No More Anvil

I lost Sunday to post-vaccine fatigue. I’m not entirely sure if the exhaustion was from my body being taught how to fight off the plague or the sheer relief of getting the first dose. I suppose it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Spending yesterday catching up on Sunday chores means I feel like today’s Monday. It isn’t, I swear I know it isn’t–but I keep checking, just in case. I probably need more coffee, too.

That’s a given.

Walkies were accomplished in a state of near quietude. There was nobody else out, which meant the dogs could take their time and Boxnoggin wasn’t disposed to yell at anything. He’s very certain any fellow pedestrian is suspect at best and openly threatening at worst, especially if they’re accompanied by their own canine duennas. Miss B, of course, just rolls her eyes and nips at him, but that sets him off further and I have to separate them like toddlers in the ball pit.

All the time I’m telling him, “This is why nobody will play with you, you’re bossy and mean. If you’d calm down I’d let you say hello–No? This is how you want it? FINE.”

Other walkers no doubt find this hilarious.

Today’s run, the first post-vaccine, went extremely well. So much of running is a mental game, I literally can’t tell if it’s just the relief making the activity easier or if the vaccine has genuinely wiped out some long-hauler’s syndrome. It doesn’t help that we were never able to get tested to see if we’d had the damn plague, but at least the entire question’s academic now. I managed a full run, though somewhat slower than usual. I’m going to blame the time off after finishing the diptych and the further recovery time after the jab.

Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on social media, but I felt like changing it up today. It’s just such a blessing not to carry the anvil anymore. And there were a few bees, bumbling into my hair and making themselves at home for a short while before staggering out, falling into the air, and zooming away upon their regular business.

I don’t even know, man. But it’s nice to be back. Today I work on Hell’s Acre, getting chapters ready for the June launch–there’ll be a cover reveal soon–and also a little on Cold North, since I want that in good shape before I make final decisions on my post-June writing schedule. Soon I’ll be getting revisions, proofs, and other stuff back, so I’ll be complaining about revising when what I really want to do is write.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. For now, there’s more caffeine to be had, and plunging into a fresh new world to accomplish.

I can’t wait.

Pokey Side-Effects

The Princess had her second dose of Pfizer on Friday; the Prince and I visited the mass vaccination site on Saturday and got our first. It took about twenty minutes from the gate to the observation area, and the only reason I didn’t cry was because I had a mask on and that gets messy.

So far the only side effects are slight arm stiffness and fatigue, but the latter could very well simply be the relief of finally, finally having some real hope. Even one jab guards against the biggest fear, which was going to the bloody hospital.

In America, one doesn’t ever want to do that. I know other countries’ healthcare systems are indeed in the business of healthcare, but that’s not quite the case here.

I spent yesterday–usually a day full of household chores–trying to stay still enough to recover. I could have gone back to bed (after sleeping seventeen hours Saturday night) and easily slept until this morning. It could have been side effects or just plain relief.

“It’s like I’ve dropped an anvil I didn’t know I was carrying,” the Princess said. While this illuminates the depth of the relief, it also points out just how much Looney Tunes the kids watched growing up.

I regret nothing.

The Prince and I have our second jab all scheduled, too, which is another giant relief. I know we’re not done yet. We’re still masking up to protect everyone around us. We were washing our hands regularly before, but now the kids have actually thanked old stick-in-the-mud Mum for making it a habit since childhood. We’re still in quasi-lockdown–half-vaccinated does not mean going hog-wild and endangering other people.

But I’m breathing a lot easier today, and while I’m sure most of it is psychological there’s the bit I wonder about. We’ll never know if we had the plague or not, because there wasn’t any real way to get tested. *sigh*

I was struck, at the mass vaccination site on Saturday, by a deep feeling of gratitude for everyone in the big drafty country-fairground barn. From the National Guard soldiers to the shot-givers, from the people doing paperwork to the ones collecting the containers of used sharps for disposal, and especially for the other people who waited in line, listened to the directions, and got their damn shots. I have very little faith in humanity let after the last few years, but that was nice to see.

And it’s even raining, which pleases me to no end. Miss B will be happy enough with this turn of events, but Boxnoggin will prance on his delicate paws and give me many a reproachful glance.

Before vaccination, walk dogs and do laundry. After vaccination…well, it’s dog-walking and laundry again, my friends. I may also have had homemade chocolate chip cookies for breakfast to celebrate the anvil’s drop. Or, if not the drop, the fact that no toes were under the damn thing when it hit.

