Summer, Overwhelmed

The Summer Queen is in her full array, and last night was almost too warm for sleeping. Poor Odd Trundles doesn’t like it when it’s warm, and his breathing kept me awake for a long while. I mean, his breathing is always audible, because of his poor compromised airways, but last night it was particularly stentorian. I’m sure it informed my dreams, which included astronauts, pregnancy, and murder. (Sort of a cross between that ST:TNG episode where Troi gets knocked up by a tiny shimmering alien and that Charlize Theron movie, The Astronaut’s Wife.) Poor Trundles, summer means all his crevices need to be greased daily and his preferred napping spot is on cold hardwood or tile instead of comfy carpet.

Also, revisions for Rattlesnake Wind have landed, so I’m in the “running around like a headless chicken” phase. I have to revise both Rattlesnake and Harmony, when I’d rather be writing HOOD. Late mornings always make me feel overwhelmed, and that goes double for revisions. I should also leave the house to fetch kibble for the four-legged carnivores I live with, and perhaps for the two-legged omnivores as well.

But first I have to run, which will be just fabulous in the sticky humidity. All signs point to an exceedingly uncomfortable day. I should just get on with it instead of sitting and staring blankly at my desktop screen.

Oh, hey! There’s an interview with me over on Unreliable Narrators today. The Princess listened to it and thought it was aces, so perhaps I didn’t sound as uninteresting and silly as I often feel while being recorded.

I don’t mind summer, but this one is turning out to be particularly…moist. And now it’s time to hit the pavement before it gets any worse outside. Thankfully, most of today’s run-route is shaded, and it’s a tempo run, so it will be over quickly.

Stay frosty out there, my friends.

*disappears in a cloud of steam*

Re-Tuning Rituals

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I haven’t been able to drink alcohol since the stomach flu, and good gods above, do I ever miss it. It’s not that I can’t function without, it’s just…man, getting to cocktail hour and pouring myself a measure to celebrate getting through the day and take the edge off my nerves was a welcome ritual. Now I’m doing things like stretching and drinking ice water, and it’s just not the same. Sure, I’m healthier and all that but I would love a little fuzzy soft-focus come 5PM.

I hadn’t realized how much that small ritual was a signal for me to relax and let the end of the day proceed, to look over the day’s work and fix egregious typos. It’s also nice to just let the story sink into the bottom of your brain and turn the entire problem of what comes next over to your subconscious. Those giant engines below the floorboards need something to do while I’m sleeping. Left to themselves they just come up with nightmares, and while those are sometimes instructive, they’re not terribly useful.

Sometimes I think one’s entire life is seeing how fast a primate can come up with new rituals in changing conditions.

Anyway, I took most of yesterday off since Tuesday ended with finishing the first revision of Atlanta Bound. That was a monster of a revision because I’d written the zero so lean and at such a furious pace, moving from handhold to handhold. Crossing that particular task off my list was extremely satisfying. Trying to unplug and chill Wednesday was…not as satisfying. The flywheel inside my head, still spinning from the Afterwar release and the revision of The Maiden’s Blade under a severe time crunch, ramped up again to get through another revise, and didn’t want to slow down or stop. The knowledge that I’m courting burnout if I don’t schedule in and force myself to take recovery time is a very thin rail to keep me plunging off the cliff, indeed. I itch under my skin if I don’t write, and I have about twenty-four hours before the discomfort becomes acute and I must write or begin scratching, snapping, and sparking.

So today I took my sweet time getting out the door for a run, and dawdled on the way back with Miss B, who was ecstatic to be rambling New Places. I have subscription stuff to send out, that will eat up about an hour.1 I’m allowed only a little bit of work today, but it’s going to be on Robin Hood in Space, which I’m tentatively titling HOOD.

Man, I can’t wait to start playing with the genre conventions of that particular tale.

There’s also a podcast interview scheduled for this evening2, so I wouldn’t be able to imbibe anyway. I miss the habit of relaxation and I joke a lot about writers having to fucking drink to put up with all the bullshit in publishing; maybe I should look into edibles instead because they’re legal in my state.3 Christ knows the bullshit isn’t going away anytime soon. Only the coping mechanisms change.

And now, having thoroughly depressed myself with that last observation, I’m off to do some formatting. Catch you later, alligators.

