Week, Story, Pursuit

I have decided I will not leap like a feral wolverine upon the fresh new week. Instead, I will pursue it like a stoat, steady and fixated, until the arbitrary sevenday drops dead of exhaustion and I may feast.

…I may have been watching a lot of Casual Geographic lately, can you tell? In any case, I’m more comfortable as a pursuit predator anyway. I may not be awfully fast (save for when I’m teleporting to save a toddler or a dumbass canine from Bad Decisions) but I am patient, and there’s plenty of endurance lingering in this ol’ wreck.

Anyway, welcome to Monday, everyone. We were at dinner last night and my daughter obliquely referenced Edmund Pevensie’s taunting of the Telmarines. I commented that Edmund being known as “the Just” was as close as CS Lewis could get to admitting he admired the Jesuits, then I laughed like a loon and both kids looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

Which happens rather a lot, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I always wanted to write a story where Aslan was the Big Bad, Jadis the White Witch and Edmund were the heroes, and the other three Pevensies were kind of bumbling impediments except for Susan, who is awesome no matter which way you slice it. And it is my firm headcanon that Susan never forgot Narnia, she just knew her homeworld needed her more. Because let’s face it, Aslan is a complete, humorless, psychopathic, unjust, incredible dick and I wouldn’t want him yanking me around more either.

Any Christian allegories have a difficult time covering up the sheer maliciousness of their sky god, especially in the Old Testament; really, the problem with allegory is that it lays bare a great deal of what one wants to hide as well as the truth one wishes to distill and reveal. I always suspected Lewis wrote ol’ Screwtape more to convince himself than anyone else. Tolkien seems to have viewed Lewis as Treebeard, taking so much of “the long view” as to be paralyzed with indecision; on the other hand, an Ent’s crisis of faith or confidence might not be visible to even an elf walking alongside through shadowed woods.

November was supposed to be the month I wrote the second book of A Particular Series, or at least 50k of it. Alas, it was not meant to be, but at least I think I’ve resurrected the damn thing. It took a lot of work, a lot of dry-heaving over my office wastebasket, forcing my recalcitrant body to the task. Of course my meatsuit is taking revenge at the moment. Apparently I will patiently coax any creature except my own stubborn self. Regardless, today is for stepping back into that world; this trilogy is having a difficult birth. Misunderstood by everyone but its mother, I suppose. I have to have some kind of faith it will all come out right, that it will reach the people who need it.

Sometimes I admire Lewis’s faith. Sometimes I pity his loneliness–always waiting for someone else to rescue one, instead of building a raft of whatever trash is to hand. The problem with the waiting is that the bones of those who waited in vain are silent; it’s only the “saved” we hear from, confirmation bias at its most absolute. I want the skeletons to stand up, to take their murderers and betrayers to account.

These are the things I think about on a Monday morning while my coffee cools. When I finally down the dregs, Boxnoggin will be waiting for me to make breakfast, beside himself with joy at the prospect of crusts and walkies. To him I am the changeless elf, a sorceress who can make light with a flick of her fingers, a goddess who provides kibble, warmth, direction. Makes me wonder if the gods see humans as we view dogs–they don’t make good choices, but they’re loving. Look how I dressed mine up! Oh, ouch, I can’t afford to take this one to the vet…why, oh why, are their lives so short?

I can’t decide if we make stories to escape the confines of the world, or because our world is so impossibly beautiful. Porque no los dos, right? In the end, what matters is the transmutation, the act of creating, the act of love.

So I lope after this week, reserving my strength, following tracks in sand as the wind rises, noting broken branches which speak of my prey’s direction and speed, discerning slight scuffs on bare rock. I hunt this arbitrary division of time, moving through other universes written into being by people long dead, creating my own out of the infinite multiverses lingering in my own bones and breath, the stories lined up around the block waiting for their chance to speak through me.

As I pursue, so am I pursued. That chain is infinite too.

But I’m done with coffee now and Boxnoggin is prancing down the hall. The hunt is afoot, and so I must be as well. See you around, my beloveds.

(But Aslan’s still a dick. I SAID WHAT I SAID.)

Broken Giant

Shattered on the shoulder.

I’m late to the Friday photo post, my beloveds. Things are suboptimal right now–a series that was very much books of my heart has been killed, and I am mourning. We’ll see what happens once the dust settles–it may be that I just have to write the damn thing anyway in my copious spare time. (Yeah, go ahead, laugh. But where there’s a will there’s a mothafuggin way, and I am slopping over with willpower.)

Heartache or no, Boxnoggin needs his walkies. We were ambling uphill, and he stopped to sniff this scattering of concrete or rock–can’t tell which, I am no geologist. But I looked at the detritus and thought, even a pebble can bring down a giant.