Silver linings everywhere, even in the rain. I’m even eager to get back to work…but not quite yet.

Today, in celebration, I’ll only write what pleases me.

Hole-y Habitat


I went for a ramble last night after dinner, and found this in the park. Woodpecker holes? Insect holes repurposed for mason bees? I kind of wanted to bring it home for our mason bees (we have quite a crop this year) but I don’t know what else I’d be bringing, so I decided against it. It was still super cool to see.

The recent spate of warm weather has made quite a few things flower and stressed a bit of the groundcover, but the dryness has cut down on slugs and snails. Maybe we got this instead of a hard freeze to keep the gastropod numbers in check.

I also celebrated some very good news by grabbing some vinca, lithadora, a couple begonias, some golden millet grass, some oxalis, and a salvia, all in tiny pots. Now everything is in the ground and watered, and tomorrow’s rain (should the forecast hold) will only do good things for the entire garden. I may almost be recovered from the push to finish the last zero.

Almost.

Have a lovely weekend, my beloveds. (And subscribers–you guys may get a treat before said weekend is done…)

Pleasant Waiting

I woke up from a barrage of weird Silmarillion dreams (I’m doing a reread) to find Looney Tunes playing inside my head at full volume–orchestral stingers, Bugs and Daffy singing tunes, a whole Coyote-and-Roadrunner cartoon’s background music playing on loop.

It’s interesting inside my skull. Especially right after I finish a book.

I’d thought that taking a day completely off–no work, no chores, nothing even resembling proper nutrition, even–would cut down on the recovery time from finishing what is, in essence, one very large book broken into a diptych. It doesn’t appear to have; I’m still nerve-scoured and twitching.

I did get some gardening done yesterday, though. Many of the seeds are old, so we might not have a good yield. But if even one sprouts, it’ll be more than we had before. I’m not even going to try tomatoes this year; they only bring grief and pain.

Instead it’s pumpkins, beans, and peas, blue hyssop, nasturtiums everywhere (I love the peppery little darlings) and sunflowers (we’ll see if the squirrels leave any of those to sprout), rudbeckia and a bag of seeds I’m not quite sure of. They may be California poppies; that’ll be nice.

We’re supposed to get some rain soon. I know better than to turn on the sprinklers in April. Another thing that only causes grief and pain.

It takes a while, but yes, I can be taught.

I probably was inspired to actually get outside by a couple documentaries on the Emerald Triangle. I watched Netflix’s Murder Mountain, then went straight into Hulu’s Sasquatch, which was surprisingly good. I suppose my inner hippie perked up; go figure, I watch stuff about weed harvesting while knitting and am tempted to braid my hair up and plant beans.

Growing into the hippie I always knew I was has some benefits. Even the rosebush I was pretty sure wouldn’t make it is showing signs of resurrecting. The roses have all summer to recover, and–drumroll please–both grapevines as well as all three blueberry bushes are alive and well too. The grape I moved to along the north fence is showing fresh leaves; I’ll have to trim it once the season’s over because otherwise it’ll try to take over the dogwood. But that’s fine.

Even the tiny oak seedling I replanted, pretty sure it wouldn’t make it, has fresh, hard red little buds on the branch-tips. Considering it’s from a stray squirrel-hidden acorn, it’s doing really well. I put a couple peas near its roots to maybe get some nitrogen into the soil.

All told, the garden’s doing better than I thought it would. It was therapeutic to get my hands in the dirt. Now all I do, as mentioned, is wait for rain and try to get out to do some weeding every once in a while. The kids are excited at the chance to help, since they’re both old enough and the Prince will have his last totally free summer on his hands in a month and a half.

He won’t want to spend it weeding, but we’ll have downed branches and stuff to burn, and that’s right up his alley. The ash makes a good addition to the compost pile, too.

I would go out and do more today, but the Looney Tunes music inside my head is sort of disconcerting. I mean, the last thing I want to do is step on a rake, and I feel like my brain is warning me there’s a stratospheric chance of hijinks if I test the patience of the gods. So maybe I’ll just try to get some work arranged. Not done, mind you–just arranged.

After all, there’s Hell’s Acre to get situated and Cold North to fully schedule, not to mention getting the master to-do list and the hoovering I didn’t get done this past weekend sorted. But every once in a while I’ll look out the window, waiting for rain.