Peace, Process

Maybe I’ve recovered from the zero draft of Maiden’s Blade, because I’m looking at the sheer amount of revision that book will need and feeling the need to wail and gnash my teeth. It won’t help, and a lot of the work is supplementary materials–character sheets, footnotes, etc.–because if I’m going to do a doorstop epic fantasy trilogy, I need to keep names and character arcs somewhere other than my aching skull. It used to be I’d simply stuff it in my cranial corners, but with going back to piano and all I need all the extra bandwidth I can get.

I also have a book on “the poetics of The Tale of Genji” that I want to dive into, dammit, and I can’t until I bloody well get the zero draft in at least reasonable first-draft shape and sent off to yon patient editor. I’m dangling litcrit in front of my face like a carrot before a donkey, which means I’m much more tired than I thought.

I’ve had a few moments lately where I simply stop and look at things in my house. When I catch myself thinking about old hurts, often my eye will light upon a framed print, a plant, a tchotchke I remember placing with care. The idea that I’m forty-two this year, I’d a dul-gurned adult, and that I have arranged my life mostly to suit myself is still shatteringly exotic. I am hideously, unabashedly lucky. From the Nighthawks over the piano to Rembrandt’s Athena in my office, from the glass apples to the half-burned candles on the mantel, from the glass fishing floats to the statues of goddesses watching over the domicile, from the bookshelves arranged exactly as I prefer them to the books gathered wherever I happened to be reading them, from the knitting on my desk to the Princess’s knitting on the coffee table, from the Little Prince’s playing cards (he practices throwing them, I don’t know) in random places to the rehabilitated plants everywhere there’s enough sunlight to fuel them, my refuge is beautiful.

I suppose every May I think about the price of surviving and the measure of success. I worry that having a place to rest will dull my edge, which is just the hypervigilance talking. I’ve gone from considering just-plain-enduring a single day a success to having larger goals than sheer brute survival. Having those larger goals feels like asking for too much. Don’t push it, all this could vanish.

I wonder what I could want, if I’d been raised by better-adjusted people who actually wanted me. I wonder what I’d consider natural and reasonable to ask for. I wonder who I’d be without the scar tissue. I suppose every survivor does.

Right now I am trying to teach myself that I am allowed some peace, that it is a good thing to have, that my sense of peace is a process so if it breaks I can figure out how to fix it, and that lasagna is not necessarily a hideous miscarriage of perfectly good pasta. (That last one is more of a personal preference than a Grand Life Goal, but I might as well tack it on.)

And Athena, hanging in my office, is neither smiling nor frowning, simply gazing pointedly at my desk. That’s all very well, the Maiden says. But get back to work.

Aye-aye, Captain. Back to work it is.

Changing Paths

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Attempting new things, because the old way isn’t working. Sometimes old ways work for a while but peter out, or everything around the path changes and you have to change the path to suit.

So, the big change is moving my run to before morning blogging. Getting out the door is difficult even on good days. I mean, I roll out of bed and into my running clothes, but peeling myself out of the house is another animal altogether. Attacking the run while relatively fresh is a good idea, and now I can use blogging as a chance to prime the pump and get words flowing from my fingers.

The weekend was…nice. I got out of the house for a hot date with a girlfriend; we went to see Deadpool 2. Matinee tickets, so I would have left as soon as the fridging occurred, but I had to stay. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Domino (wish the movie had been about her instead) and Cable (Josh Brolin is distressingly sexy, even after all these years1) and the Rob Liefeld jokes (dear God, and Shatterstar in the helicopter blades) were well worth the price of admission. Still…can we just not have fridging and manpain as narrative fuel in superhero movies? It’s old, it’s tired, I’m done with it.

I also braved the depths of a beauty store and emerged victorious, carrying a few shades of eyeliner that aren’t black2 and–are you ready? LIPSTICK. I know, I love Russian Red lipstick, but a dark purple-red actually suits me better. When I came home bearing my prizes (and several things for the children, since the beauty store is near an import shop full of neat things) I was told I looked like a pissed-off Wednesday Addams. An awesome compliment, to be sure, especially since Wednesday is merely unamused and rarely deigns to get actually angry.

The comparisons just write themselves.