It’s not quite as catchy as some phrases, but it’s giving me a lot of solace today. Also, the arrangement of stone and stem made me think of trees with stone leaves, and that’s an image going into a book someday, I can tell you.

The weekend is almost here. I’m so weary, friends. And yet as long as I can reach a pebble, I have a chance of bringing down whatever I need to.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Downhill to the Last Nerve

I dislike corporations treating me as a dirty little impediment while profiting from my work almost as much as I dislike ebook thieves clogging my inbox with demands to “write faster”, and this week has been full to the gills with both, as well as various other fun things. Burning everything down and walking into the sea has rarely seemed so attractive, and the gods know I’ve been only a few short steps away from that strategy, especially since Afterwar was published.

I don’t mind hard work. I do mind being taken advantage of, and I definitely mind outright theft of said hard work. I mind cruelty, and pathological entitlement. And, though it may be entirely too sensitive of me, I also mind pettifogging bullshitters who have never written a novel attempting to tell me how to do so, or making silly demands which clearly show they haven’t bothered to actually read a text, just let their eyes sort of halfass skim over it while busily muttering to themselves about what they think it contains, or what they want it to contain so they can feel justified verbally shitting on me.

As you can guess, this week–which started out on a lovely holiday–has somewhat gone downhill. I’m on my absolute last nerve, and after three years of abandonment by public health authorities during a pandemic, several more years of rising, vile, violent fascism, and hitting deadlines all the way through as well as releasing extra books…well, perhaps it’s not entirely out of the question that a girl might snap under these conditions.

Worst of all is the sense that nobody (even among those paid to do so) is listening to my polite requests for aid. Screaming might get some help, but I refuse to be so undignified. And yes, I know we’re all worn down to the bone right now. I could understand if the response was, “hang on a second, let me get a hand free,” or even “I’m sorry, I don’t have the resources,” but instead it’s been “you’re always so strong, why would you need help now? Just shut up.”

One learns a lot under these conditions, not only about oneself but also about other people. The individuals (and businesses) treating me awfully right now are ones who will almost certainly attempt to extort something from me in the future, and will be shocked–shocked, I say–when I do not respond in the way they expect. “But you were always so nice!”

You were swimming in the sheltered waters of my patience then, not a lagoon of someone’s weakness. That is what’s called a critical distinction, and sooner or later will bite you on the ass. My trust thermocline is almost reached.

Time to finish the dregs of morning espresso, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. I suspect I’ll even be able to get a run in today, which will be welcome indeed. I’ve put off a few weighty decisions because I want make them under conditions of relative zen after I’ve pounded away a great deal of stress chemicals and irritation on pavement.

Happy Thursday, everyone. If you’re down to your Last Bloody, Vibrating, Frayed-to-Nothing Nerve too, I hope you take a little comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Franky, I’m surprised more of us haven’t gone absolutely bananas and cleaned some house. I’m actually rather comforted, in an odd way, by just how truly patient most humans are proving at this particular historical juncture.

I’d’ve expected us to snap (and bring out the guillotines) long before now. Can’t decide if I’m happy to be wrong, though…

RELEASE DAY: Duty

The wind has shifted westward and we’re supposed to have rain this very day, which should clean the air a bit. I can’t wait–my eyes sting and I cough every time I have to step outside. And, wouldn’t you know, it’s also a release day!


Duty

After nearly dying on his team’s last mission, Paul Klemperer is heading home for the first time since signing up for the Army. His hometown’s grown a little. The inhabitants are older. And life has moved on, but some things are still the same. Like the way he feels about the girl he left behind—who ended up marrying someone else.

Beck Sommers has a divorce in the works; if she can just hold on, she’ll be able to leave this godforsaken town. Unfortunately, her soon-to-be-ex-husband has other ideas. Her first love Paul has returned as well, making things even more complicated. And then there’s the corruption, the drugs…and murder.

Beck’s determined to fix what’s gone wrong, but she has no idea how deep the corruption goes. And Paul? Well, he’s a little behind on the local news, but one thing’s for sure—he’s not letting Beck get away this time.

First, though, he’ll have to keep her alive…

Now available from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Amazon, and Kobo

If you’re interested, the book’s soundtrack is here.


