No Contact, Four Seconds, and Walking Away

In the few minutes between taking Boxnoggin out for his first morning loo break and settling to absorb some caffeine while doing the usual blog post, fog moved in. The little cat feet were quick and soundless, and now I can barely see the trees across the cul-de-sac behind us.

Of course, if the cedars were still there I wouldn’t see anything else, but that’s a wholly different issue. Ah well.

I’ve been reading this morning about a letter Kafka sent to his domineering, abusive, narcissistic father. So much of it is familiar, though Kafka didn’t have some of the psych terminology we do today. It’s fascinating to read how he narrated what is, to some of us, very sadly familiar. It made me grateful for going no-contact lo these many years (decades, now) ago.

It’s all right to prioritize your own health and safety. It’s totally fine not to answer bad-faith questions, and it’s absolutely reasonable to protect yourself from sadistic people even if they were responsible for raising you. My particular culture doesn’t venerate parents to the extent some others do, but still when I am forced to mention that I don’t speak to my childhood abusers many people will spout well-meaning platitudes like, “You’ll regret it if you don’t forgive,” and “They did the best they could.” The first is manifestly untrue in my experience and the second is a matter no stranger could possibly have the information to judge, so most of the time I give such expostulations (and the other little nuggets of busybodies’ so-called wisdom) precisely the weight they merit.

Still…it’s irritating, a pinch on a scar which used to be sore. Some days I simply don’t have the emotional energy, so I disengage and don’t speak to that person again. It’s perfectly okay to walk away in the middle of someone’s sentence. I wish I would have absorbed this fact on a cellular level decades ago, but it took a lot of therapy and time under the bridge (to mix a metaphor) before I could.

Honestly the best thing for this has been reaching my mid-forties. Society considers a woman of my age little better than disposable, being otherwise obsessed with young, malleable, abuse-able girls. Once an older woman stops giving a fuck she’s labeled as dangerous, ugly, unstable, awful, rude, how dare.

Becoming a bog witch holds a great deal attraction at that point, but if one can’t retreat to the swamps (or a chicken-legged hut) the next best thing is silently regarding a well-meaning busybody with a direct stare for a little over four seconds, then turning around and walking away. There’s a great deal of power in that, and naturally some privilege in when one can deploy the maneuver. Even being able to do it once or twice is a massively healing experience. It gets the point across and removes one from the situation, which is all one can hope for.

I felt nothing but relief when one of my major childhood abusers recently passed away. I thought I would feel some kind of guilt, or that things were left unfinished. I didn’t; there was nothing left to say, because I had already mourned the relationship I wish I would’ve had with them–the relationship child-me was desperate for, would (and did) do almost anything for. Like any child, I wanted to love my caregivers. They made it impossible–that was a choice on their part, whereas I had none. Raising my own children was deeply illuminating, because it drove home just how insane so much of my own early life was. I could never treat my kids the way I was treated. It was utterly foreign to me, on the deepest of levels, to be so cruel to tiny, dependent, helpless beings.

I’m glad Kafka got to write his letter. It may not have had the effect he wanted, but there’s still a lancing of the wound in telling the truth about abusive dickwads. Going no-contact with those society called my parents (not to mention other toxic people since then) was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself; applying four seconds of silence and walking away is one of the most self-protective skills I’ve ever had the opportunity to learn. As Captain Awkward so often notes, it’s okay to let things be uncomfortable for toxic people. If they didn’t want discomfort, they should learn not to behave like total douches.

Now I need brekkie, and Boxnoggin needs walkies. No doubt he’ll find all sorts of interesting smells in the fog. Life is so much better now; every day I’m grateful for the space and peace created by choosing not to give nasty toxic people any more than the absolute minimum of time and attention. (Sometimes that minimum is negative, a happy occasion indeed.)

See you around, beloveds.

Preparing the Ground

Under the ice, the green lingers.

Pretty much all the powder is melted. The snow was so dry that its compacting during melt turned into a particular type of granular ice, and lingered in shaded corners. The moss is having a wonderful time with this, since even if it’s chilly it’s also damp, and they love the wet to near-distraction.

These lumps of moss are actually a coat over some scalloped concrete, and you can see how thick the velvet is. Also, the pine needles and detritus deserve a round of applause for providing nourishment. Everything works together, even on a bare stony surface.

