Imperfect Strategy

A clear chilly Tuesday–not quite cold, but getting there–has dawned. I staggered into the kitchen to make coffee, a George Strait song playing inside my head, and decided I had to use Ronnie Milsap to clear things out. Milsap reliably works if I have a country-themed earworm, and has ever since I was a kid.

I don’t even know. I’m wired weird, but we all suspected as much.

Our state does mail-in ballots, and everyone in the house is of voting age and registered. We all went through the paper voter guide last week, went to our different rooms to fill in little boxes, and I took the sealed envelopes to the local ballot box since I don’t trust USPS with deJoy still in charge. (Why has that man not been booted out? Why?) There were pickup trucks parked nearby, and I watched each one carefully, ready to get the fuck out of there if right-wing goons appeared.

It was a sobering experience.

Now we wait–always my very favorite thing! I hate not being able to do anything while danger creeps nearer. I have little to zero hope, of course. Every time I’ve dared to hope over the past six-seven years, I get kicked right in the teeth. I’m done with that.

So, today will be spent trying to keep myself occupied with work. The new cover for Spring’s Arcana, the page proofs–seventy-five of them knocked off yesterday, only 293 to go–and wordcount for the NaNo novel, correspondence, other things to keep my fingers busy and my heart from hurting. It’s an imperfect strategy, since my heart will ache no matter what I find to keep myself busy with, and working will be like swimming against a riptide. Still, I’ve got to try.

The alternative is even grimmer.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my dears. We’re all reeling after years of historical-grade shocks. The wonder is that we’re all still trying to work, sparking and hissing with static, desperately transmitting and receiving despite All This. I think we all deserve a cuppa and a pat on the back, not to mention a nap. And possibly a whole box of cookies.

Que sera, sera, and all that. At least we’ve got each other, and a few stories to tell around whatever small, wan fire we’re clustering for warmth. It’s my job to tell the tales, no matter what else is going on. And it’s also my job to walk Boxnoggin, who could not care less about human politics. He’s got other concerns, and would very much like me to do something about them.

Needs must, when the devil drives–or when the dog needs a ramble. Off I go, my beloveds.

See you around.

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…

Fuss Minimum

The first coffee molecules have hit my epithelial cells, so I’m just waiting for the rest of me to get the sweet life-giving caffeine memo. Boxnoggin is a little perturbed that we’re up while it’s still dark outside, but he’ll adjust. Especially if there’s toast involved, which there will be as soon as my stomach settles and the morning mug is drained.

Yesterday was unsatisfying, but then again, what did I expect of a Monday? I did get some work done, but multiple rounds of updates for the desktop meant plenty of perfectly good working time was spent doing things that weren’t writing. Sure, some administrivia and cleaning got handled, but what I wanted was to be creating. Just settling in my office chair, stretching my fingers, and slipping into other worlds is my preferred way to spend a rainy day. The more I work now, the easier November will be.

At least it is raining, the air is nice and clean, and I got a bit of a run in. I think part of the problem is being unable to really hit the pavement; I miss the endorphins. In any case, I hit a horrid mood halfway through the afternoon, and even cinnamon rolls didn’t help. Fortunately, dinner put paid to most of my nasty temper, and I could spend a little time afterward fiddling with a new video opener. I meant to do a bit of narrating too, but the smoke rasp is still lingering in my throat.

Today I get to run again. Not for long, and not quickly, but it will have to be enough. And Boxnoggin will get a long ramble to wear himself out with. While I’m occupied with both I can build the next few scenes in both Hell’s Acre and Fall of Waterstone so when I settle at my desk both will flow with a minimum of fuss. If all goes well and I treat my throat with gallons of tea today, I might even get the narration done. Of course that last is a completely self-chosen task, but I’d still like to get it handled. I think you guys’ll like what I’m planning.

Boxnoggin is draped across his office bed, not-quite-snoring. Of course, we just rolled out of my bed a little while ago, and he grumble-groused all through the visit to his grand outdoor loo. I think he’s put out that his morning nap schedule has been altered somewhat, and also very annoyed at the damp. Each winter it’s the same thing; he believes that naturally I am in charge of the weather and for some incomprehensible reason have decided to personally inflict rain on his poor delicate paws. “THIS NEVER HAPPENED IN TEXAS,” he moans, despite the fact that we all know it does, indeed, rain in the Lone Star State. (Sometimes quite heavily, too.)

