Running, an Inch

Steelflower in Snow

This morning, I was in a bit of a mood. Out the door with two fractious dogs into cold rain, one dog unfazed and the other wanting to pull ahead to finish the damn deed so he could go home and dry off, my patience was all but exhausted.

And yet, while my feet pound and my breath comes high and hard, I realize, this is not who I want to be. The irritation falls away; I leave it like a discarded skin and run into the future of who I do want to be.


Years ago, the stark grief of a broken heart pushed me further, faster. I ran until I couldn’t, without dog, bee, or any other companion, and when I stopped and closed my eyes, all that touched me was sunshine, dust, and the knowledge that I had done what was necessary. It still hurt.

It hurt.

And yet, when I opened my eyes, there was nothing to do but keep moving. I had to get home, after all. Sitting in the middle of a street and waiting for the rest of my life is not who I want to be.

So I chose differently. And kept going.


I began running because it was something I could do on a treadmill in the solarium. A single mother can’t leave her babies unprotected; besides, my body had become a stranger. I ran at first because it was the best of several bad options, then I kept running because the endorphins had me hooked, then I ran because it had become a habit.

Now I run because it soothes me, because it is still the only time I have to be truly alone. Despite the company of dogs, it is while running that my soul expands a little. The rest of the world falls away and I can see who I’ve been, and more importantly, who I want to be.


Irritated? I write. Happy? I write. Sad? I write. I do it because it’s what I was meant and made for, what I was designed to do. I am helpless to stop writing.

But running is a choice. The static vanishes. Physical motion, the thunder of my pulse, dripping sweat–all reminders that I can choose. There is only an inch allotted to us, a small, separate piece caught in the net of circumstance, privilege, physics, and obligation. They can take every inch of me–they have certainly tried, all my life–but one.

That small piece keeps me human. It is the part where I choose.


The dogs don’t like it when I run alone. Boxnoggin is protective; Miss B simply thinks it’s her duty to crawl under my skin and stay there. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, whether because of injury, weather, or other considerations, I find myself solitary.

I am alone, but I am never lonely while that small inch of me remains.


B slows near the end of even short runs now. She doesn’t want to, but she is becoming elderly, and her body does not do as she wishes. It doesn’t matter. Speed isn’t the issue. Looking down and seeing her grin as she paces me, in her accustomed place and all right with her world despite our slowness, fills me with aching love. I have so little time left with her; I slow as much as she needs.

Boxnoggin doesn’t quite have the rhythm down yet. He’s young, and though it’s been months, he learns at his own pace. Above all, he wants to protect his pack; the constant changing of our route during runs to make it easy for him to behave and get accustomed to the fact that when I need him to snap or growl I’ll let him know takes a lot of bandwidth. Still, we persevere. Eventually he’ll learn, and I will have become the person who gave him the space for that teaching to sink in.


When I was a child, my primary female caregiver wanted me to become a doctor. It was her own unfinished dream, and I was responsible for seeing it through. The knowledge loomed on the horizon like a mountain at the end of a sea journey, just a smear at first and for a long time neither larger nor smaller no matter how fast one sails. Suddenly, it begins to grow, and the shadow of expectation pressed on me from crown to soles. I couldn’t breathe.

I chose passive resistance to her dreams all my young life. But when I left that house, I had no idea how to find out what I wanted to be–or even who I was. I’ve spent decades trying to unravel the mystery, making false starts, drowning in other people’s needs, pouring myself into black holes, lighting myself on fire to keep others warm.

And then I began to run.


“I can tell you haven’t run today,” the kids say.

“I can tell you haven’t run today,” my writing partner says.

I can tell I haven’t run that day, and I close my eyes, imagine my feet hitting pavement and the wind making that low sweet sound in my ears. Even when I don’t run I can choose who I want to be. Running only reminds me. It shakes me, and while everything is whirling inside my skin I realize there are some things nailed down, some handholds I can trust on my internal cliff-face.

There is a me who can decide. I just have to give her an inch.


Today it was raining. The dogs were both tetchy, their fidgets not quite worked out yesterday. It took twenty damn minutes for the red cloud of irritation around me to blow away. Both beasts needed constant reminding and redirecting. Before I snapped, I took a deep breath, slowed my pace, untangled both of them, and swallowed the unkind things I might have muttered at their poor, silly, excited selves.

Unkind is not who I want to be.

The carapace falls away and I am damp and new, slowing to a walk and petting the canines who depend upon me. I tell them they are good, and they believe me. Sometimes–not very often–I slow enough to listen to them tell me I am good, and I try to believe them, too.

We walk home. Because we choose to.


I have kept a single inch to myself, one thing I have never mortgaged, sold, smothered to please someone else. I have fed others from my broken body and kept a single crust from the feast despite those who tell me it is selfish treachery to avoid subsuming myself completely. The world is hungry, abusers are famished; they will take even that last inch and leave for other tables while your bones rot.

I hid that inch so successfully it took running to find it again. And, over and over again, it expands to fill me while I write.

Running doesn’t fill me. It strips away the noise, the constant pressure, the weight of people who sold their inch or never found it, who want to crack my bones and eat my marrow to fill their own unending hunger where that small space used to be.

I learn, over and over again, that I choose who and what I am. There is an inch of me beyond reach, a table in the presence of mine enemies, and every time I lace up and buckle the dogs in, reach the end of warmup and pitch forward to take the first few steps into the uncertain future, I realize again that I am not lonely.

How can I be, while I run?

