A Peevish Start

Well, it’s a Monday again. A brand-new week. Yes, I know weeks are imaginary constructs, but so is money and we need that to survive too.

I did a deep-dive Twitch stream on the Valentine series on Saturday; the hour-and-a-half of me talking about imaginary people (it turned into a Japhrimel discussion, since I get so many questions about him) will stay up for a few days.

I like knitting and talking, though I only got a few rows on that scarf done, being occupied gesturing with steel knitting needles instead of actually knitting for most of the stream. Normally I use bamboo, because it catches the yarn just as I prefer and makes the entire process easier, but I didn’t have a set of size-3s and the very thin, fine cashmere needed a much smaller needle than I usually work in.

At least it’s cooling off at night, so we can sleep in some comfort. Small mercies–the only kind we ever get, right?

It’s not that I’m in a pessimistic mood, I think? For one thing, I have coffee. Sweet, blessed caffeine is about to sink into my tissues and provide the strength to get through the day.

I can’t wait.

Today is for some administrivia, a chapter in Hell’s Acre (remember, you can read the first bit of the serial for free here), and getting seriously underway on Sons of Ymre revisions. The latter needs the majority of my attention for the foreseeable future, though what I’d really like to be doing is writing the second book of Cold North. The pressure on that book will mount the longer I stay away, though, so I can afford to let it boil a bit. I know exactly how the rest of the trilogy goes, which is both curse and blessing.

I also have Moon’s Knight–the portal fantasy I wrote at white heat last year–working its way through the publishing process with a placeholder cover while some other moving bits fall into place. One more proof pass and the actual-factual cover, and we’ll be good to go. Preorder links are slowly populating, so there’s that.

It’s nice to have a surfeit of work, though I’m disappointed about a few recent developments on the publishing front. That’s fine, it’s all part of the career, and it won’t kill me. I’ll just be peeved about it for a wee bit.

It’s a peevish kind of morning, and my choice of office jam (thrash metal) isn’t helping. I can already tell I’ll be harnessing the power of irritation to get through the day. It’s not a bad thing–any fuel will do on a Monday–but I will have to make very, very certain I don’t bite or claw without cause.

And the dogs are eager for walkies, so I must attempt some breakfast once the coffee has settled my stomach, then take them rambling. The marine layer providing nice, reasonably-cool mornings is a gift and a blessing; the damage from the latest heat dome is everywhere. It hurts a little to see crisped vegetation and dead leaves, knowing what’s responsible and that the train won’t halt anytime soon.

…maybe I am slightly pessimistic, but I can blame it on Monday and curl up in my dark cave of an office to treat ill temper with a dose of work. Time to switch out the music–I think some Massive Attack will soothe my savagery somewhat–and wander towards the fancy-dancy new toaster.

May your Monday go smoothly, beloveds. Stay cool out there.

A Short Green Hiatus

I’m not supposed to work today.

I was complaining to the kids about how publishing takes several hiatuses during the year, and they put their collective foot down. Apparently a holiday will make me more effective, more efficient, and less cranky–or so they say–so I’ve been banned from working since Friday. The ban ends tomorrow, and I’m not even allowed to spend much time in my office because work is seductive and I apparently cannot be trusted.

A lot of gardening has gotten done, and I finally caught up on the hoovering. Also, I woke up with Melanie Martinez’s Play Date inside my skull at the usual high volume. The radio station in my skull is combing the aether, I suppose; I’ve heard the song a total of four times in my life but now it’s burrowed in.

The blood lily has also finished one of its dormant periods and sent up quite the fan of leaves. The giant castor and angel trumpet are both doing well, and I think sinking the Very Large African Violet into a fresh pot might have been the right move. We’ll see if it survives.

Other than that, all the peppers are in garden boxes and the rest of the seedlings in the ground, except for some mugwort. I went a little crazy with the artemisia, perhaps. I know it’s a quasi-weed but I want to make sure some actually takes root, dammit. And some aconite; it’s slow to take off.

That’s all the news from a holiday morn, unless you want to know that I *whispers* just filled out a cover art questionnaire for Moon’s Knight. Technically, that’s not work, right?

Right?

*whistles innocently, strolling back to vacation*

Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.

Saturday’s Solitude

I drove west on Saturday, then back east again loaded with seedlings and starts. The plants were only an excuse, though collecting them was pleasant in the extreme (thank you, MZ, a thousand blessings upon your household). The real reason for the trip was two hours spent completely alone in the car each direction.

