Broken Hook

Broken, yes. Still good?

We have a set of large red cappuccino cups the kids have used as cereal bowls for decades. They’re huge, chipped, and incredibly useful. They’re also showing their age, like any beloved long-term item.

The handle broke off one of them while the kids were doing dishes. The Prince made an amazing catch, trapping the bowl between his hip and the counter with enough force to arrest its fall, but not enough to dent or chip it.

Bowl’s still in use, and I think I’m going to hot-glue magnets to either end of the handle. I can use it to hang things on the fridge, or it might go on the space above the cupboards where I daubed magnetic primer and then chalkboard paint. We’ll see.

I keep making new things out of broken bits. Some of them work, some…well, at least I gave it a try.

Have a good weekend, beloveds.

Little Kindness

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A tiny bravery.

If all goes well, this will be a silk tree. Of course, a lot depends on if I’ve provided the right growing conditions, and if the seed was truly viable and not damaged by recent weather. If it doesn’t work out, the tree one block over will produce a new crop of seedpods next year, and I’ll try again.

Assuming we’re still here next year, that is.

There’s just a hint of green, and it’s by no means certain. A hundred things could go wrong. I have another seed in a similar pot, and will try to coax both along. Over and over I plant, and whisper encouragement, and wait.

If everything goes as I hope, there might be a sapling in our yard next year, but that’s no guarantee either. Insects, rot, drought could all strike–we had a tiny oak that didn’t survive last summer’s 115F heat dome. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) But who knows? Maybe we’ll have a silk tree eventually, with its marvelous powdery scent for a few weeks in summer and its pretty pink and yellow blossoms.

Of course, by then we might not be in this house, or something. No guarantees there, either.

But still, it’s important to whisper a little love into any seedling one can. I’m feeling low and drained these days, my beloveds, and doing my best to hold on. A little kindness, a tiny murmur, a small corner where the growing conditions can be tweaked and helped along…it’s all I can do. I don’t know if it’s enough, but it’s what I’ve got.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, dear ones. These are terrible, extraordinary times, and we’re all on our last frayed nerve.

See you Monday.

Year Three Begins

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The sound of shatter.

It’s a brand new year!

The dishwasher has stopped working, there’s a leak under the kitchen sink, and the tire pressure sensor light is on, but it’s a new year. Amazon has decided to start penalizing authors because e-thieves are pirating their books, but it’s a new year. The CDC has decided to sacrifice lives for the economy as if they’re Republicans, losing what little moral and scientific authority they had left, but it’s a new year.

December 25th rolled around with a new item here at the Chez. The Princess picked up some cheap crockery at the dollar store, and we began the day by shattering a plate apiece, by either deceleration or hammer, on the back walk. The kids are enchanted with this, and can’t wait to do it again next year.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, holidays are…problematic, for me. Every single “holiday” I endured growing up was a nightmare of mounting pressure until the inevitable raging explosion from one of my adult caretakers. At that point, the worst had happened and all I could do was endure.

There’s a certain relaxation in, “it’s happened, all I have to do now is hunker down.” So this year, as the pressure and tension of anticipating the worst on a “holiday” mounted, I decided to do something about it. And lo, it worked.

The sound of breakage triggered the release valve, and the rest of the day was actually pretty nice. It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed Christmas in decades, frankly, and the kids were absolutely thrilled. Everyone got a plate to break, we all pitched in with the cleanup, and then there were good things to eat and a cosy blaze in the fireplace all day. The kids are bound and determined to do the same thing next year, if the pandemic doesn’t end up getting us after all.

…yeah, you can tell even my agathism is taking a beating. We’re in Year 3 of the Pandemic, after all. If one goes historically, this is the year things will get sorted (the Spanish Flu basically took three, I’m going to cover my ears and scream if anyone says, “but the Black Plague…”), at least on the epidemiological front.

I also received some…let’s call it “news”, on Boxing Day. Not unexpected, and I was prepared and braced, but it was still deeply uncomfortable and called up a lot of complex feelings. I’m not surprised things started to go haywire just afterward.

So here we are in 2022. May this year be better than the last, however incrementally. I’ve got a load of work this morning, including making bloody phone calls to get the leak under the kitchen sink sorted and the car’s tires checked. Of course everyone will be doing everything they put off last week because of the holiday, so nothing will get done in a timely manner, but that’s to be expected under current conditions.

There’s nothing to do but keep going. I sent off yet another book–the second Ghost Squad novel, Klemp’s book–last week too, very early but that’s better than late. Now I can turn my entire engines to Hell’s Acre, and also spend some time on the second Sons of Ymre book. I intend to work until it becomes an impossibility; it seems the only way through.

Welcome to the New Year, my beloveds. If all else fails, try breaking a cheap plate or two. It worked wonders for us, I’ve gotta admit.

Excelsior, and all that.

From Books to Mortality

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Happy Monday, my dears. I greeted the day finishing Shaun Bythell’s Confessions of a Bookseller in bed, twelve out of ten, utterly delightful, can recommend. My writing partner (who owned a bookstore for many a year, an event for which I was indirectly responsible, long story) recommended it. “It’s like my old Tales of the Bookstore posts, a whole year of them.” And she was right.

