Fire and Gnomes

Oh I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen gnomes…

(Apologies to James Taylor.) The portable firepit has rendered signal service; we’ve roasted marshmallows over bits of the downed cedar and spent a lot of time gazing into the flames. Well, the kids have done more of the former and I’ve done more of the latter, thinking about plot tangles and considering which things to cut out of my life. it’s been exhausting, even with friends-who-have-chainsaws helping to get the bulk of the fallen cedar dealt with.

My health is not what it used to be. But the less said about that the better.

Phil and Willard liked the display too; you can see them basking. Willard tends to moan a bit and rock back and forth when the flames get high; Phil says his friend’s not upset but very cautious of fire, as zombies tend to be. When it gets too much, Phil pops a pebble into Willard’s mouth and takes him back to Miranda, who does a bit of comfort-singing. (She’s very fond of Carole King.) Phil, of course, is just fine with backyard bonfires; he and Emphysema Joe sit around with their green and trade rather recondite philosophical arguments.

The entire backyard gets in on it, except for the squirrels. They are quite put out at the falling of the cedar and the attendant damage to the highway–i.e., the back fence. They’re not even taunting Boxnoggin during his loo breaks, which is highly unusual. I suppose they’ll figure out alternative routes, poor things.

Anyway, it’s Friday the 13th and raining too hard for us to drag out the firepit again. So we’ll have to wait until it dries for another marshmallow roast. Maybe Emphysema Joe will even get his guitar out, though he and Phil are too busy arguing over tuning for anything to actually get played. (Everyone’s a critic, and everyone’s got to have a hobby.)

I hope your weekend holds similar delights, my beloveds. Have a good one.

Sparks and Mild Danger

I finished the CEs on Ghost Squad #2 late yesterday evening…just in time for other CEs (for The Dead God’s Heart) to come ramblin’ round the mountain. I’m not even thinking about that last bit, though, since there’s revisions on Cold North to get done and I plan on pushing for at least the bulk of the serial loaded into the cannon as well. Too much work for any mortal, but that’s how I like it.

Left to my own devices, I might get a trifle edgy.

It was a reasonable temperature last night and looks set to continue being so, despite the red-flag warning. A bit of a breeze and low relative humidity means we’re all now holding our breath and hoping nobody does anything stupid to cause sparks. I am extremely glad to see summer fading; this last one has been awful not just temperature-wise. My soul (and the rest of me) could really use some rain.

There have also been more than a few dead squirrels lately–mostly young ones, found on our daily walks or in the backyard. Of the former, one seems to have been a roadkill casualty, and watching it degrade as I haul Boxnoggin past (because he would very much like to investigate something that smells so pungent, Mum, oh please) is…interesting, even if heartbreaking. The backyard ones are buried in what used to be the rose garden, poor things. It seems there’s always a certain amount of die-off at this point in the season, misadventure pruning the ranks before autumn’s bounty sets in.

Considering that Boxnoggin almost caught two separate young arboreal rodents this past week, too–neither seemed very worried about him until his jaws almost closed, while I was inhaling to yell oh no you stupid squirrel, RUN–I can’t help but think the entire thing a function of natural selection. If they’re that unwary, they won’t last long; Boxnoggin is loving, and sometimes quick, but he is an exceedingly mild danger compared to the smarter predators tree-rats must face.

Yesterday’s Read with Lili was all about Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla; it’ll be up on YouTube this afternoon. Due to popular demand, I suppose the next one will be reading another few chapters, since we haven’t really even seen the titular character yet. And I’m getting nervous over the ebook release of That Damn Werelion Book, though doing the paperback one first was supposed to help ameliorate the nerves as well as cut down on piracy.

Time is still unglued. I can’t believe it’s only a Thursday. Of course, with the way my schedule’s going to be for the next couple months, the days are going to blur together even more. Thank goodness for personal electronics; I wouldn’t even know what damn month it was without checking my phone.

