Experiment Continues Apace

Was banging my head against Riversinger and Minnowsharp last night. I know I’m close to the end, I can feel it, but the scene just wasn’t cooperating and I couldn’t scrap it entirely. I threatened, grumbled, stared at the screen, paced my office, tried a bit of the t’ai chi video I’m attempting to relearn the movements from. (Long story, another blog post.)

Nothing doing. Absolutely nothing fucking doing, and Introvert Me is drained from all sorts of socializing in the past few days. So I finally threw up my hands, decided I was the worst writer in the world, and went to bed early. I watched an episode and a half of a Chinese costume drama, read some of Gosden’s History of Magic (Genji is irritating me, so it was time for a break), and turned off the light while gnashing my teeth.

And then, this morning, while Boxnoggin was attempting to wedge his nose more firmly into my armpit and my sunrise clock was just beginning to glow, the missing piece of the damn puzzle sashayed into my head. Either a passing spirit took pity on me, the Muse had enough fun and decided to stop fucking around, or my subconscious could finally get through the static. Can’t guess which, don’t care, just glad I’ve got the goddamn scene now.

The only thing remaining is to write it. After breakfast and walkies and running my corpse, during which I’ll turn the whole thing over and over inside my head, planning and looking for weak spots. I did think I’d get at least one zero draft done this week, but it doesn’t look likely. And the weekend will be spent with copyedits which do rather need to be addressed even with everything else going on.

*sigh* It’s always something.

The Attempting To Be Kind To Myself experiment continues apace. Part of that is not agonizing over using the block button. As Cory Booker so memorably put it, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. And I don’t have to put up with annoying randos, especially the “I didn’t bother to read the article you linked and I have an objection (covered by the article itself) that I DEMAND you answer” ones.

There’s all sorts of stuff happening–publicity requests for the Spring’s Arcana release, household purge-cleaning to do, this business thing and that business thing, nervously anticipating tax season…honestly I don’t even have time to walk into the sea, though the thought of disappearing into a bog and only returning to town every six months with a new manuscript to send in sounds marvelously enticing.

I’ll feel better once this zero is done, and once these goddamn copyedits are off my plate. It’s hard when one feels nobody else in the room even likes the series one has spent so long polishing, let alone is excited about it. Ideally the books would have at least one other advocate; unfortunately that seems impossible under current conditions. I have to believe in the bloody story thrice as hard to make up for it–which is a masterclass in being kind to myself, I guess.

I would have liked some more time on easy mode, but the universe has a vastly inflated idea of my capabilities. Fortunately stubbornness–and a little spite–might be able to compensate.

After all, I’ve come this far. Believing in myself just a wee bit might not be a bad thing, and is perhaps even warranted.

We’ll see.

Modes, Bright Spots, and Dog Rituals

I am a rapidly thinning rope stretched between stress nausea, other health problems, and the determination to keep going. I joke a lot about stubborn endurance being my only real talent, but good gods it’s painful. Being in publishing is like wielding Pullman’s “subtle knife”–it always cuts the writer, and thought some people can make the wound better (looking at you, Beta Reader Who Just Gave Me The Strength To Go On, you know who you are) it never heals completely. The industry is set up to be tremendously exploitative of the people who are actually doing the damn work, whether it be writers (keep ’em below the poverty level!) or editorial assistants (unsung heroes working for peanuts) or or or.

Then you add in ebook thieves atop it, and…well. It’s enough to make one despair.

If I don’t look at my inbox I can actually get a day’s work done, but that just means borrowing trouble. I suppose things will get a little easier if I can manage to finish a zero draft, either of Rook’s Rose (which will bring Hell’s Acre to an end and make the problems there revision instead of creation, always assuming I’m going to publish the duology) or of Riversinger and Minnowsharp, but the latter series is on life support and I’m fighting so hard just to keep it breathing I don’t know what I’m gonna do going into Book 3.

The strain of the past few years is rather beginning to tell, I think. Shifting from crisis mode into attempting-to-heal, or even just a mode mitigating the damage, is tremendously difficult. I’m also watching the whole AI chatbot thing go down, which is big fun all the way ’round. I’ve taken to joking that I should label my work as “100% human extract, 0% AI content”, which is HILARIOUS but doesn’t solve any underlying problems.