Mr Bythell’s shop is The Bookshop, Wigtown, which sounds amazing as all hell. It takes the patience of a saint to run a place like that; I have never owned a bookstore, being content to merely offer my services as a buyer, shelver, and patient ringer-up. Which takes its own kind of fortitude, but one can always blame the boss when a customer becomes impertinent. “Sorry, I can’t do that, the boss won’t let me.”

Anyway, it was a lovely palate-cleanser, since I’ve been reading only true crime and depressing history for months now. Also, we had snow yesterday–fortunately, it only lasted about twenty-four hours and today there’s no sign that there was ever a slushpocalypse at all. The dogs were extremely vivacious during their walk yesterday morning, apparently determined to toss me headlong into a pile of wet ice at the first opportunity. Arriving home in one piece and relatively dry was a victory, one I celebrated with a feverish round of housecleaning, it being Sunday and all.

I am waiting for one last sales platform to get itself together, then I’ll have something special for you all. If everything goes well I can make the announcement tomorrow. It’s not huge, but it is extremely amusing, and I am on tenterhooks waiting for that one…last…platform. Ah well, it’s the holiday season; everything’s moving slowly.

This week I turn my engines fully toward Hell’s Acre. If I can get through the charity ball before knocking off for Yule I’ll be happy; I desperately need some more murder in this book.

I also need to brave the wilds for some further Yule supplies–just last-minute things, but getting them done will mean I can spend the upcoming holiday weekend cooking without worry. The kids voted a resounding “no” to decorations this year. (The actual vote was two and a half for “fuck no” and one-half abstaining, so no decorating. We’re just too tired.)

2021 has been a bit of a bear, what with the second year of pandemic and the slow-mo fascist coup still attempting to metastasize in the body politic. I alternate between nervous hope and complete despair, as I have since before 2016.

There was also a strange bit of ectoplasm near my loo door this morning. I have spent most of my life as a mother by this point, so I merely glanced at it as I staggered out of bed, returning to discern its source and true nature only once I had coffee in hand. It turned out to be a bit of bile from Miss B, who occasionally has a small amount of stomach upset, being the old lady she is. Brewer’s yeast tablets seem to have largely sorted her on that front, which is a blessing; still, I am facing the evidence of her upcoming mortality with quite a bit of pre-grief. She’s still got some time left, but I can see the end, and it will be a dark time indeed when she decides she’s ready to go.

Of course, I am dead sure she’ll return in some form or another, since I cannot be trusted to supervise myself and it is her self-chosen job to fill that role. The Princess is of the opinion that Miss B will choose to inhabit the body of a corgi next, which will be all kinds of fun for all concerned. But that’s still in the future, and for now I am making the most of the time remaining in this incarnation. Our elderly statesdog wants for nothing, and shall for as long as she deigns to remain in my care.

Using the time we have will not make the eventual grief lighter, but it will give me something to hold when it arrives.

And on that note, I shall be about my business. Miss B, unmindful of my mood, is pressing for walkies since I was lazy and lay abed for a half-hour finishing that book. The daily schedule is in danger, and she cannot abide that; routine and ritual are her watchwords. Boxnoggin, of course, is content to follow her lead, so he’s attempting to wriggle under my office chair as I type this. Since he’s a good sixty pounds of muscular, youngish doge, the chair is in danger of giving out completely, which is not a great deal of fun but would manage to pry me away from the glowing desktop box said dogs are completely mystified by. (“She just…stares at it, and taps with her little monkey paws. Humans are weird…”)

See you around.

Shock of Recognition

It’s been an odd week. Of course, the last couple years have been odd, with spikes of weirdness piercing individual months. Endurance is the name of the game, and mine is faltering more than a little lately.

I hit somewhat of a nadir, so I pulled out the big guns. I actually–gasp!–asked for help, and while I was waiting for the request to wend its way through the labyrinth of electrons every email must traverse, I pulled out the big guns.

That’s right, I returned to Nabokov.

Dear ol’ Vlad’s gotten me through a lot. This time I blazed through Lolita and my personal favorite, Invitation to a Beheading, and now I’m deep in the garden of my second favorite, Ada, and the words have worked their magic. I have been nourished, and I think I’m recovering. But I want to talk about something smaller today.

In 1956 Nabokov wrote an afterword to Lolita.1

And when I thus think of Lolita, I seem to always pick out for special delectation such images as Mr. Taxovich, or that class list of Ramsdale school, or Charlotte saying “waterproof,” or Lolita in slow motion advancing toward Humbert’s gifts, or the pictures decorating the stylized garret of Gaston Godin, or the Kasbeam barber (who cost me a month of work)…These are the nerves of the novel. These are the secret points, the subliminal co-ordinates by means of which the book is plotted…

Vladimir Nabokov, “On a Book Entitled Lolita

I often talk about the “hidden hooks”, the secret places where a book’s tapestry is fastened to something solid in order to make it hang right. I hadn’t realized, though I’d read that afterword at least ten times, that Nabokov was talking about the same thing, though in his own inimitable style. Of course, a Perfessor of Reel True Litrachur will no doubt sniff that my work bears as much relation to Mr Sirin’s as a spavined nag to a gleaming unicorn, but that doesn’t concern me.