Anyway, today I crowbar’d my way out of the house, finished my run, and rolled into jeans, a hoodie, lipstick, and my favorite Sarto heels. They’re not my Capezios; I can run and fight in the latter, but I’d have to kick the Sartos off to run. Which makes them suboptimal, but I’m not leaving the house and I think I can relax enough to wear non-running shoes in my office. And yes, those are my requirements for any piece of clothing. Can I run in it, and can I fight in it? All other considerations are secondary.

It feels good to be braced for the day like this. Next comes getting back into The Maiden’s Blade and putting more pieces together. I’ve decided to do dialogue-heavy scenes first, and layer in the color and scenery on the next pass. I was trying to do both at once and banging my head on the slooooooooowness. I need scaffolding before I can make the fabric of this book hang correctly. A certain king needs to give the go-ahead for his daughter to be assassinated and there’s a day at the races with two princes to write as well. If I can get both of those scaffolded, I’ll count today a win.

See you around the bend, darlings.

*throws kisses, vanishes in a puff of smoke*

Said Often

So Odd Trundles had a nightmare last night, and peed his bed. This doesn’t happen as frequently as you’d think, but it does mean I’m up early, his bedding is in the wash, and I have soaped a dog’s ass and undercarriage before 8am. It’s a good thing all my commitments for the day were suddenly changed to afternoon during the span of a half-hour yesterday.

If I can just get through this week without combusting from sheer tension, I’ll call it a win.

So. My office is full of the reek of just-washed Trundles, but at least the window is open. A plumber is coming by this afternoon to fix the shutoff valve and maybe, if he got authorization from the home warranty folks, to install the new dishwasher and take the old one away. I have each scenario planned for–just the valve fixed, the valve fixed but the dishwasher electrical somehow borked, the valve fixed and the new dishwasher installed but the old one not carted off, and the best of all possible worlds, the valve fixed, new dishwasher installed AND old one carted away. Anything will represent a step forward, so I’m pretty Zen about the whole deal. It’s arrived at the point of absurd hilarity, so I can relax now.

The other commitment this afternoon is offering moral support during a friend’s doctor visit. I can’t plan for any of the scenarios on that one. For one thing, nothing is inside my control there except showing up on time and being supportive. For another, there’s just too much we don’t know yet. Today should at least give us more information. Aggressive treatment options are already scheduled for the next few weeks, so we’ll see how it turns out.

I say that a lot. Just this past weekend, I was in the car with the Little Prince. I have this habit of prepping the kids when we’re in the car. When they were younger, everything went easier if they knew what to expect, and the car was the last-minute place for answering questions and taking them through processes. I guess I haven’t gotten out of the habit, because I started telling the Prince what we were looking for and as a bonus, answering his questions about the then-latest bits of the dishwasher saga.

“…we’ll see what happens,” I finished.

He laughed. “You say that every time we’re in the car.”

I said it again at dinner, and since then, I’ve noticed whenever it leaves my mouth. The kids are sixteen and twenty now; I suppose decades of parenting have left me with a few habits they might find a little annoying. Both of them tell me the prep sessions are comforting no matter how old they get. Plus, they’ve absorbed “plan for what we can and relax about the rest” as a Life Maxim, which is hardly the worst way to look at situations.

It’s busy, but so far I’m coping. Especially since work is going relatively smoothly, though I had to take some time off yesterday to think about ceremonial leather armor, mercury poisoning, and different diseases I can give this particular Emperor that will have the effects I want on him and the story. I need his decline to be fairly rapid since we’re in the last third of the book, and the coronation is the next-to-last thing that happens before number one of the trilogy reaches a natural resting place.

But…yeah. We’ll see what happens.

*winks, vanishes in a cloud of smoke*

Bundle of Cheer

Barn Owl
© Donfink | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Got the wind knocked out of me on Monday evening, and I suspect it won’t come back any time soon. I am beginning to hate April; it’s just one thing after another this month. Not to me–I’m doing well–but people I care about are having somewhat of a rough go, and all I can do is support. I long to take a katana to the problems, but that would require enemies one could simply dispatch with a blade.

Life is full of those, but also full of ones you can’t. Plus, swinging an edge often leads to paperwork, and nobody has time for that.

So instead it’s budgeting my energy and retracting somewhat into a social shell so I can reserve enough to be an effective support and get my writing done. It’s a good thing I deactivated Facebook; one could so easily sink into a morass there.