Ah well. I have to laugh, otherwise I’ll start screaming.

At least there’s always Boxnoggin. One of his favorite games is burrowing under the covers in the morning; he’s a terrier mix, and those positively love wriggling into dark spaces. (It’s the rat-hunting they were bred for.) But, since he is a dog of Ritual and Habit, this has to take a very specific form. I must first wriggle under the covers, being completely covered and “invisible” to him–since he has very little object permanence–before crooning, “Wheeeere’s Boxnoggin’s-real-name? Where is he?” at specific volume and cadence.

I must also leave an aperture large enough for his snoot to discover, both because he cannot–despite trying with all his might and main–solve a puzzle if it’s too difficult and because otherwise I will be suffocated by his enthusiastic efforts to do so against all odds, for if the puzzle is too complex the dog will apply his entire being, soul and body entire, to brute-forcing it. So I have to make the hole just large enough, and help him while he flails desperately to get into the Hoomin Sheet-Cave.

Once he arrives there is a positive explosion of joy, licking my nose and everything else he can reach, before he curls into a tight ball, waiting for me to arrange the covers just so. Then, with only the tip of his cold wet nose exposed to the outside air, he promptly hits his canine snooze button and is out for as long as I can stand being still. Afterwards he is amazed–AMAZED, I tell you–when I finally struggle out of the wreckage, because he has forgotten the rest of the world exists. And I start the day laughing, because dogs, man.

We don’t deserve them.

I suppose I’d best finish the coffee and get something solid in me; said canine doofus needs his ramble and I will explode if I don’t get a run in. Being trapped by the weather, lacking exercise endorphins, is not doing me any good at all. I have the next scenes needing to be written in both projects currently on the burners prepped, and half the weekend is going to be taken up with proofreader queries. I just knew there was going to be one more kink in the production hose for these particular works; when one sets out to write about divinities of any stripe, one invites such things.

There are bright spots, even in the current mess. It’s hard to focus on them, yet I keep trying.

Endurance has to be good for something.

Guarding the Doors

Snow is still lingering in patches, but I’m betting the pavements will be much clearer. We had bands of snow and sun yesterday, the weather unable to decide what it wanted and my sinuses throbbing like a particularly dedicated marimba band. Boxnoggin will be very happy for a longer ramble; yesterday’s had to be cut short because of his tender paws, albeit not nearly as short as previous ones where we barely got halfway down the hill. And forget running outside, despite my hopes! It was the treadmill or nothing.

The yard is still a shambles. That’s a problem for another day. Week. Month. Whatever.

I’m slowly getting my fire back under me. It’s difficult, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If I can just get one particular problem sorted, my productivity will skyrocket. Unfortunately that problem is one that has developed over multiple years and I’m going to have to wait a wee bit longer to get it done up–assuming anyone will listen to me, the person actually doing the work, about what’s necessary to fix it.

I’m not sanguine about that. I suppose part of my hesitation could be a persecution complex, but is it really a complex when the entire industry’s set up to be exploitative? I dunno. I’m bracing myself to be ignored or derided once more, which is hardly the most productive mindset for problem-solving. I recognize this, yet there’s only so much battering even the sunniest optimism can take before it goes underground and leaves cynicism, not to mention apathy, to guard the doors.

On a (much) brighter note, I was pleasantly surprised at a throwaway name in Hell’s Acre turning into a really satisfying (to me) character homage. (Look, I love Jason Statham, all right?) And Sevring the valet has become a quite crucial minor character, which I never expected but is quite useful as I’m tying things up and getting ready to write the climax. I still don’t know who’s going to win the combat scene I’m currently constructing, so I’ll probably be blocking it out mentally while Boxnoggin prances. I mean, I have plans no matter who wins, but I really would like the valet to catch a break…even though he’s far from decent, being the Main Antagonist’s henchman. If he ends up dead it’ll be tragic.

I suppose I’ll have to write it and see, but that can’t happen until the dog is walked and certain other chores are Taken Care Of. Already this morning I’ve done the last few pronunciations for an audiobook, started some email threads, finished others, and dear gods I need more coffee, I’m just not caffeinated enough for this.