I gave what might be termed a violent start of recognition. (As ol’ Vlad might have said, a reader “leapt up, ruffling their hair.”)

One of the things giving me much trouble lately is a certain revision. I had to throw out some2 demands masked as suggestions, and once I did the work stopped resisting, dropping into high gear. My writing partner and agent deserve most of the credit, but a significant part must go to long-dead Vladimir Vladimirovich, who for all his genius struggled much as the rest of us do with writing a goddamn book.

There’s been a certain amount of Twitter Discourse lately on the perception that writing is just typing.3 The invisible parts of the process are difficult, time-consuming, and brutal in several different ways–and that doesn’t even cover the various pitfalls of actual publication, mind you.

Yet there are rewards, not least of which is reading someone else’s book for the fiftieth (or fifty-first, or thousandth) time and finding not only the solace and sustenance one needs but also hidden encouragement from one word-drunk wright to another. Of course he didn’t mean it thus, of course dear Sirin is long gone and probably wouldn’t have been interested in anything I penned.4

The connection remains. The recognition, the spark, the joy of finding a few words in a tongue one can decipher amid a mass of hieroglyphs, still endures. I desperately needed that reminder this week.

I can see finishing these particular revisions now, which is a distinct relief. More than that, a bit of hope has been infused into my bones again, though I have tried to avoid it–2020 kicked me in the teeth every time I gained a little bit of Pandora’s last gift, and 2021 shouted “hold my beer” in that regard.

The cockroach of hope, like my silly stubborn grasp on life itself, just won’t go away. After all, there’s work to be done, and I can’t give up as long as I have deadlines and obligations. The net above the abyss, slipping a bit lately, has caught on a nail.

So here I hang, listening to the whistling of the wind, weaving my own stories. The most I can hope for is that one day, someone else will catch upon a hook I drove into the fabric of my own work, and their slide for the edge is likewise arrested.

It’s a grimly beautiful thought, and I will hold it close for as long as I need to, today and tomorrow and afterward, until the end.

Mark of Survival

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I…may have recovered from the zero draft of Ghost Squad #2? Maybe?

I mean, the holiday didn’t help (even though there was pie, my gods, SO MUCH PIE) because I was on tenterhooks the entire time. The idea of getting some cheap Goodwill plates/other crockery for smashing early in the day–just to get the whole thing over with so I can relax–is highly seductive, and I might even brave said Goodwill one of these days before Yule.

If I can find a time when their parking lot isn’t flooded, either with maskless hordes or actual water. Our local Goodwill is…something else.

Anyway, I may have rewrapped my nerves a bit, which means next I turn all my engines toward a little more Hell’s Acre (now on Kindle Vella, too) but mostly onto revisions on The Black God’s Heart. I finished the latter’s zeroes during lockdown (amazing how many things I am saying that about lately) and both books undid me. It will probably be exhausting to revise them, but hopefully not in a bad way. After that I’ve Sons of Ymre #2 to write (Jake and the heroine are both speaking inside my head, albeit softly) and the second book of the Tolkien Viking Werewolves.

So my schedule is bloody well packed but I have a few things crossed off the master to-do list. The Hood omnibus is ready for its drop in January 2022, the zero of Klemp’s book is done, and I survived NaNoWriMo. January should also see Sons of Ymre #1 released, though I have no preorder links just yet. It’s enough to know the book’s on its way.

So I’m in that fragile stage of recovery where I can easily hurt myself by pushing. This is when most re-injury and spiraling back down into burnout generally happens, so I’m not allowed to work too hard.

That’s the balance. Working hard enough to stay afloat, but not so much that I tear all the scars back open. It’s like riding a unicycle while juggling flaming chainsaws and whistling a song one’s only heard once, and the penalty for any dropped note is an earthquake.

Fun, right? Why on earth would I choose any other job? Heh.

It’s Monday. The dogs are ready for their walkies, and there’s a run for my weary corpse to be accomplished–I took last week off and the itch under my skin is well-nigh unbearable. The coffee is almost absorbed; consequently, I am almost, almost fit for human consumption. I’ve also been unsubscribing from many a newsletter this morning, so am almost ready to start the new year with a clean digital slate.

Almost. Year-end housekeeping is generally a chore; this time around it’s a mark of survival. We’re still here, you and me.

Might as well get to work.

Cactus, On Time

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Right on time.

A whole lotta food was cooked and consumed yesterday (all the piiiiie, my gods) and the Christmas cactus from the old bookstore (the plant that survived the massive fire) is blooming again. I’ve a bit of work to do today, mostly stuff interrupted by the holiday, and then the weekend can start.

I’m looking forward to it.

Don’t forget Harmony is on sale for $3.99 across ebook platforms, and there’s my Books and Subscription pages if you’re looking to do a little Black Friday shopping. (There. That’s my Black Friday marketing done. Hallelujah.)

I hope you had a pleasant Thursday, my friends, and are anticipating an even more pleasant weekend. See you Monday.