I’m attempting to feel hopeful today. That’s probably why I’ve been so obsessed with Bryophyta lately–even under the worst conditions it finds a way to flourish, and prepares the ground for later growth. One can take a lot of comfort in that.

Have a wonderful weekend, my beloveds. Mine will be spent with proofreader queries, but that’s a small price to pay. I might get half a day off and some tiramisu…but I’ve got to get through the work first.

Private Delights, Delayed

It’s cold here. The birdbath is frozen in the morning, but it thaws throughout the day. Boxnoggin is prancing-happy to get out for brisk walkies, and even happier to return to his warm bed for a nap afterward. The mud in the park isn’t as deep as it will get, and the moles are busily building galleries in the drier spots. I just recently read Wind in the Willows for the very first time, and liked it a great deal. My favorite bit was the search for the young otter and Pan’s appearance. Toad is a complete git and his friends deserve better, but I suppose every circle has one of those.

Good morning, and happy Thursday! Tomorrow I’ll have some sale news, so stay tuned for that. But today there’s an excerpt of the upcoming Spring’s Arcana up over at the Tor Forge blog, enjoy!

I have proofs on the docket for this weekend, and once those (and any leftover queries) are done there’s only waiting for release. The second book in the epic fantasy trilogy is coming along well; all these scenes that have been in my head for over a year are now on paper. That’s a good feeling, but also a sad one. Execution lags behind imagination, but that’s what revision is for–and that’s what the details a writer keeps privately hoarded in their skull-case are for too.

Publishing is all about delayed gratification, and humans are very bad at said delay. I suppose learning to tolerate it makes one a better person, though it doesn’t get easier. Rather, one’s strategies for dealing with the inevitable discomfort are refined. Now that I’m a few books down the road, I look at the ones coming out this year and vaguely remember the stress of writing them, but the ache is distant, a long-healed sunburn.

It’s been an awful few years.

Anyway, yesterday the Princess was rereading some LJ Smith YAs–the Forbidden Game series, and we started talking about the Dark Vision ones too. “That’s where I loved to learn problematic male antagonists,” she informed me, with a twinkle in her eye. I had to laugh, remembering the first time she found those on the big bookshelves and took them to her room for plundering. The rule in our house has always been “If you can reach it, you can read it–and if you can’t reach it, find a stepstool.” I found it much better to simply let both kids know I was available for any questions they had, no matter how banal or embarrassing, about any media they found and consumed. Attempting to lock them out of questionable media would merely have made the forbidden far more enticing, but if it was a simple matter of hitting the back button or asking Mum, all the questionable delight was drained away and they were encouraged to think critically. The strategy seems to have paid off tenfold, since both are reasonably functional adults now.

My gods, how time flies.

So there’s plenty to do today, including getting some Viking werewolves and their elf friends embroiled in a spring-melting morass while the elementalist desperately tries to bear the weight of the artifact that’s melded itself to her physically, and going through Avery Black’s realization that maybe a certain grey-clad girl doesn’t dislike him at all. Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday Night Writes, because I want to get a fair chunk of work done before the weekend hits and I’m knee-deep in proof pages.

Knee-deep isn’t eyebrow-deep, so there’s that at least to be grateful for. And there’s still candy on clearance everywhere, even if most of it’s wrapped in red and pink foil. It still tastes the same.

My office is still too bright with the cedars gone, but I suppose I’ll adapt. And now the coffee is almost gone, so it’s time for toast (or gruel) and walking the beast.

See you around.

Soundtrack Monday: Whispering

It’s another Soundtrack Monday! I spent the morning in bed reading, which was the right choice. There are a lot of libraries in my work–the magical nod to Robin McKinley’s Beauty in Rose & Thunder springs to mind, as well as The Demon’s Librarian, naturally.

The one I’m thinking of now is the self-healing one in Moon’s Knight, with its orrery that owes a great deal to Aughra’s (of Dark Crystal fame). The red sun in that book is partly Darkover, partly Dark Crystal, and partly Krypton, I think, with a heavy dose of my own tiredness during lockdown.

Moon’s Knight burned through me during the worst of that uncertainty. I needed an escape, and what better than a portal fantasy? I wasn’t even planning on publishing it; I just sent the first draft to beta readers hoping to provide them with a little relief from the crushing terror and agony. I don’t like thinking about that time, but thankfully the book itself doesn’t give me the willies. The response from the betas was a howl of “no, this book helped, what do you mean you’re not gonna publish it?”