This is Book 2 of Ghost Squad. I knew Klemperer–who readers will remember as a much-needed bit of lightness in Damage, being nearly brained by a milk crate–was going to head home for a family reunion and get into trouble. It took a bit of work to get him to open up, because he’s the Squad’s jokester and those tend to be extremely lonely people. He’s Dez’s second-in-command, and likes being in that particular position; it’s his job to get people moving in the right direction with a minimum of bitching once his squad leader has decided on a course of action. Consequently, he tends to cover his real feelings with a shield of jokes, evasion, and deep competence others often mistake for indifference. I watched a lot of M*A*S*H growing up, and Klemp takes a little from Hawkeye, a little from Radar, and a whole lot from Trapper John. He’s also very exceedingly loosely based on a certain soldier, anonymous by his own preference, who was gracious enough to tell me about some of his experiences in-country and his difficulties upon return. (Thank you, my friend; you’re one funny motherfucker.)

And then there’s Beck, who was left behind and suffered at least as much. There were no bullets or mortars, yet those aren’t the entirety of what makes a war zone. Getting her to open up was a chore, though I understood the problem wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk. She just knew nobody would listen, so she resolved to shut down. Which…I understood, having used the same strategy myself. Often, at great length, and to my own detriment.

Granite River is a fictional place, though it’s set in a very specific geographical region–the southern end of northwestern Oregon, at the end of a long chill damp winter before spring has done any appreciable warming. My beta and early readers told me, sometimes with a great deal of discomfort, that I’d absolutely nailed the dynamics of living in a small town with a dead textile mill (or other industry) and a lot of meth swimming through. And one of my early readers told me, in tones of awe and great discomfort, that the book was a little difficult to read because it described her own experience in an abusive relationship.

The human being in me was horrified at having caused any distress, while the writer in me pumped her fist and was gleeful at having gotten it right.

Individual writers have individual fascinations. One of my particular hobbyhorses is the effects of trauma–how people deal with it, and how they recover. What are the effects on someone’s personality after they’ve suffered something violent or horrifying, whether it be abuse or combat? What’s the way through? This fascinates me both because of my own traumatic experiences and those of people I care for. A soldier’s post-traumatic stress might not be seen the same way as an abuse victim’s, but both suffer after the fact. How do people cope, and how do they break when they can’t–or aren’t allowed to?

I already have the next installment of the Squad’s series in my head, though it’ll have to wait until revisions on the second Sons of Ymre are done. But in the meantime, here’s Klemp and Beck’s story, and I hope you like it.

Now I’m gonna go stick my head in a bucket and hyperventilate, as is my wont on release days. Happy Friday, my beloveds, and I hope you like this latest offering.

See you around.

Smoke, Fog, Music

Dawn hasn’t quite begun yet, though the east is greying rapidly and an insomniac bluejay–probably Ed–gave a sleepy screech or two while Boxnoggin was out for his morning potty break. Heavy fog hangs between the trees, weighing down the dry dust of drought summer, and gasping earth is waiting for real water. There’s no petrichor, merely the smell of almost-damp leaves and wildfire smoke. Somewhere in the neighborhood sprinklers are running; Boxnoggin’s collar jingles as he patrols the house, making certain all is as it should be.

I have coffee. My eyes are dry and grainy; my entire body aches. There’s only a few more days to wait for rain. I’ve made endurance a centerpiece of my coping mechanisms, and this is the drawback; I’m not sure I’m gonna make it. I keep expecting a sudden shift in the wind, a tornado of fire sweeping up the street. I’ve been braced for the worst since mid-2015, and while the situation hasn’t met my very darkest imaginings (yet) it’s stayed at such a pitch of awfulness in so many ways. The fillips and refinements of agony in reality put paid to anything a poor benighted writer could come up with.

(Still mad I took the respiratory plague out of the first few drafts of Afterwar. That’ll teach me to trust my instincts.)

Now a pine flicker’s joined Ed the Gentleman Bluejay. I’m sure Stede is around somewhere–probably stuffing his face at the sunflower feeder, since that seems to be his overarching goal in life next to hanging out in the rhododendron under my office window and screaming at his boyfriend. The rest of the Bluejay Krewe seem to have gone elsewhere; ever since the smoke thickened we haven’t had an afternoon with seven-eight-plus jays in the yard. It’s a little quieter, though Ed and Stede try to make up for it by yelling their tiny dinosaur heads off with a passion.

I’m tired, though I just got out of bed. Going back in seems the best idea in the world, but there’s work to do–prepping for NaNoWriMo (funny, last year I was doing Klemp’s book for NaNo, and said book will be out on the 21st), getting Hell’s Acre situated, and various other things. My head is still ringing from the Cold North revision. Seems to be taking longer and longer to bounce back these days.

Fog. Smoke. Endurance. Such are the things today is made of, as summer’s last fingertip is pried from a throat. Shoes keep dropping, a mountain of them achieving tsunami height, and I keep waiting for more to thud down. The birds have quieted as the east continues to lighten, but there’s a rustling as squirrels begin the morning laps around the sea of branches.