I suppose we stagger onward toward Friday, then. Courage, my beloveds, the weekend is almost here. Even though I’ll work straight through, it’ll be nice to know it’s happening.

See you around.

Chewing Steel

…wait, what?

This is the (filthy, I know, but I’m not cleaning that) top of the Yankee Squirrel Flinger DEATHRIDE 5000. It’s made of steel. And yes, those scratches?

They’re toothmarks. They go around the entire rim. The little arboreal menaces can’t get at the sunflower seeds through the bottom–not reliably, even with the battery low–so they’re trying to chew in through the goddamn top. I have to admire the hustle, even if I’m taken aback by the attempt to bite through steel. Good heavens.

It’s Friday, my friends; we made it through another week. I’ve got five scenes (more or less) to write before I can call Sons of Ymre 2’s zero draft finished, stick it in a digital drawer to rest, and shift to the copyedits that really need to be turned around soon. Labor Day is Monday, so the neighborhood kids will be getting in their very last gasp of summer before returning to school on Tuesday. I guess we all have things to celebrate.

And if there’s something in our way, I suppose we take a page from the squirrel handbook and simply…keep chewing.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds.

Toothmarks and Video

The coffee is particularly tasty this morning, the marine layer is back, and it’s a decent temperature–for however long that lasts, which might only be until this afternoon but I’ll take it. I’m choosing to believe the trouble I’m having with a certain signup and onboarding process is a result of low caffeine levels and not a particular company making it difficult in order to avoid payouts.

Call me an optimist.

September hath arrived, hurrah! It’s pumpkin spice season–I sort of want to don a mask and head out to collect a small bottle of coffee syrup, not to mention take a look at some earrings. And naturally I am very ready for the weather to turn. Even if it’s not rain, cooler afternoons will be a blessing.

The big news here at the Chez is the Yankee Squirrel Flipper DEATHRIDE 5000 running out of juice far earlier than expected–probably since the heat is affecting the battery–so the level of sunflower seeds in it dropped dramatically. The problem was remedied with the charger, and yesterday I refilled it, slapped the battery back in, and found out the steel cap to the tube of goodies bears multiple tooth- and clawmarks around the rim.

That’s right, the goddamn arboreal menaces have been trying to chew their way through solid metal. Hell hath no fury like a hungry squirrel, I guess. It’s not that I mind feeding them–well, maybe I do mind, but the neighbors have that particular neighborhood duty covered and I am under no obligation. Besides, the birds need food too, and I much prefer them even if they’re a shade messier.

At least they’re not trying to chew through steel. I should take a picture of the cap; I made the Princess look at it for verification, since I absolutely could not believe what I was seeing.

I’ve also started something kind-of-new, Reading with Lili. For as long as it’s fun, I’ll read first chapters (and other things, like that famous fanfic) to you, with commentary. (And silly voices, sometimes.) I’ll stream new ones on Wednesdays (or so) on Twitch, and they’ll go up on YouTube after a decent interval. Since they’ll fall off Twitch in a week or two, YouTube is where they’ll live in perpetuity.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but the response has been so overwhelmingly kind that I might as well continue. And if I get to do things like enthuse about Moby Dick’s first chapter, what’s the harm? I’ll only continue so long as it amuses me, which is a good way to do anything.

The whole streaming thing started because my agent wanted me to BookTok, but that’s so not my style. It’s much more like me to sit down for a half-hour or so to tell you weird things about literature, or just read you some famous fanfic for fun. Ideas for upcoming Read with Lili sessions include the first chapter of Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, maybe some Varney the Vampyre (I’m noticing a theme) and maybe some Lovecraft to get us through spooky season, then perhaps the first chapter of Fifty Shades because it started as a fanfic and I’d love to see what all the fuss is about, and so on, so forth.

I like sharing my enthusiasms. And this might keep me out of trouble, since otherwise I might want to do something silly like set up an OnlyFans to read Victorian erotica with as straightfaced a delivery as I can manage. (Still not entirely decided against that, by the way.)