So…I had to. And I’m glad I did, if only for the amusement of that one “reviewer” who didn’t like that the main character has a bone to pick with the god who would kill her best friend.

Ahem. But amusement aside, the full soundtrack is here, starting with Gin’s feelings at the funeral and ending with…well, you’d have to read to find out.

Of course the song that gave me the key to the prince in black was Alex Clare’s Whispering, which expresses him very well. He doesn’t show a lot of what he’s actually feeling–probably a function of his age–and his motivations aren’t the best in the world. And yet, the story is what the story is. Since I was writing only for myself, I didn’t have to coax him into being anything else. He is as he is, and so is Ginevra and the rest of that world.

Anyway, Boxnoggin needs his walkies, and since I spent a few hours later in bed the rest of today’s work will no doubt be a boondoggle. But I regret nothing. Sometimes one just has to say “fuck it” and refuse to let the piddly little fact of dawn interfere with one’s plans. It’s been a while since I wrote solely to please myself, and I think I will soonish, once I get a few other things cleared.

I’m looking forward to it.

Change Is the Constant

There are Things Happening On the Roof, even at this early hour, and Boxnoggin is utterly beside himself. I can’t decide if he wants to go up the ladder and help, or if he simply doesn’t connect the noise up there to the workers, who he has already throughly vetted. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose.

It’s Monday. I managed another minor feat of resurrection over the weekend; it’s hard, swimming against the current. I think I’ve my fire back in me now, though, as Ellen Foster says. (I just mentioned that book a few days ago; it’s probably time for a reread.) I really do love and believe in this series. It’s just hard to be the only one, especially when I also have to descend to the depths to wrench bits of it up to the surface. Each diving trip carries a risk.

The weekend was also spent parenting, in one form or another. Of course the job doesn’t stop when one’s own children reach adulthood. But a lot of others seem to be needing it now, too.

It’s kind of baffling. First, your baby goes from a sperm and egg to a zygote, from that to an embryo, from that to a fetus, then is born and becomes an infant. They change rapidly over the next few years, from toddler to child, then the changes lengthen into adolescence. Then you have a young adult on your hands, and if you’ve done your job it’s a functioning adult who still wants to speak to you. The change is constant, and you went through all those stages too.

What I don’t get, what absolutely puzzles the fuck out of me, is how anyone can parent through all that change and then claim they can’t handle their precious, irreplaceable child deciding on a different gender expression. People are change. If you can accept a toddler turning into an elementary-schooler, a kid turning into a teenager, a teenager getting a driver’s license, a teen turning into a young adult, why on earth should you have problem with your child expressing as male, female, nonbinary, or any gradation therein? Your job isn’t to stop a kid from finding their own gender any more than it is to halt a child at the toddler stage, or to keep them artificially dependent on you forever.

Parents who claim to have a problem with their child “changing” are lying, to themselves or to others. I’m not surprised at the number of kids (and adults) cutting off contact with “parents” who want Suzy to remain six or sixteen or female-presenting forever, who get bent out of shape when Tim decides she wants to be Sandra, or Holly decides they want to be Hollister.

One of my daughter’s best friends is transitioning. He shook like a leaf when he came out to us, poor thing; it was obviously terrifying for him. There’s only one thing to say when a child approaches you in that situation.

“Thank you for telling me. I loved you yesterday, I love you today, and if you change again tomorrow I’ll love who you are then too. Want a hug?”

That’s it. That’s all that needs to be said. It’s not a big deal to keep track of pronouns; when you slip up you stop, redo the sentence, and move on. It’s easy to not deadname someone–when you slip up you (surprise, surprise) stop, redo the sentence, and move on.

“But I always wanted a son/daughter, and now I don’t have one!” What, like it’s a fucking Pokemon? Your child is not a box to tick off or a piece of chocolate in an assortment. Grow the fuck up and treat your kid properly.

“But I don’t understaaaaaaand!” Then get to a place where you can at least accept without being a pile of toxic shittery. Do that work on your own, grow the fuck up, and treat your kid with proper kindness.

“But…but…God says it’s wrong!” Then what you’re worshipping is cruelty, not divinity. Find a different fucking god, you sleaze. Grow the fuck up and start acting like you worship something worthy of being called divine.