Coal Seam Impression

Spent the weekend watching Turkish serials, which was the best use of my internet connection since finding streaming Kdrama. Now it’s Monday and I’m back at work, which is going exactly how you’d think it would, especially since the dogs are In a Mood. Their morning run was full of bad behavior, probably because I didn’t take them out Saturday and Sunday is our rest day. I always get to feeling like my skin is full of itchy ants whenever I take a rest day, and it’s ever so much more worse for them, I suppose.

It was nice to have the time off. I did get recognized in the wild by a librarian last week, and had a pleasant chat. And I am currently typing on a keyboard presented to me by the Princess, because I ended up dumping thirty-two ounces of lemon water over the old one and the spare just wasn’t optimal.

So there are good things this week, but it’s hard to get back in the groove. I looked at the news this morning and absolutely should not have. I never thought I was the type to develop an ulcer about world events, so congratulations, I guess?

I know you guys are going to ask, so my favorite set of clips from a Turkish serial this weekend was Black White Love. Holy cow, can Ibrahim Celikkol smoulder. The man does a great impression of a coal seam burning for years until oxygen hits an exposed surface and WHAM. Lord, there was my narrative crack all over

Why, yes, I was scribbling notes on the smoulder the entire time, why do you ask? I have a type, and it’s repressed bad boy. Nice to watch, certainly, but very bad to be involved with. That’s part of the glory of being in my forties: I can enjoy the vibe without getting caught in it.

I am mildly amused it took me this long to learn, but oh well.

I have to decide if I want to do a fantasy or a vampire hitman for my next gift book–oh, what’s a gift book, you ask? It’s a book I write for someone. For example, I know my agent likes my YA stuff, so I wrote Harmony1 for her; I was in a generous mood so I wrote Jozzie & Sugar Belle for my Evil Ladies.2 I like taking a character or a situation that a friend gives me, spinning it out in my own inimitable fashion, and presenting it wrapped up in a bow. It’s one of the weird ways I show affection, like being willing to bring a tarp and a shovel at a moment’s notice or fussing at you to eat.

Right now the vampire hitman is winning out. I think it would be fun to write him, once I finish figuring out exactly what makes him tick.

…I’m sure I had something interesting to say when I started out, but it’s gone by the wayside as I’ve had to get up and deal with dogs and laundry. Time to put the headphones on and plan the day’s work, and if I’m very good, I’ll reward myself with a vampire priest hitman chapter or two.

Man, I have the best job.

Grab your weapons, chickadees. Let’s take Monday by storm.

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Cinnamon Roll Prospects

It’s one of those mornings. I’m barely vertical and even getting coffee down the hatch seems an impossible task. At least it smells like rain soon, and yesterday I had the great good fortune of getting my finger and toe claws into The Poison Prince. I even got my teeth into that fucking book, and shook it like Sir Boxnoggin with a squeaky toy.

Consequently, now I have a better scaffolding, and I feel like the book, while huge, is also manageable. If I keep biting, eventually I’ll bleed it into compliance. Most of the time, I settle into the story’s world with a thump, like the floor dropping a little during an earthquake. This time, the sensation is of my hands and feet aching and tense, my jaw clenched, while i see which direction the damn thing will veer in.

The Princess and her best friend are in the kitchen. I’m told there’s a prospect of cinnamon rolls soon, but I’d best get out to run before it happens. Maybe, now that I have all my spikes in Poison Prince, I can also juggle it with another work instead of letting it monopolize me. It would be great if I could just work on one book at a time, but the mortgage needs paying and the kids have this habit of eating.

Speaking of which, The Complete Roadtrip Z is available in ebook format through Gumroad now! It’s available for preorder but won’t be released on other distribution platforms until April 9, and Amazon might be later still because they won’t allow you to set an ebook for preorder unless you’re listing through KDP.

Of course, Amazon also lets plagiarists and scammers keep going, because they bring the ‘Zon cash. Which surprises exactly no-one. I’m still waiting for those assholes who came at me yelling when I pointed out “Amazon is not your friend” years ago to produce apologies. Something tells me I’ll wait forever.

I might as well write while I do, but not until I get this coffee finished. My stomach’s rolling like a heavy sea and I can’t wait to get out the door and shake all the fidgets away. I might even leave the last half of my coffee to do so.

Maybe. *eyes mug* Or maybe not. Over and out, dear ones.

Pure Heaven

Last week my writing partner and I played hooky in Portland, and there was a stop at Everyday Music.

It’s not a bookstore, but it still makes me happy. Got to take your joy where you find it, chickadees.

Enjoy your own weekend, my hoopy froods, and may it have something nice to roll around in…

Anxiety Bunny

The Princess brought home Kinder eggs from a pre-Easter sale. The Little Prince loves opening them, so he cracked mine for me, and cleaned out the sugar1 as a bonus.

This little fellow was inside. The Prince and Princess both had birds, but I got a bunny with a wheel in his head. Spin the wheel–you can just see it there in the centre of the picture–and different scenes can be viewed through a hole high on his back.2

I immediately christened him Anxiety Bunny, because that’s what it feels like–a multicolored wheel spinning inside one’s head, serving up the worst possible outcomes not only from tomorrow, but from years ago.

Spinning the wheel does give me a certain amount of peace, however. I’m reminded that the wheel is not me, and isn’t even particularly truthful most of the time. This tiny, cheap little toy helps me feel better, and that’s valuable to me.

May your anxiety bunny, whatever it is, grant you some peace.