Vivid, Chilly Fire

Crap drifting from the sky? Must be elves.

A particular maple on the daily dog-walkies route turns into flame every year. This time around she’s incredibly vivid, almost incandescent. Standing underneath on a crisp autumn day, I almost forget the leashes wrapped around my waist and the dogs sniffing or finished with their business and eager to keep going.

The maple lays a red carpet along the sidewalk, too, but lately I’ve been peering through the branches. I’ve spent a long while looking down, careful of my footing; I figure it’s time for a change.

The kids and I joke whenever there’s a windy day–especially during autumn–and tree-bits are floating far and wide, “The elves are about again.” You know how every time there’s elves in movies, the air’s full of feathers or falling leaves or sparkles or something? Maybe it’s all the Tolkien I’ve read and my kids have watched. Neither of them can get through the books, but the films are something else.

I think that’s great; the more, the merrier.

Of course soon the branches will be bare, making patterns against the sky. Still, each time we pause under that maple, whether in summer’s green, autumn’s chilly fire, or winter’s nakedness, I try to look up.

Even if only for a moment.

Music and Meatsack

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Yesterday was a bit of a wild ride. A very dear friend put me on a dedications page1, another dear friend liked the short story I made for her2, I formally left the house for the first time in ages, and remember those proofs I turned around in 48hrs so a book could come out in November? Well, turns out there’s no room in the November schedule so it’ll be January after all.

Which isn’t bad, mind you! It just means that Future (December) Me will be extremely grateful to Past (October) Me for getting things squared away. It’ll be a little gift to December Me, and also to my editors’ and publishers’ December selves. Frankly, by that point in the holiday season, I’m sure we’ll need all the help we can get.

Today looks to be a little less of a rollercoaster. Oh, sure, the weather people say there’s going to be a “Rain Event” around dinnertime, and the dogs are attempting to make sure I don’t leave the house again today–they had both kids to supervise while I did yesterday, but apparently that wasn’t good enough–and I really have got to get a newsletter out.

In short, all my internal spaces are echoing and it might be time to dust off Beck’s Sea Change album, just to soothe my nerves. I can’t do Pink Floyd since it’s past the equinox, so I’m forced to other measures.

As for the day’s work–once I get the newsletter out of the way–the first third of Hell’s Acre needs a top to bottom reshuffle. Sometimes one has to go down a road a bit to see where it leads, and sometimes even if one knows a book’s general outline…well, things happen. Stories are organic things, and grow in their own way. You can have the skeleton, but the flesh gets distributed differently.3

Anyway, once I get the throughlines in Hell’s Acre arranged, I can move the costume ball (and the interrupted assassination) earlier in the book, which can trigger the prison heist, which will lead to the culmination of Season One. Everything is going along swimmingly, and with that taking one half of my working days I can shift to revising The Black God’s Heart in the other half. And once that’s done, the Tolkien Viking Werewolves can get a second book, and so on, so forth.

I absolutely have all the work I can handle, and it’s a glorious feeling. I also have Klemp’s book (Ghost Squad #2) to get off the ground. It’s been marinating in the back of my head, so I might even do it as my NaNoWriMo this year. We’ll see.

Before that, though, the dogs want their walkies. Yesterday disturbed their usual rhythm, and they’re eager to get back to it. I also have new running shoes to break in, which is a joy and should get rid of that nagging pain in my hip.

Meatsacks, man. Always something aching, always something bruised, always some weird discharge or something. Of course the benefit of piloting one are immense as well, and yet…well, no silver lining without a cloud, and vice versa.

And with that butchering of a proverb, I’m off to start Thursday’s merry-go-round. I’m hoping for more of a slow carousel than Wednesday’s death-defying rollercoaster.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Small Rituals

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Blurry, but just right for catching in dog coats.

The season of harvest is upon us, my friends. Which can either be cheerful if chirped with bright optimism, or creepy if intoned with dirgelike seriousness.