I love, crave, and need my solitude. Oddly, though, I’ve never been able to afford living alone. There’s always been roommates, and then there were the kids. With them in school, or one in school and one working, I could get a few hours of blessed alone-time fairly regularly.

Then lockdown happened. And while I have doors to shut and morning runs to perform, it’s not exactly the same.

So it was absolutely healing to get in the car and spend hours with just myself, the engine, and my thoughts. I feel like a new woman. It also helps that the drive over the coast range is spectacularly beautiful. Living here is lovely; there’s the sea within a few hours’ drive1, the mountains in either direction, and dry sage land should I want it accessible within a few hours as well. All in a place with enough rain to suit me2 and a distinct lack of bite-y, venomous things. It’s pretty perfect.

So, things I saw on the drive:

  • A marsh, still mirror-ponds populated by the begging fingers of dead trees, with long-legged birds casually munching amid the stilts;
  • Veils of rainy cloud on thickly wooded mountainsides;
  • A green hippie bus with “WE STOP FOR YOU” painted on the side and a group of brightly clad people stretching their legs during a short halt;
  • A smooshed porcupine, with a few crows dancing excitedly at such a feast (be careful, my friends, those quills are nasty business);
  • A shed or shipping container (not quite sure) with the evocative legend “SLEEPING PREACHER” spray-painted on its front and sides, so traffic both directions could read and wonder;
  • The faroff distant smear of the sea, singing its lonely song;
  • Moss hanging in great veils in a pocket temperate rainforest;
  • Tiny towns with strange names and chainsaw art in the front yard of many a proud home;
  • A hawk diving for lunch on a sunny field;
  • Many, many grazing animals, including cows, alpacas, and I think I even glimpsed a llama.

In short, a good time was had by all, and I get to spend my lunch hour today getting some starts into the ground. There wasn’t time Saturday after I got home–the Princess had spent the day prepping for a pierogi feast, and of course that took up the remainder of the evening. Sunday was spent on household chores and stretching out, since it’s been a long, long while since I’ve had a car ride of that duration.

I feel ever so much better. And I also took a few social media apps off my phone. My blood pressure doesn’t need them; I just can’t even anymore. It will mean greater productivity and less desire to just crawl under my bed and hide. It’s the latter I’m aiming for.

I hope your weekend held many likewise pleasant things, my friends. Now I get to have a bit of toast and look over the day’s work–I think we’ll have a reindeer ride accompanied by giant wolves on the way to a hidden city, and the rest of the combat scene I didn’t finish after all last week, as well as the planting and the watering. We also had some rain, which was glorious though uncharacteristic for June.

Of course the dogs are very interested in the prospect of toast crusts followed by walkies. And there’s probably some more coffee in my future, too. All in all, despite the fact of Monday, things seem somewhat reasonable chez Saintcrow right now.

I can only hope it lasts.

Almost Royal


In late spring, there’s an explosion of color as the rhododendrons and azaleas flower. It’s short indeed, but very vivid, and I like this particular bush. It’s friendly all year round, being on our usual morning canine ramble route. The lithadora under it is apparently the source of many fine smells, so both Boxnoggin and Miss B halt there for a good long while.

While they busily untangle the day’s news, I often exchange pleasantries with this fine lady. She’s far taller than me, but very gracious and willing to speak at length about the weather. The dry spring is nice, most of the plants are saying, because it’s cut down on slug and snail production. Which means more vegetation.

I call this particular flower “almost royal” because it’s purple and quite majestic in its own way. There was an azalea I ran past yesterday positively loaded with white blossom, but I didn’t get to slow down long enough for a picture. That’s all right; this is just as good.

Here’s hoping for a pleasant weekend, my beloveds. I’ve lost almost a week to the immense psychological relief of being vaccinated; I need to get back to work in the worst way. But there’s always time to walk the dogs, and have a little small talk with an almost-royal almost-tree.

See you next Monday…

Shapechanger Relief

Relief takes different forms. There’s mine, of course–working on a story nobody but me will ever read, as well as planting a million seeds and finally having the energy to weed again.

Then there’s the Princess, who has celebrated the household’s second-vaccine-shot-accomplished status by painting her room. My little girl just…up and bought paint, masked everything, cut in, and is giving the first coat a chance to dry while she’s at work today before getting the second coat on this afternoon.

“Adulthood,” she says somewhat smugly, “is pretty sweet.”

The Prince’s relief has taken the form of sleeping a lot (some of it could be fatigue from his body learning how to fight off the plague afresh) and swearing at the Captain Tsubasa game on his Switch between distance-learning sessions to finish up his last year of high school. We’re still not sure if we’re going to attend the graduation ceremony.