In any case, there’s walkies to accomplish and a run to get done while it’s still a decent temperature outside, and I am spitting distance from finishing the second Sons of Ymre book. I had wanted to be finished with this beast by now, but various life stressors (including ongoing pandemic) have interfered. So all my engines have been turned to it, and I’m not even looking at the copyedits for another book until I have the zero draft of this one sorted. On the bright side, I’m very near the end–the last set-piece battle is about to commence, during which I need to get the “hero” stabbed (or bitten!) in the ass again. (I promised my editor as much, and by the gods I intend to deliver.)

All told, I’ll be working through the weekend, but that’s not unusual. Right now, I’ve got to get some toast, and Boxnoggin is reaching the end of his morning nap so he knows walkies are nigh. He’s been very excited about local kids going back to school, since it means he can watch out the front window to bark his fool head off when they come walking home. It’s a job he takes very seriously. There’s a subscription drop to get handled today, too. No rest for the weary or the wicked, not while we’re also breathing.

Time to get started.

Werelion Proof

The weekend was spent looking over the proof of That Damn Werelion Book, and now all the changes from that pass (and the proofer’s pass) can be folded in–which should take me a couple days, but at least it’ll mean the paperback will come out relatively soon. After the final changes are done, it will be time to cut a final ebook and a PDF interior proof, then get the wrap cover for the latter. Then I can load everything, set the final pub dates (maybe a little earlier than the October 31 that’s currently scheduled) and…

…go back to other work, probably while there are roofers banging away overhead. Naturally Boxnoggin will be beside himself during the replacing of the Chez’s roof, which will be super fun for all involved. But once that’s done I’ll stop worrying so much about it, especially when autumn rains move in.

That will be a distinct relief, and I can turn my attention to the bloody washing machine afterward. It’s always something.

Maybe I’ll even take a day off afterward. I did take half a day on Saturday, but the itch to get this damn book sorted was well-nigh unendurable and slotting it around other books wasn’t working too well. I sense a spate of furious activity looming, probably as a means of ignoring other things, and I’m only grateful that the social media sabbatical seems to have re-wrapped my nerves to the point that I can work again. I’m still not going to look at the news; I can’t bear it and I have to write or we don’t eat.

That sound you heard in the distance was my heavy, gusty sigh.

At least the werelion book is relatively fun, even if it didn’t do what I wanted. Letting a work take the shape it wants to instead of the shape I think it should have is a constant theme. I do not bemoan it; I’m far more comfortable with letting others do what they need to as long as it’s not hurting anyone. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t extend to books as well.

I should probably mention that last week’s Tea with Lili was about writing dialogue, and ended up with a piece of life advice about testing for toxic people. The life advice at the end of a tea seems to be the direction we’re going, though I don’t think I really have much to give beyond stuff that essentially boils down to “don’t be a dick.” On the other hand, human beings invent so many ways to be dickish I might as well find a multiplicity of ways to encourage people not to be–certainly a thankless and never-ending task, but part of aiming to be a decent person, I suppose.

And with that (and the July sale) I shall be about my business. Boxnoggin needs a walk, my tired corpse needs to be hauled through a run, and thankfully folding in proofreaders’ changes takes far less time than proofing the goddamn book itself. The day’s work is all cut out, as the saying goes. Oh–there was an episode of squirrelterror over the weekend, too. Yes, it ended with me shoeless and screaming; no, not a single arboreal rodent was harmed. Though I do have rug burn, and bruises from tiled floor.

Off I go, then, with a beady-eyed glare in Monday’s direction. It will have to do as a warning shot, since I need both my hands for typing and can’t reach for the machete at the moment.

See you around.

Songs, Handholds

The week continues. I woke up with Janet Jackson’s Nasty in my head, playing at jet-takeoff levels. It is indeed what the kids call these days a sick groove. I’d forgotten Paula Abdul was in that video, so I probably should listen to Straight Up and Rush, Rush this morning too. Not to mention some Pointer Sisters. Sometimes that’s how the day goes, using songs like handholds, working my way up the cliff face.