These plants have been changing by small increments every time the dogs and I walk past, and we’ve reached the time of year when their seeds tangle even in Boxnoggin’s slick fur. Of course, they’re right where Boxnoggin and B like to stop for a bit of serious sniffing and possibly some liquid unloading, so I spend the next part of the walk picking wee bits out of their hair.

They enjoy the game, I think. Anytime Mum fusses over them is a good time.

Weather has finally become reasonable, pumpkins and spookytimes are everywhere, and I’m about to start accumulating bags of candy. No, we won’t be handing them out this year–the pandemic is still going on, and besides, the doorbell sends the dogs into paroxysms of rage I’m afraid might unmoor what little sanity they have left.

Indeed, no handing out candy this year. Which means the kids and I are going to have to eat it all. Silver linings, and all that.

Have a fabulous weekend, my beloveds. Look for the small things, the tiny rituals. And don’t forget the candy.

However Eventual

I heard the trains last night.

In summer, clear skies and prevailing winds mean we don’t hear them often; summer is mostly for distant airport-noises instead, on long breathless sunny afternoons. But when the autumn mists and cloud cover move in, late at night when the windows are closed, the cries of moving trains reappear with an eerie underwater quality.

Especially when one is up well past dark reading true crime, as I have been lately. The stories are horrible, yet the idea that somehow there’s a narrative structure–and an ending, however eventual, to every horror–is comforting in times of great distress and uncertainty.

And aren’t we having those now, my friends? You betcha.

Yesterday, curled up tightly on the couch with proof pages for The Bloody Throne, I took some time to watch the rain fall. Each drop was a welcome guest; the kids were home and the dogs quietly satisfied with the entire pack assembled. Miss B and Boxnoggin are most comfortable when all of us are within sight and smell–Boxnoggin, in particular, is excited when he senses a pack member is about to return. He has a positively unerring instinct for the moment just before a pedestrian who belongs to him (or a car bearing said human) will appear.

Today is for yet more proofs. Six hundred and fifty pages is a lot, and I have to consider each one separately, with a fine-tooth comb. It’s taken almost a week to get a hundred pages out of the way, probably due to massive burnout, but things should free up relatively soon now that I’ve found my groove.

Said groove is fragile. I’m still lying on the edge of the abyss, trying to breathe. The gasps aren’t quite as deep or close together, and my heart is beginning to come down from redline. Work helps, of course; retreating from social media helps even more. The tension between retracting for my own sanity and the necessity of some marketing (never my strong suit, though I’m trying like hell lately) is marked.

But at least I’m out. In a little bit I can get to hands and knees, and maybe even gain my feet with a particularly daring effort. Then comes walking away, probably to find another sinkhole. There’s never any shortage, especially with *waves hands* all this going on.

The season has turned. The windows are all closed, even at night. Switching to flannel sheets can’t be far behind, and Miss B is putting on her winter coat. Boxnoggin cuddles very close at bedtime, which is now a blessing instead of a sweating miserable curse, and the heated mattress pad is his new best friend. (Mine too, but that’s beside the point.)

It’s about damn time. I thought summer and its attendant discomforts would never end. The trees are shaking off heat stress, firs dropping damaged needles and rhododendrons damaged leaves as new growth emerges fresh and green; they’re scarred but vital.

Healing means they’ve survived.

Dogs need walkies, my corpus needs its (relatively) high-speed shamble, the proof pages need attention, subscription drops need to be prepped. Peace is tenuous, but deeply welcome. Renewal inherent in rain fills lovely cool grey days. My own survival seems a little more assured, a little more possible.

After all, I heard the trains last night.

The Value of Burrowing

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Morning fog is a welcome, soothing blanket. The damp chill means these fellows are making their yearly reappearance.

I have not slept for two nights. Insomnia is dreadful; I would wish it on no-one. I was doing quite well sleeping regularly before 2020 hit, but my body and brain have hit a limit and I am being warned, in the clearest possible terms, to get some real goddamn rest, willya?

I did watch Kurosawa Kuroshi’s Cure yesterday. It’s exactly the type of movie I like, a masterpiece with the exact right ending. The Criterion subscription is turning out to be a lifesaver, since I’ve decided I’m not allowed to work until I sleep, which could make for a very long weekend indeed.

Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. Mushrooms know the value of burrowing deep to ride out inimical conditions; so can we.

I’ll see you on Monday, my beloveds.

Torrent, Not Stream

Rain! Glorious, beautiful, tapslithering, life-giving rain. My soul is expanding again, the trees are regaining their turgor pressure, the gutters are full, and the gardens are drinking.

Miss B is unbothered, save for the fact that rain is a Change and All Change Is Questionable. Boxnoggin, poor thing, hates falling water and is curled up tightly on his bed in my office, staring mournfully at me. Not only has his human allowed such a thing as skywater to happen, but the window is open and he can hear it.

He adjusts to the rainy season a little more quickly each year, he just hates change worse than Miss B does. Any shift in the status quo is regarded as deeply dangerous, and requires him to either bark madly or glue himself to my side while he figures out what the hell. I’m sure the deep joy with which I greet the damp puzzles him as much as it soothes.

Walkies are going to be interesting today.

This week marks rather a change for me in other areas. I’m shifting things around so I’m not looking at social media so much. I don’t know whether this is a temporary fast or a long-term solution, I just know I’m exhausted and I cannot keep staring at the trashfire. I’ll still be around, don’t worry about that. But…I just can’t function with *waves hands* all that, all the time.

I seem to have discovered a hard limit. My capacity for endurance, while great, is not infinite. It’s looking more and more like my physical symptoms are burnout rather than The Plague™, which is…well, at least I haven’t lost my sense of smell. The scratchy throat and full nose have retreated somewhat, but the exhaustion remains. I could easily go back to bed and sleep another twelve hours or so.

Yet another reason to back off social media. It’s odd, but with The Plague™ and lockdown, this is the most social I’ve ever been. Video calls and checking in on folks has consumed a great deal of my energy, and I’m approaching the point where it’s unsustainable, especially with the kind of workload I’m having to engage in to keep the mortgage paid. Someone else will have to do the check-ins for a while; I just can’t. I’m tottering under a heavy load, and my emotional knees are starting to go.

But at least there’s rain. Winter is my productive season, and when the rain starts it’s a sign that the words are about to become a torrent instead of a stream.

There is an avocado ready to be smushed onto toast for brekkie, and by the time that finishes there should be a short slackening in the falling water so Boxnoggin will only have to deal with drizzle instead of outright monsoon. Then I get to run, in the rain, finally, at last.

Things are looking up. I mean, the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head is still deep and wide, but there’s work to be done and the sound of drops hitting the roof to ease my soul.

I wish you a pleasant Monday, my beloveds. I hope you’re having something as pleasant as falling sky-drops are for me.

Tiny, Stripey Friend

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Ohai, little one!

This lovely stripey friend rode my shoulder all the way up the hill, while the dogs trotted alongside us, and then kindly posed for a snap. They didn’t speak much, being wholly occupied with their work, but I think they gave me a kind glance before diving into the heart of the flower.

Of such small things hope is made, I suppose. Neither of the kids are ill, I can still smell and taste, and nobody’s running a fever. So it’s probably not The Plague™. It’s becoming more and more likely, in fact, that my body has simply had enough of me working myself to exhaustion and is registering a protest the only way it can.

Said body does signal service carrying my silly self around, poor thing; I should be gentler with it. Of course it likes running–once the running’s done, of course, and I do try to give my corpus the nutrition it needs or wants with very little trouble or bitching.

But the constant fear and agony of hopelessness is wearing upon my poor physical self, I think. I don’t know how to make that go away, because it’s saturating the very air.

Yet my heart keeps on beating. My lungs keep on working. The stories still leap and gambol inside my head, demanding to be told. I keep trying to love without reserve. And a small piece of terrestrial life rode my shoulder this morning, basking in early-autumn sunshine, before hopping off to make a fine meal in the very depths of a flower.

Maybe it isn’t all just hopeless bullshit. Maybe.

Be gentle with yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. Above all, mask up, wash up, and get your jab(s). You’re important, and we need you.

See you next week.