“But I just don’t think it’s right!” Then get prepared to lose contact with your kid, of whatever age, because what you’re after is control, not love. The harder you tighten your grasp, the more children will slip through your fingers, Tarkin, and if it sounds like I’m saying you’re the baddie, yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. And also: Grow. The. Fuck. Up.

Living in late-stage capitalism and corporate-fueled climate change is hard enough; don’t make it worse. Your kid expressing their intrinsic self is not a problem. Get over it, get your head straight, and be the parent you’re supposed to be. You can certainly try to force and control and belittle, but the consequence of that is losing the trust and love your beautiful, irreplaceable child wants to give you. Kids want to love their parents, but if you act like an asshole–especially about this–you’re going to make it so difficult to do so they have to back away for their own safety.

Then you will lose your kid, even if you have them physically trapped and dependent, and it will be your own goddamn fault. It’s very simple. You are not here to own your child, you are here to love who they are, yesterday and today and tomorrow, and to help them become a functioning adult. That’s the job, and if you don’t do it, they’ll find another way–and you will have failed at one of the most important things you will ever do.

Period, full stop, the end. I will not be taking questions or listening to any toxic, shitty, abusive talking points. My time is better spent taking care of the kids–of any age–who have decided I’m safe parental material, and repeating the bare honest truth.

I love you. I loved you yesterday, I love you today, and if you change tomorrow, I’ll love who you are then, too.

Want a hug?

The Rock of Morning

Read a little Anais Nin in bed while my alarm clock finished waking up–it’s one of those sunrise clocks, where the light begins simmering gently a half-hour before the alarm, which sounds like birds twittering. A good investment from years and years ago, though I stopped using it so much in poor Bailey’s senescence because as soon as it began its cycle she was up, gods damn you, and if she was up I had to be nosed and bullied out of bed along with Boxnoggin, and the dear old dog would do so with a lot of cranky because she needed more rest.

Whereas if I got up in the dark (or semi-dark with the curtains pulled) and started going about my day, she slept on, figuring I was Just Doing Weird Human Things and she’d herd me when she got around to it. It was simply easier, and she needed that gentle time in the mornings.

I miss her so much.

Anyway, Boxnoggin could not give a single hoot nor holler about the alarm clock. He must be rousted from the bed’s comfort with his special morning song and some snuggle time, and may all the powers of earth and sky help you if there is not enough snuggle, because he will mope. I have, however, found out that the snuggles can be achieved while I do a bit of reading, since that’s merely a continuation of the nightly ritual–his nose in my armpit as I awkwardly page through the current book.

Once he’s up he requires a bathroom break, and right after that he turns his nose up at brekkie and goes back to bed while I get coffee and settle in front of the glowing box for the morning session. He won’t eat his own breakfast until right before walkies, when he wolfs down as much as possible to get his peristalsis primed. This is entirely separate from the toll of toast crust or little bit of my morning gruel that must be slopped into his bowl, which he will eagerly partake of before going back to bed, turning his nose up at ordinary kibble.

This is the same dog who was underweight and famished when he arrived, thinking that same kibble veritable manna from the gods. I’m glad he feel secure enough to be picky, frankly.

…I meant today’s blog post to be about other stuff, but best-laid plans founder on the rock of morning. Last night I put Horace de Brassiere‘s washable parts in the dishwasher, on the theory that today’s Lili would find them nice and fresh for the morning potion. Today’s Lili, though, spent a significant amount of time staring at poor Horace, trying to put the parts together in some configuration that would make getting coffee a possibility, and cursing her past self for being somewhat of a sadist.

Eventually I found the missing part in the dish drainer and things began to make more sense. Now caffeine is slowly filtering into my system and I have consigned both yesterday’s self and the morning’s first iteration safely to the realm of “well, that happened, let’s laugh.”

I’m about halfway through Nin’s Cities of the Interior, which is four of her interconnected novels in one. It’s much easier to see the throughlines now, especially after the read of her diaries I did last year. I’m in The Four-Chambered Heart at the moment, and seeing her alchemy of fictionalization is doing good things for me. Filling the artistic well, as is so crucial. Last year ended in exhaustion and bad health, too many things taking time away from writing, so it’s good to be back after the first few weeks of this year were spent pruning. Already my productivity is slowly creeping back up to the usual pace.