He’ll adjust, but it’ll take a week or two of constant bitching. I can’t throw stones, I react in much the same way to the advent of summer. Between the two of us, nobody’s happy. Enduring relationships have been built on far less, and though I am a cruel goddess whose methods and means are inscrutable to his poor canine brain, I’m also the benevolent matron who dabs bacon grease in his bowl, brushes him, and provides treats on a daily basis. So he puts up with the rain, figuring I must have my reasons, and I put up with his bratty self during walkies, figuring the joy of his presence more than makes up for it. (And, to be fair, plenty of people see him strapped to my waist and decide to give us a wide berth, which is all to the good.)

The world is quiet. The east is greying. The coffee is cooling, and today I have to get Miss Dove home, plan the Rook’s next assassination attempt, and get a Viking elementalist into the throne hall of a particularly stiff-necked elvish king. Oh, and narrate a half-hour or so of something marvelous. All told, it’s nice work if you can get it, and hopefully most of the day will go to plan. I’m sure there will be a few misbehaving moments, but at least it’s not a Monday anymore.

Small mercies, and all that.

Exercise in Direction

The air quality is still awful (169, it says, and higher is NOT better), though there is very little fog. Stepping outside for Boxnoggin’s matutinal unloading-slash-constitutional made me cough, and my eyes are still streaming. I look like a drama heroine who just found out the male lead’s been injured; if I was wearing eyeliner it would be raccoon-smears. Still, near noon the wind should shift to the west and all this nastiness start to break up, and of course the weather folk say tomorrow will bring long-anticipated rain. The air will be cleaned and the forest fires hopefully damped a bit; perhaps we can even relax a little and not be ready for evacuation.

To be absolutely precise, the Chez won’t need to be evacuated but we’re standing by in case friends are forced to. Everything is prepped and ready, and I’ve even baked extra bread. That’s one (perhaps the only) good thing about the weather, I have been able to perform some kitchen witchery. It’s a saving grace.

I’ve hit the part of revision recovery where I want to work on something just for me, so yesterday about 5k of an epic fantasy nobody will ever read fell out of my head. It was lovely to scratch the itch until it bled. Hopefully I’m on track to get back to other work now, too. My ability to shift and recover has been hammered relentlessly over the past few years; I’m not feeling quite my usual elastic self.

And tomorrow’s a release day. Sticking my head in a (filtered) bucket while hiding in a cave seems a glorious idea indeed.

Dawn is virulently pink in the east, almost a “sailors take warning” shade. Boxnoggin does not care about air quality, the entire concept being well above his pay grade. All he knows is that morning is for walkies, and Mum has almost finished her coffee so it’s nearly time. I might mask up to take him around the block, though that won’t help my eyes. The worst is not being able to run. Between this and the recent ankle injury, I haven’t been able to hit the pavement anywhere near enough, and it’s really telling on my mood. I’m heartily sick of summer’s claws still stuck in the hide of the year; I want this over with. At least if it’s raining I won’t choke to death on smoke.

…I probably shouldn’t say that, since it will no doubt force the universe to arrange such a treat for me. Ah well. I’m also trying to not even look at the news cycle, in self-defense. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Normally at this point in my day I’ve got a good idea of what I’m going to accomplish, whether it be planning or execution. This Thursday, however, I have no friggin’ clue. Maybe I’ll narrate a few more saucy stories; maybe I’ll get a wild hare about podcast structure. Certainly there’ll be a subscription drop, and there are arrangements to be made for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve pretty much decided that last bit will be devoted to book two of the Tolkien Viking Werewolves, so there’s that.

Maybe I’m more organized than I thought. (Yes, you can stop laughing now, that was said with tongue firmly in cheek.)

I’m on the last swallow of coffee and as soon as I shift in my chair Boxnoggin will be beside himself with gleeful anticipation. First coffee, then toast, then walkies–this is the Way, according to him, and woe betide the poor dumb human who interferes with that schedule. Mandalorians have nothing on the guilt induced by a pair of big, sad, brown doggy eyes. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a complete sucker for a beloved canine.

We all have our little weaknesses. Anyway, the sooner the subscription drop is queued and NaNo planning done, the sooner I can sneak back to that epic fantasy and get the main character into trouble at a banquet. Once that peters out I’ll be ready to embark on the next round of feverish work, and not a moment too soon. Apparently I need to be kept off the smoggy streets and out of trouble, assuming that’s possible.

Happy Thursday, my beloveds. The rain is almost, almost here. I often say I can put up with just about anything if I know when it’s going to end, and this summer has certainly been an exercise in that direction. But, ending or not, it still has a few more hits to get in. I suppose I’d better get braced to endure them.