At least there’s beer mugs used as weapons and a bit of close-in knife combat. My only regret is that the setting precludes me adding motor oil to this particular scene. Ah well, we can’t have everything, especially on a Tuesday.

Time to get to work.

Aid, Abet, Power, Justice

I finished off the weekend by watching a Netflix documentary on Charles Cullen, nurse and extremely prolific serial killer. What struck me was not his methods–sociopaths gonna sociopath–but the way he was allowed to keep killing, aided and abetted by the American for-profit “healthcare” system. Many other serial killers have been aided and abetted by misogyny in similar fashion.

I could write a whole article about the links, but I’m tired, only halfway through my coffee, not being paid nearly enough, and have deadlines besides. Instead I’ll just say, serial killers are cowards and they choose vulnerable, marginalized prey. We find the idea of the handsome genius serial killer entrancing because it makes for good fiction and we want there to be some meaning in the horror, but in reality they are empty wastes creeping through shadows and picking off easy prey if they think they can get away with it.

And all too often, society colludes.

I mean, I love a good serial killer show or detective novel just like anyone else. I enjoy the fiction. The real-life study is something I engage in because looking steadily at the horror is my lot in life. Plus, I have always tried to believe knowledge is power. (Cersei Lannister says power is power, and as a reductionist analysis it’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s also bad-faith, too simplistic, and let’s not even talk about problematics.) I’ve also tried to believe in justice, though I know very well otherwise. (Pratchett in Hogfather pointed out why it’s important to believe so; I shall let you go forth and discover–or remember–for yourself.) At the same time, I think a lot of power resides in belief, in finding meaning, in patterns and the breaking of them.

…it’s a Monday, I’m allowed to be philosophical. At least before the caffeine hits.

Today is for more Hell’s Acre, getting prepped for a meeting I don’t want to have, finally a ramble with Boxnoggin–who has been very patient with the snow keeping us from his accustomed exertions–and a decent run. It’s the last I’m looking forward to most. Getting the stress chemicals sweated out and rinsed off will do me no end of good, and thankfully the sidewalks are clear. A few more days above freezing and the snow will be a distant memory. The dog can hardly wait; I suppose I’m the same.

Onward and upward, then.

Almost a Mercy

I need more coffee.

This is somewhat of a constant, but this morning the necessity feels particularly dire. I’m in a state I recognize from other books–itchy, annoyed with anything that takes me away from the work. The two projects on deck right now are both in uncomfortable spots. One is spiking for a conclusion, the other has just reached a scene that’s been in my head for over a year. The Muse is demanding, my fingers ache with the urge to get cracking, anything that takes me away from work gets a side-eye, and quite possibly the stink-eye too.

The recent unpleasantness seems to have died down a bit, since I have a habit of making general announcements instead of giving individual bad actors any oxygen or direct attention. It also helps that I’m not really on Twitter anymore, and the places where I am hanging out–Mastodon and Tumblr are where I’ve settled–have robust block and mute tools.

Still, that was an uncomfortable few days.

My office window is still too bright with the cedars gone, but the low-light plants hanging in the windows seem to be enjoying the change. Fortunately there’s little to no chance of actual sunburn, they’ll just grow a bit differently, which may mean needing to be watered or fed more frequently. This is a happy problem to have, and one I don’t mind at all. Of far more daily consequence is having to harness Boxnoggin every. single. time. we go out into the yard, since the back fence is now nonexistent. The neighbor swears they’ll get that taken care of; I hope they’re truthful.

A week off running didn’t do me any favors, either. Of course the weather was awful, I avoided slipping on ice-patches and cracking my fool skull, and it was time to give my body a rest anyway. So it was fortunate…but still wears on one’s nerves. Which has been the theme lately. “Well, this isn’t the worst it could be, it’s actually almost a mercy, it’s annoying but it will end up better in the long run…”

When on earth did I become an optimist? Or maybe it’s just self-defense, given what we’ve all endured the past few years.