It’s very bright this morning; the sun rising in a clear blue sky but still trapped behind the cedars. A tenuous, fragile peace fills me; it could be simple emotional exhaustion. I think I’ve gone numb, to a certain degree. The hurt is still there, a slice from sharp rocks under ice-cold water, I just can’t feel the damage.

I did manage to get the line edits open yesterday, at least. It’s not bad, I’m just resisting reading the books again because they deal with grief and I have all I can handle sitting in my chest at the moment, a granite egg holding something horrific. Most of yesterday I was sunk in the space werewolves thing, occasionally stopping to yell “OH MY GOD JUST KISS” at the characters.

Not sure if this story will do what I want. They rarely do. I just wanted some fluff, but the characters are talking and both of them have goals and backstories hardly conducive to what I intended. I talk a lot about the balance between absolute control of and absolute submission to the work, but sometimes one just wants the bike to go in the direction one’s steering, goddammit.

On the bright side(?), there was a Jerry sighting yesterday during dinner. The poor fellow really is hapless, and I feel bad for laughing. Whatever was wrong with him, I suspect it happened before he interacted with Boxnoggin, and I’m glad his fellow corvids (especially Carl and Sandra) pitch in to help him out. And–not gonna lie–I feel somewhat of a kinship with him. God knows I bumble through life trying desperately not to crash into any trees, literal or figurative.

Yesterday there was a small earthquake in the area. Don’t worry, it was only 2.8 on the Richter, and I’ve long ago made my peace with living on the Ring of Fire. (And now I’m humming Johnny Cash.) I was at my desk, and my first thought was that the wood had achieved sentience and given a shiver. Then my heart exploded with joy because I thought it was Bailey was in the footwell, as was her wont sometimes, and she’d turned over or settled with a huff, shaking the entire piece of furniture. Then I checked, remembering afresh that she’s gone, and wondered if it was her ghost, or if I was telekinetic, or if I had finally gone ’round the bend and was hallucinating.

I’ve been told I’m crazy, or too imaginative, all my life. (Despite my intuition being right 98% of the time, I might add.) Funny, ennit, how we can be trained to disbelieve our own perceptions?

Yeah. Hilarious.

The coffee is almost done, so I should shuffle out to the kitchen for some toast. Today Boxnoggin gets a long walk, and he’ll enjoy that muchly. He’s taken to prancing when he leaves the house in harness, and clearly considers himself my protector even more than he used to. Getting it through his canine head that I’m the one in charge takes plenty of patient redirection, but at least when I’m doing that I’m not glancing to my other side to check on the empty spot that should be holding Miss B.

I hope the peace lasts. And I hope I can get these damn characters to kiss sometime soon. If they won’t, well…there are worse things, I suppose, and at least I’m being distracted.

See you around.

Exuberant Violet

The African violets are doing rather well. I did have an LED growlight for them, but apparently it was Too Bright, so they’re back on the coffee table in their old spot. There’s another rack of seedlings and small starts under the growlight, though, so it isn’t going to waste.

The violets have expressed their relief by bursting into exuberant flower, egged on by the blood lily, which has returned from its dormancy with panache. Having one of those is an exercise in patience and trust–each time it dies back I’m certain it will never recover, though I know perfectly well it’s just doing its usual thing and will poke its green head back up after a rest.

Friday is ambling on its merry way, thankfully much less weird than Thursday. Even the sprinklers are back to their regular selves. Of course, at least three squirrels have taken headers out of the cedars today, each time after a scrabbling fury that brings me out of my office chair to look out the open window. I’m pretty sure it’s not just the same squirrel each time…

…but one can rarely tell, with these little arboreal menaces. They keep getting up and staggering away, so at least I don’t have to go out with a shovel and attempt some kind of rescue or burial.

Small mercies on a Friday, but I’ll take them. Have a wonderful weekend, my beloveds.