Over and over again, I learn the lesson of protecting the work. One has to fight quite fiercely for one’s writing time, especially if one is femme-presenting; other people will assume they are entitled to your time and energy as a matter of course. The people worth keeping around are the ones who take no for an answer, but cutting the others out is painful and requires a lot of energy too. And that’s not even counting the voraciousness of the world at large, especially lately–the news cycle and corporate greed won’t let anyone rest if they can help it.

The idea of going back to bed a la Boxnoggin is intensely appealing. But there’s the actual conversation between the Rook and Miss Dove to write today–now that he’s managed to slip in through her garret window, which is not a euphemism–and yesterday’s almost-drowning of an almost-prince in The Fall of Waterstone has implications that kick off the next big chain of plot events. If I get both done I might be able to burn the last bit of cedar wrack in the firepit, which would please me intensely.

None of that will happen until after walkies and running my own poor corpse, so I suppose I’d best get started. It’s a Tuesday feeling like a Monday, always a lot of fun. If all goes well I’ll be able to get to a kidnapping in one project today, and perhaps–if I’m lucky–set up the river race in another.

It’s good to have things to look forward to. Off I go, then.

Adulting and Pruning

Yesterday was a flurry of adulting. Correspondence needed tackling, decisions had to be made, pruning to be done–and the firepit required tending, since limbs, branches, and twigs off the dead cedar which came down during 50+mph winds (fortunately not taking my office with it, falling just perfectly to avoid clipping the house or killing the back gate) had to be dealt with in some manner. The entire yard smelled of cedar incense and damp earth. It was wonderful, and I made quite a few decisions while staring into the flames. I also got a great deal of plot-noodling done while moving around, breaking up wooden bits, and watching the fire.

The kids were thrilled; they did most of the processing, snapping and sawing cedar into smaller chunks. Boxnoggin was extremely unsure about the whole thing, but enjoyed being part of the ruckus while outside. He also seemed more than happy to go back inside after a few token circuits of the yard and sniffing at the wind, though he usually wants to be where everyone else is with a vengeance. I think the smoke made him uneasy, poor fellow.

Bailey was a partner; Boxnoggin is definitely a subordinate. He’s most comfortable when I tell him exactly what to do. We were worried he might need a companion, since Bailey bossed him unremittingly and he thrived under that direction–we joked that she told him when to breathe, and how, and he liked the reminders. But he seems to have adjusted to only-dog status quite happily. The only trouble is that I prefer to ask instead of command, and he wants to be told in no uncertain terms. I suppose we’re both learning, even after four-plus years.

Things seem to be settling in certain areas. I left CounterSocial since I wasn’t quite comfortable there, and due to health concerns I’m also taking a hiatus from livestreaming. Don’t worry on the latter account, though–old streams will stay up on my YouTube channel, and if my health improves I might come back to some version of Reading with Lili. And of course I’m playing with the idea of videos for patrons. The trouble with streaming is that it takes energy away from writing, and that can’t happen. Both my sanity and the mortgage depend on the bulk of my energy going towards digging up stories.

In related news, I’ll be mostly on Mastodon and Tumblr going forward. I simply can’t handle the toxicity on Twitter anymore. It’s kind of awful–I was just beginning, after over a decade, to get some real traction on birdsite. But I can’t lend myself to its current incarnation, so…here we are. I am still squatting on my username so an impersonator can’t pick it up thirty days after deletion, but it’s become just a signpost pointing to other places.

So today is all about the subscription drop, writing a conversation in a cold dark garret for Hell’s Acre, and moving ahead on The Fall of Waterstone. If I can get to the Viking elementalist saving the princess’s intended from drowning in the latter I’ll call today well spent. There’s no shortage of work despite the pruning, which is the way I like it.

I always forget how free and oxygen-rich the world feels after a good purge, whether it be of household clutter, yard detritus, or subscriptions that don’t quite serve a need. I’m no Marie Kondo, but I do enjoy seeing a good mess turn into open space. A certain amount of crowding is necessary–I keep my desk slightly messy, since creativity (for me) seems to do best in that condition–but one must periodically practice a bit of ruthlessness in clearing the undergrowth.

Anyway, the only problem with yesterday was that we didn’t feel like using the s’mores supplies we had in stock, but if the weather’s clear on Saturday we might do another session to clear the last of the wrack. And that will call for celebratory marshmallow flambé.

It’s a new year, after all. The decks are being cleared, and there’s space to breathe. But before all that, breakfast has to be approached, and Boxnoggin wants his walkies. That’s one thing which will never change, world without end, amen.

See you around.