After a while the pain becomes merely background noise. Boxnoggin still expects his walkies–though not quite yet, since the damp is mounting. The words still have to flow, the edits still have to be made, the proof pages still need to be eyeballed. The bills have to be paid and the children hugged. There’s so much more to give, though my barrel is scraped-dry empty.

Ah well. Only a few more days to wait for rain. I’ve made it through every other year, this one should prove no different. Onward, inward, upward, excelsior, and all that.

Welcome to Tuesday. Take a deep breath, finish the last gulp of coffee, and let’s endure another siege of sunlight. It’s painful, naturally…

…but the alternative is worse. We’re still here, still fighting. Grab a shoe, grab a bucket, any weapon will do. Let the noise rise and fall as it pleases, there’s music underneath.

Today, through the smoke and the noise, we dance.

Arachnid Verisimilitude

Gossamer veils.

Tis the season for misty mornings, which means these spiderwebs stand out amid evergreen foliage. There’s some polyester knockoffs (Halloween decorations) in the neighborhood, but it’s easy to tell the real from the decorative. I often feel like I should remove twigs and leaf litter, but never do so because that’s probably verisimilitude for the poor spider, who’s just trying to get some lunch.

I’ve had well-meaning strangers interfere while I’m hungry too, after all.

I have revision brain–Cold North is just about ready to go back to the editor, squeaking right under the deadline wire–and a bad case of exhaustion. Despite that I am looking forward to this week’s Reading with Lili, which will be about Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, the ladies in Dracula’s castle, and Victorian misogyny. (It’ll be on Twitch first, YouTube later, as always.) I have an inbox full of stuff for The Dead God’s Heart and the preorder rodeo that is Duty as well, so that’s got to be dealt with before I can knock off and maybe take a day or so to breathe. (And watch more Love Like the Galaxy, which I am currently low-key obsessed with.)

Before that, there’s walkies and a slow, short, easy run to get my wounded ankle back into the game. No mist this morning, yet I’ll smile at every spider-house.

I wish you a wonderful weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other.

Over and out.

Slog, Vicarious Grace

Hauling myself out of bed today feels like a mistake, but the revisions must be done. I’m tired of going through moderation queues, yet the alternative is missing the reasonable comments from perfectly nice people. Being overwhelmed by work is uncomfortable, but vastly preferable to having none at all.

In short, there’s just no winning today. At least the house is quiet and the coffee is good. Once the caffeine sinks in I’ll feel loads better, and once the rains start again I’ll be all right. Everyone gets tired; the trick is to keep breathing and swimming for shore even when the agony hits.

I suppose my current doldrums are also a function of enduring three years of pandemic with no end in sight, not to mention screaming myself hoarse about the rise of fascist dickwads and being ignored on both counts. I suppose I would have to be much more worried if I didn’t feel like the low end of the pool under these conditions, but knowing that intellectually and finding any comfort in the knowledge are two very separate things.

At least there’s always the stories. Cold North is chugging along, and once I get this revision done I’ll be able to work on the serial, revise the second Sons of Ymre, and get the second Black Land’s Bane book seriously underway. The last will be late, but I’ve hit every deadline through the pandemic so far and I think after three goddamn years of this bullshit–plus the fact that I literally couldn’t start the second book until the first had been revised at least once–grants me a bit of grace. I loathe being behind, I dread and positively hate missing any kind of deadline, and yet if I was hearing this from another writer in my position I’d be telling them to take a deep breath and try to focus on what’s been accomplished even through enduring historical events and Interesting Times.

It’s just all so exhausting, and I woke up this morning even more tired than when I’d gone to bed. I’m pretty sure it’s just a wave, that the feelings and exhaustion will pass over and through me. When it’s gone I’ll turn the inner eye to see its path, and all that.

It would help if I could run. I’m stuck on easy, very slow 2km stumble-staggers while the wounded ankle is slowly strengthened and brought back to full function. The lack of endorphins from a good bruising session of hauling my corpse along at what passes for high speed probably feeds into the sense of despair. At least the multiple-mile rambles with Boxnoggin help somewhat, even if they are only at hobbling pace. By the end of walkies he’s in a grand mood, and so tired he’s well-behaved for the rest of the day.

Silver linings, and all that. Tuesday is looking like an uphill slog all the way, my beloveds. If you’re feeling the same, try to remember we’re (still) enduring a great deal, there has been no respite, and it’s perfectly reasonable, not to mention sane, to be a bit tired amidst All This.

Just keep holding the line. Some days, that’s all we can aim for. I suppose I’d best get started; the coffee is cooling and a certain square-headed canine has just pranced down the hall, anticipating that soon I’ll make a move toward toast. At least he’s having a grand time, and I can feel a bit of vicarious joy.

It’ll have to be enough.