It’s a pleasant kind of waiting when you know the forecast says “soon.”

Over and out.

The Diptych, Done

I’m gonna need a few days to recover from the weekend. I spent said weekend in a fever of typing, and the zero draft of The Black God’s Heart Book 2 is now…done.

Whew.

It’s a difficult project, because it’s not really two books. It’s one monstrous book split into two parts, a diptych. I’m used to working in book-sized chunks, but I feel the way a fresco painter must have felt when finishing a giant cathedral piece. I mean, there will be revision, especially on Part II, but the main corpus is out of my head and lies, steaming gently, on a zinc table ready for slicing, arranging, padding, and painting.

To mix a metaphor.

So for the next few days I’m going to be all but useless. I did manage some Sunday chores yesterday, but the hoovering is going to have to bloody well wait. I’ll probably get it done tomorrow as an antidote to thinking; a big spate of physical cleaning is normal after I finish a zero draft.

The “real world”–the world outside my head–looks strangely flat this morning. It’s not being filtered through the story throbbing in my head. Black God’s Heart is hypersaturated, its palette either greens and bright gold light (in Nat’s POVs) or sepia with crimson highlights (very movie-300, in Dmitri’s). Now that the zero is gone, both of them have moved on and I’m left with just the regular world. Not only that, but the scents are gone too–which is kind of a blessing, given how some of the scenes played out.

Fortunately, the real world is always beautiful and vivid enough. It’s just a huge change to go from four or five-plus streams of sensory input (regular world, what’s under the regular world, and stories’ POVs) to the regular two (regular world and what lies under it). There’s a sort of ringing echo, a sense of empty space, like after Faure’s Requiem ends and the silence containing beauty is brimming with the memory.

Anyway, I’ve plans to recover from this, involving getting through the daily run and a whirlwind of cleaning. The recovery phase is always difficult. The persistent feeling that this was the last leftover gauntlet of 2020 to run–because I wrote most of this project last year–has been a millstone around my neck, and being suddenly free of that weight is a decompression sickness all its own.

Usually, the morning after a zero, I’m already aching to get to the next project. This is one of the few times I’m simply grateful for a chance to breathe before diving again. And with that, I’m going to finish my coffee and get the dogs walked.

They don’t care what I’ve finished or when; they only know that it’s morning, and that means walkies. Simple joys and rituals are their bailiwick, and I am pleased to have it so.

Over and out.

Parenting and Toes

I’m glad to have coffee. It’s almost ridiculous how glad I am to have coffee.

Last night’s dinner was spicy rice noodles, and of course the conversation was several different flavors of hilarity. I often do threads of Things Said At Dinner, and last night’s was particularly amusing. That’s one thing parenting manuals don’t mention–kids are hysterically funny, especially if you extend the courtesy of treating them like human beings.

It’s amazing (and maddening) how many adults won’t. I used to think a steel wall descended once people reached eighteen or twenty-one, and they forgot what it was like to be a kid. Of course, I say “my kids” as if they aren’t legally adults now.

My gods, where does the time go?

In any case, the big question under discussion last night was, “How many toes are too many?” and that, my friends, is the kind of question that needs more details in order to properly answer. My answer, of course, was dependent on whether we were talking human toes, whether the toes were upon a human foot, whether said human washed said foot regularly, and the answer arrived at (assuming all the previous answers were yes) was that as long as they were washed at least daily (give or take) I didn’t care how many toes there were. There could, I asserted, be a damn infinity of toes as long as the aforesaid conditions were satisfied. The Princess concurred, with the codicil that she didn’t want to know how many toes anyone had, seeing as how that’s Personal Information.

The Prince blurted, “Eighty-two”, and was immediately challenged.

“That’s just random,” was the objection. “You aren’t really thinking about it at all.”

Whereupon he inquired if he should write a paper upon the subject, and through helpless laughter I told him to certainly do so, and furthermore, that he should post it on the internet since it was a question clearly deserving a serious and specific answer.

“Oh, hell no,” was his utterly serious response. “I’ll send you the PDF and you can post it on the internet.”

I think it exceedingly unlikely that he will ever write said paper, being far too occupied with real schoolwork. But the idea is extremely amusing, and should he produce an extra-credit effort in the toe field I will let you guys know.