Sure, we’re vaccinated and will mask…but is, or will, everyone else? *sigh*

The relief is palpable, though. Not a single dinner goes by that we don’t count down the days to full immunity for everyone in the house (ten, including today) and mention just how happy we are that everyone’s gotten the poke.

Last night there was chicken-garlic soup, with homemade stock and the remains of the chicken roasted in fennel I did the other day. Dessert was cinnamon rolls the Prince made, and in honor of his newfound baking achievement the Princess taught him how to make her special cream-cheese frosting, which is kind of a big deal in these-here parts.

It’s funny. The kids are still tiny toddlers inside my head sometimes, but here they are painting rooms, running the oven, graduating from high school, getting Real Adult Jobs. It’s like time is a gat-damn river ever flowing on or something.

Today it’s back to work, and I have a newsletter as well as subscription stuff to get out the door. But of course, coffee must be absorbed first, and the dogs are celebrating the prospect of walkies. The weather report has thunderstorms today, but we can’t possibly be that lucky and in any case, the dogs hate them.

I don’t want to think about how bad it still is outside our door. For at least one day I want to be relieved that inside these walls things are looking a little brighter than they have for years.

Of course some-damn-thing-else could happen. But right now, at this moment, I’m grabbing all the solace I can find and hugging it close. A single incidence of not being kicked in the teeth when I dared to hope has infected me all over again with the idea that maybe, just possibly, things might turn out okay in a limited fashion, somewhere on earth.

I’m sure by tomorrow I’ll be my usual pessimistic self again. But…tomorrow’s soon enough, and today is for that tiny sliver of hope which managed to survive 2020 when so much else didn’t.

See you around, beloveds.

Rest Aggressively

There’s so much to do, and yet the power to do any of it seems beyond me today.

This particular fatigue is definitely not from the vaccine, but it’s still deep and wide. The relief is so huge I think I need another twenty-four hours or so for things to settle. I’ll be doing as much work as I can today, but…that’s not going to be much at all.

I’ve been reduced to Barba Streisand’s Broadway album. That’s how ragged my nerves are, unreeling in sheer relief. I’m trying to aggressively rest, if there is such a thing–there are seedlings to start, and laurel volunteers to put along the back fence in case the fellow living over it gets another wild hare and tries to take out the rest of the cedars.

The dogs need walking, though Boxnoggin’s tummy is a little unsettled this fine morn. I suspect the weather change, as well as humans leaving the house not once but twice on Saturday, has made him briefly nervous. I thought he was excited to get out the door and see a squirrel or two this morning, but he was on a beeline to a particular place near the fence to vomit.

Get your excitement where you can, I guess. He’s absolutely fine, sometimes he just has a day where his tummy decides not to go with the program. By dinner he’ll be right as rain.

We were supposed to get rain, as a matter of fact, but everything is suspiciously dry. It may be time to turn the sprinklers on, but I know as soon as I do there will be a deluge. Fool me twice, and all that.

I’ll be starting mugwort and comfrey and moonflower datura seedlings, and probably a few other things. There’s a whole tray of nasturtiums, just waiting for the seeds to crack their tiny brown heads and release broad peppery green fans. The eensy grow light I bought is going to do so much work this summer; I might even get a second one for the violets proper.

I’m also looking at the next few years’ worth of work and feeling vaguely hopeful. Having to face the fact of my own survival is…odd. There’s been a few times in my life I’ve been genuinely surprised to find myself alive, and this year seems to be one of them. I was absolutely convinced the last administration’s malignant, aggressive incompetence was going to somehow snatch away the vaccine at the last minute. Now, home and safe, I’m looking at the damage and groaning slightly.

Cleanup is the worst part of any disaster. At least, for survivors.

It bothers me that we–the whole country, natch–haven’t had a reckoning, and probably won’t for a long while since *waves hands* all this is ongoing. The grief is going to be a real lulu, and that’s only the first step.

There are seeds to plant, dogs to walk (gently, at more of an amble than our usual brisk pace) and books to schedule. I’m hopeful to hear about Moon’s Knight soon, and if the answer is good, great! If the answer is not so good, well, I’ll need to pull together a cover from somewhere.

That won’t be bad. I’m surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing.

We’ve gone from bright sunshine to dark clouds while I’ve typed this; volatile spring weather, except it’s not dropping any real rain. Maybe I’ll just think really hard about the sprinklers, and that will fool the meteorological gods.

It’s worth a shot. Let’s see if it works…