See you around.

Knife-Edge, Smoke

A smoky dawn–not nearly so red as other years’ haze, and we’re not having the ash fall in this part of the county. Eastward it’s a mess, naturally, and we’re all watching the evacuation orders carefully. There’s not much risk in the precise place our particular house is, but we’re preparing to offer shelter if necessary.

I like helping people, but I hate that it’s necessary because of greedy corporate bastards frying the planet. At least there are some competent folks in disaster response, and at least this is happening after some of the infrastructure repair money has been applied. So here I sit, trembling on the knife edge of “thank the gods this isn’t happening two years ago.” And they say there will be rain by the end of the week.

Gods willing and the creek don’t fail completely, to coin a phrase.

Having to just sit and wait is a particular type of hell. Sartre covered the most common type, naturally, but I think a case could be made that having to hold oneself ready and braced for the next punch is just as awful.

In any case, I sent off the revised Cold North. Revision brain still has me in its mushy, Swiss-cheese grip. I’ll probably do some narration today, since I can get that done in 20min chunks and reading aloud doesn’t use any creation or revision muscles. I do have to get a thorough top-to-bottom reread of Hell’s Acre in, since we’re on the last half of the last book. That duology might not ever be published; writing it all through pandemic has done the story a bit of disservice. Certain passages remind me of how upset I was while writing them.

I should also get the monthly newsletter planned. There’s all sorts of things to talk about, from That Damn Werelion Book to this month’s sale(s) to the upcoming release. I’m fighting the imposter syndrome which always arrives after I finish a draft or revision, letting the wave pass over and through me. I know it’s just the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion of finishing a large project, and snapback is natural.

It sucks each time.

If I’m very good today, I’ll allow myself another episode or two of Love Like the Galaxy. Leo Wu’s cape game is on point the entire way through, and I’m low-key obsessed with the entire story. I have to set myself some arbitrary goal to accomplish before I can watch more, though. That way the work will get done and I’ll get a double dopamine hit of watching a drama and knowing I made it to a benchmark. Gaming one’s own brain chemistry is the only way to survive, my friends.

If I can just get through until dusk I’ll call it a win. At least it won’t be 80F today. Summer keeps attempting to burn, but the harvest goddess has probably had about enough of All This. I roundly concur.

Let us embark upon Monday, my beloveds. At least by evening we should have some breathable air…

Nibbled By Minutiae

I finally got to the giant spiders in Cold North yesterday. 2.5k more words, and the last third of the book is feeling much smoother. Three more chapters to revise, then I can call this done…

…and start working on Book 2, at last. I can’t wait to do the Fall of Gondolin in my own inimitable style. It’s nice to be working in epic fantasy again–I like writing contemporary, but I also like the chance to stretch my wings a bit and use more archaic language. The formality appeals to me, as well as neologisms. Lo, I contain multitudes.

I’m super relieved I’ll be able to hit the amended deadline on this particular revision. What with the pandemic and all, the schedule is super behind. But I suppose any Tolkien Viking Werewolf series is going to have some problems, and last a little longer than one expects. It’s in the nature of the beast; walking to Mordor takes more than a day.

Speaking of which, Boxnoggin wants his walkies, and we’re almost out of bread. Or, to be more precise, we’re almost out of the particular type of bread everyone likes, which necessitates a trip to the grocer’s since we’re out of almost everything else too. The minutiae of daily life is threatening to nibble me to death when all I want to do is finish this revision and dive right into the next book. I’ve got Hell’s Acre to think of, too, and getting the second Sons of Ymre revised and sent to the editor.

I’m told we’ll have final covers for The Dead God’s Heart soon as well, so that’ll be nice. And there’s news coming about a certain cyborg assassin book as well as a previously written Baba Yaga tale. Basically everything is happening all at once. The dam appears to be creaking and springing a few leaks, if not breaking outright. Which is a relief, I could do with some good news.

Now if it would just rain. The nearby wildfire has been deemed human-caused–don’t worry, we’re in no danger, but my heart aches for everyone who is. No precipitation help in the forecast either, despite it being nearly mid-October. I could easily despair, but there’s too much work to be done.

So I wend my way on through Thursday. Never could quite get the hang of these, no matter how often I practice; at the moment, I just keep gritting my teeth and repeating Friday is tomorrow, just hang on, Friday is coming. I hope you’re having a more pleasant time of it, my beloveds.

See you around…

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.