I’m shifting nervously in my chair as I type, very ready to be in another world. There’s the subscription drop to finagle today, and also some news about a new Patreon tier. If I get that all settled before lunch I can spend the afternoon getting Hell’s Acre ready for the lunge-to-the-finish of Book 2, and then it’ll finally be time (once I’m warmed up) to attempt Naciel’s Run.

Not bad for a Thursday, even if I could never get the hang of those.

See you around.

Shit-Flingers Gonna Shit-Fling

I’m tired today. I made the mistake of remarking on being happy that people who read a certain YA series were writing their own books and fics now–and telling me about it–and for some reason that set off an avalanche of hatemail. Apparently I am not allowed to be happy that people found some value in my work.

This is absolutely exhausting. Especially when added to exploitative corporations, entitled ebook thieves, and so-called “reviewers” who hound me to produce more work so they can snitch-tag me about how much they despise it. Some days I bloody well wonder why I do this, any of this. I mean, I’ll never stop writing…but publishing?

That’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

I know I should focus on the positive, and many days I do. I’ve built a lot of guardrails and habits into my day to cut down on the chance of shit-flingers deciding I look like an easy target. But apparently remarking out loud that the stress of writing a certain series was worth it, that I’m happy for the people who found it worthwhile, is Too Much and I must be punished roundly for it. The funny thing is, most of this crop of shit-flingers seem upset over things I had literally no control over, publisher decisions I was not allowed to say “no” to. And if they’re not upset over that, they’re upset that a series with a teenage narrator has bad choices, questionable behavior, and messy growing-up themes; they claim to be furious that the main character wasn’t a little ball of sweetness, light, and perfection.

Of course, had she been, they’d be mad because “she’s privileged” or “she’s a Mary Sue.” And if she made good choices it wouldn’t be a series about growing up, not to mention it would’ve stunk of bullshit to such a degree no reasonable reader would want to come near it. And, for the record, if I hadn’t fought so hard and pushed back against other questionable publisher impulses so much, the entire thing would’ve been reduced to irredeemable pap these same people would despise as well.

There is no winning with people addicted to the emotional jolt of outrage. They will never be happy with anything; they will find reasons to be shitty, and to shit all over everyone else’s joy. If there isn’t something awful in a book they will contort their reading of the text, putting pretzels to shame, until they somehow make something awful, then blame the author and try to whip up a resultant internet mob. Bad-faith “interpretations” and flaming are their preferred source of oxygen, and you can recognize them handily by the fact that they literally never have a good thing to say. (Unless it’s about their own work, if they can take enough time away from their outrage manufacturing to actually finish a piece.) It’s all doom, gloom, and how-dare-you, no breaks and no time off for good behavior.

No book or series is perfect, of course. And the vast majority of reviewers, readers, editors, and netizens are good people. Unfortunately, bad apples poison everything in the barrel, and are just one more shitty, toxic reason to find some other career. The bad-faith actors are loud, and get a lot of attention. Sometimes, due to the law of averages, they even manage to point their ire at a fellow bad-faith actor.

I’m never quite sure how to feel about that.

Some days it’s tiring, especially when one’s inbox fills up with shit-flinging. I try to focus on the bulk of my usual mail, which is far more pleasant; I keep access to my life carefully gated. And I remind myself, over and over again, “I can block and set up filters, this is just a small part of the correspondence I receive. I can walk away. Nasty people have to sit in their indignation-filled nappies 24/7; I can be glad I’m not them.”

Theirs must be a terrible way to live, after all. I can pity it, while not letting the poison reach me. I know this is just a temporary tiredness, I’ll feel better soon, and the shit-flingers will find something else to toss their ordure at. It’s like the weather–rains on the just and the unjust alike, and all that.

But dear gods, sometimes it wears on one, especially when I’m apparently not even allowed to let a lot of very kind people know I’m overjoyed that they’re creating their own books and fics and art. I suppose I should have known better and braced myself for that particular flood, since any sign of joy is like blood in the water for that certain proportion of folks, but oh well.

The dog requires his walkies, and there’s work to do. I suppose I’d best quit complaining and get to it. I don’t write for the shit-flingers, and it’s best to remember that.

See you around.

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?