A great many parents view their children as ego extensions rather than human beings. Likewise, a great many teachers view their students as objects to exercise petty power upon–please note that most teachers are extremely dedicated individuals, so that isn’t a blanket indictment. I’ve just dealt with so many of the bullying type, both while in school and while shepherding my kids through; it leaves rather a bad taste.

So many problems are solved by simply treating others like human beings. There’s always a few bad apples, and of course they spoil whole barrels. But on the whole, being reasonable is its own reward.

Not to mention it also gives one a great many chuckles along the way. Toes, my gods. There was a slight detour into the subject of tapir toes, another on whether or not centipede/millipede legs counted as toes, and at one point the terms “human” and “centipede” were placed in close proximity and all involved beat a hasty retreat from that particular conversational line.

There are some things even we don’t mention at dinner.

Anyway, I have to think about what I’m making for dinner tonight. And brace myself for what on earth the kids will bring to the table next.

I can’t wait.

Constancy, Uncertainty, Trepidation

I spent the weekend veering between half-lucid struggling to get some chores done and transcribing what I could of last week’s longhand work. It was unexpectedly soothing. Of course I’m super behind and that’s irksome, but at least some work was accomplished. More than I’d hoped, actually.

The shadows are very sharp this morning. it might be because I’m half in the world of Black God’s Heart, where they bear terrifying things. Even spring sunlight isn’t as helpful as it could be, since I keep looking at said shadows and waiting for them to twitch.

On the bright side, the second book is almost half done. So there’s that. Everything in in place and moving; today’s work will involve naps and a combat scene. The latter has to be done before I can move on but I’m still a bit physically miserable; there will be some blocking it out in my office and much wincing and groaning.

I don’t know about other writers, but I feel everything my characters do. They are not me–I’m always very clear about that–but I do feel with them. It’s a very specific hyperactive empathy. To be a writer is to observe human beings and the rest of the world with sharp interest; I have often wondered where the line between empathy and voyeurism resides in we who create in this fashion.

Everything, even my own pain, is material. I’ve hung upside down in a car after an accident (winter road, deer, don’t ask) and while part of me was reacting to the situation in realtime the writer in the back of my head was taking furious notes. So this is how it feels…remember that bit…oh, okay, that makes sense…

I don’t know how much of that is also tangled up with the processing-of-trauma function writing fiction can serve. Themes are not always trauma, but when something bubbles to the surface in a story it’s good to run with it, because there’s power there.

The fear is where the power is, many a time. Again, not always…but many times.

Our state is about to open vaccinations for everyone, not just the most at-risk. I’m incredibly nervous waiting for that, because I’m sure a lot of selfish assholes will want to Chad and Karen around without masks and endanger people who aren’t lucky enough to get vaccinated yet or immunosuppressed folks. The selfishness on display over the last year and a half is still there, still murderous. And corporations are already making noises about reasserting physical control of their workers, dragging them into offices before vaccination is widespread. How on earth are we supposed to trust companies or coworkers again, after what we’ve just endured, after what we’ve seen some people do?

The vast majority of us quietly did what we were supposed to, locking down as far as we could and carefully masking up. The assholes get more airtime because the media’s hungry for ad money and ratings, and that makes the rest of us–the people who did our best and rearranged our lives as far as we could while swallowing our deep fear and powering through the trauma–unheard and unseen.

We’re never going back to the way things were. I haven’t even begun to think about how that might affect the stories I tell. Due to the nature of publishing I spent last year working on things that had been written before the world changed (and still am, truth be told) except for the portal fantasy, which was (I can admit) pure escapism because I needed an escape.1

Once both my kids have at least the first jab I suspect the relief will wallop what shaky scaffolding I have right out from under me. I haven’t even thought about what my own shot(s) will do. Honestly? I don’t think I expected to survive.

Now that I have, what on earth am I going to do? I don’t even know how to write about that. The fear is where the power is, but what resides in the numbness?

I don’t know, and I’m wary of finding out. But this book still has to be written, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, as always. And the dogs still have to be walked, every morn, world without end, amen.

It’s nice to have some constants in the uncertainty. But I won’t deny a certain trepidation. I feel like Black God’s Heart is the last wicket I have to run through before I can put 2020 finally to bed.2 The problem is, I’m sure there will be a great deal of unquiet dreaming from that particular sleeping-cave.

We’ve seen the monster. I’m not at all sanguine about seeing what it dreams after slouching to Bethlehem.

And with that cheerful thought, I’m off to walk the dogs.