next Life, Climb

Yesterday was gasping-hot and utterly humid, although it did cool off at night. Still, that sort of thing wears on one’s body. I have become a temperate beast, and cannot imagine how people live in tropical greenhouses. I’ll probably spend my next life as a moss-hung tree on the Olympic Peninsula, gulping at rain and communing with the mycelium at my roots.

This morning is cool but still humid, and they say it’ll reach 94F. And I was just exchanging relieved emails with my writing partner earlier this week about how it seemed to worst of the heat had passed.

Ah well. It’s always something, and at least in this house we have AC. Take the small luxuries where you find them.

This week has been all about the epic fantasy. I need to reread to catch the rhythm before jumping in again; the zero draft has to be done by November. Plus the last half of the last season of HOOD is spiking for a finish. If I drive myself to bare nerves again I think I can get both done, which just leaves the question of deciding the next serial for my very dear subscribers.

If I think only about that–the sheer amount of work ahead of me–I can almost forget the conditions we’re all laboring under. I want to retreat into my writing cave and just not watch the world burn anymore. I can’t stand it; the number of people who apparently long to risk their own lives worshipfully licking fascist boots is far more than I ever imagined.

I have spent my entire life believing humanity is worth saving, and I suppose I still do. I just… have doubts, sometimes. We could end suffering in short order, if we refused to obey greedy bastards and their hateful henchmen.

It’s the henchmen that are the largest problem, seduced by the idea that if they just hate hard enough, if they’re just cruel enough, they too can be greedy bastards at the top of the pile. If not for helping henchman hands, the one percent could very well be forced to surrender their ill-gotten gains with relative ease and the politics of hate and disaster capitalism could be left in the dustbin of history where they belong.

But the rest of us are kept scrabbling too hard for survival, not to mention turned against each other, to do it. The arc of said history may bend towards justice, but I see precious little of it lying about right now.

I know there’s hope somewhere, I’m just not seeing it today. All I want to do is tell a few stories, maybe provide a few people with a little surcease from the agony. Sometimes even that seems impossible.

Miss B is under my desk, blissfully unaware of such things. To her, the world is simple–breakfast, walkies, pets, dinner, bedtime, and in between are naps and the supervising of her poor dim non-furry humans, who may be gods of the can opener and the den where we spend out days but seem not very bright when it comes to the business of noses, fur, and herding. Lord Boxnoggin is similarly blissful, though his duties include alerting when any damn thing–dog, human, car, delivery truck, stray leaf–wanders down the road before the house.

Neither of them care about politics; their sole concern is dinner with a soup├žon of gathering their pack in one place so they can be certain all are accounted for. Sometimes I wish I had so few concerns. But I worry so they don’t have to, the way I do for my children. If there is an arc towards justice, it seems to lie there.

I try. But the worry grinds past my nerves, stripping the insulation and drawing sparks. There’s only so much one lone mad writer can do. My doubts sometimes rise like ghouls from the grave, slavering and ravenous-quick; the only hope I have is to run far enough, write fast enough, love hard enough to outstrip them.

So far I’ve managed. But I’m tired, my friends. I’m so, so tired. Even my usual pick-me-up of performing an act or two of care for others isn’t renewing me as much as it might. I feel like I’m trying to put out a five-alarm fire with an eyedropper of gasoline.

I know you’re probably exhausted too. It kind of helps to know one isn’t alone, even when one feels it dreadfully and is forced to put a brave face on things. I long to stop swimming for a few moments, but I can’t risk sinking.

So it’s onward, my eyes fixed on the next few drafts to finish, the next few hugs the kids need, the next few dinners the dogs require, the next few jokes I’ll spin for online friends, the next few steps in the endurance run called life. There’s a point in any climb when all one can focus on is the next few handholds. You can’t spare the energy to think about the finish, all you can do is perform the next few moves. You can’t even hope you’ll be able to solve the problems after that; there isn’t enough fuel.

Honestly, if I’m a tree next time, it’ll be a nice change. I just hope I’m put somewhere relatively inaccessible so the chainsaws don’t happen along.

Good heavens. I’m even pessimistic about my next life. I suppose that means I should get back to work.

Catch you later, my beloveds. I’ll keep climbing if you will; if you’re tired, rest for a bit. I’ve got the rope.

Sooner or later we’ll make it.

Art, Transmute, Possibility

I have often thought–and remarked–that the creative process is one of transmuting. An original alchemy, absorbing the pain (or joy) of being alive and transforming it into a piece that not only mitigates the burden of experience but also invites others inside as well.

You are what you consume, what you transform, in creative terms as well as physical or emotional. Which is a maxim of greater or lesser degree–one’s body turns everything to energy, heat, and shit no matter the nutritive “value” of what’s consumed, and one’s emotions have deep internal as well as external wellsprings.

…I’m even qualifying my metaphors today. Let me try again.

I have to confess I have often prided myself on the amount of punishment I can take and turn into art. But even my ability to transmute pain is being severely taxed right now. The constant retraumatization is fucking awful–and I’m in a relatively privileged position so far. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share my immunity, and the added load of guilt for being relatively safe while others suffer is crushing.

I have no great shining theme or call to hope today. All I’m after is the ability to get through until I can retreat to bed and escape the burden of consciousness for a few hours, probably assisted by some antihistamines since alcohol gives me hives anymore.

The next stage after hives is anaphylactic shock, but even that isn’t proving the deterrent it could be.

I thought once I’d finished with the recent mini-breakdown it would be easier to get back to work; I thought it was a gauntlet I had to run through and I could skid past the finish line, bloody and battered but still whole. But the hits just keep coming, and even retracting into my shell doesn’t work the way it used to.

One of the few things stopping me from plunging over the railing into the abyss is the fact that I have three paying projects unfinished. People are depending on me, so I have to buckle down and at least turn them in. Then there are the kids, and the dogs. All these considerations are getting thinner and thinner as I stare at the catastrophe unfolding, and that worries me.

It worries me a lot.

Like I said, I have no ringing call to hope today. All I have is brute endurance, which I happen to be kind of good at but which does have its limits. This morass was completely avoidable, but nobody cared enough to listen to the people shouting caution while the ship headed for the rocks.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. We might get through this. I don’t see how, but I admit the possibility–which is another function of art. To be able to admit possibilities one doesn’t believe in is a form of alchemy all its own. It’s not quite a superpower, but every time I sit down to write, it lingers behind every word.

The possibility is slim, fragile, and ghostly, but it will have to be enough.