Today marks the beginning of Atlanta Bound, Season 4 of Roadtrip Z. There’s a lot planned for this final season, it’s a real stunner. Once the road trip is over, I’m really thinking the next serial will be Robin Hood in Space, so I’d best get that underway.

The trouble is, Hostage to Empire wants to chew up all my bandwidth. Book 1 now wants to be called The Maiden’s Blade, which should make the editor happier. It’s also hit 80K and shows no sign of stopping or even slowing down. I have to write the kidnapping, the assassination attempts, and an emperor’s death. Hopefully I can get it in at least rough zero form by July; the timeline is compressed because it’s taking the place of the dead book. *sigh*

So. It’s time to get the first two chapters of Atlanta Bound prepped for subscribers, revise another two chapters of the same for next week’s offering, and get in daily wordcount on Maiden’s Blade. Also, some yoga needs to be done, because I am pushing myself hard while running and as a result, my entire body feels like one big bruise. Oh, and I should probably leave the house to fetch milk, right?

I’ve had eight shots of espresso this morning, the therapy lamp is on, and all I want to do is go back to bed. My eyelids need toothpicks to prop them open. If I’m a very good girl and get all the things on my list accomplished today, maybe I’ll plant some beans in the garden boxes.

It’s not much, but at least it’s one small unstressful something I know how to do.

Hug the people you care about today for me, please. Tell someone you’re there for them, and do something nice for yourself, too. We’re all stuck on this rock hurtling through space, and caring for each other is the only way we’re gonna get through it. I mean, life is inevitably fatal, but at least we can do some good before going to sleep.

Yeah, I’m just a bundle of cheer and optimism today. Over and out.

Half-Brain, Dishwasher

Robin Hood
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’m bouncing back and forth between an epic fantasy in a preindustrial world and a sort of Robin Hood in Space thing, where Robin is a sniper home from interplanetary war with PTSD and mecha are a thing. Each half of my brain is fighting with a different story, and I’m left standing on my corpus callosum and looking rather baffled.

As long as I don’t cross the sewage treatment technologies, I’ll probably be fine?

One of the things I want to do in the epic fantasy is show things that were hand waved or glossed over in the fantasy books I read growing up as a kid. How does the water for bathing get there? What happens when a woman has her period? I know there’s a chunk of fantasy out there that answers questions like that, and the chunk has been growing all the time, but I want to come up with my own answers. I want to solve the problems in my own way.

And I can’t read other epic fantasy right now. I can’t read in a genre I’m currently writing in, mostly because I don’t want to poison the well but also because it’s exhausting. The same brain-muscles used for creating would start trying to revise and build in other directions, and I’d end up a pile of exposed wires, sparking and writhing.

On the bright side, I finally got a repairman out to look at the dishwasher. The bad news is that at 15+ years old and with no model number, the poor thing is irretrievably dead. (Cue Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.) This is not, however, the worst news, because it means the home warranty will (begrudgingly, I can only suppose, but we are all helpless in the face of obsolescence) replace the damn thing.

I am overjoyed at this, but the true beneficiaries are the Little Prince and Princess, for they chose the kitchen as their daily chore and once the dishwasher stopped, were initiated into the great mysteries of Washing Up Completely By Hand, otherwise known as The Entire Reason Dishwashers Were Created. Not that they complain, really, since they chose the kitchen as their chore of choice ages ago.1 They split the work according to whoever has the most time off that day, and largely get along without any trouble at all.

They’ll make good roommates or spousal units someday, I’m sure.

I spent a fair amount of time yesterday looking at dishwashers. I had no idea there were so many options. Basically all I want is a stainless steel tub and a filer that isn’t too bloody difficult to clean; but if you have Dishwasher Advice, now’s the time for it.

Speaking of advice, I had to get rid of Disqus as a commenting system. They updated their plugin and broke syncing as well as started hard-selling ads. I don’t want advertising on my bloody site, dammit–you could make the case that it’s already an advert for my books, but I like to think there’s some value added in other parts. Anyway, the look of the comments section has changed, but it’s still the same old field of sweetness, punning, light, and my comment policy. So hit me up with your Dishwasher Advice, my friends.

Now it’s time to get out the door for a long-is run, and block out the next assassination attempt in each book. Technology may come and go, but murder remains ever the same. *sips drink*

Over and out.