Retrenchment

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue blogging. It’s not that I want to stop–I enjoy it, which is a good enough reason for continuing. And it’s not quite a journal or diary, because those are separate and private. I suppose it’s always been a way of shouting into the void, even during the ol’ LJ days.

Man. Livejournal. That takes me back.

Every once in a while I look to see if I want to keep doing it. I used to have more post ideas–there were Soundtrack Mondays and Friday Writing posts, for example. But then 2020 hit, and kept hitting.

And kept hitting, and kept hitting. And kicked for good measure.

I know everything changes. Still, I miss telling backyard stories. (There was a squirrel on the deck while we were having dinner just the other day, and the quick movement when all three of us involuntarily checked for footwear was hilarious.) Norbert the Gargoyle is in a new home–I never did tell you guys how that turned out–and the gnomes, from Emphysema Joe on down, are their usual cranky selves. We have a new crop of squirrels, though–the old ones have either changed their territories or moved on.

Brief is the life of a garden squirrel.

In short, there’s a lot going on, but getting it all down is the difficult part. There’s been so much else to talk about. Plague, war, fascist coup–all of it’s exhausting.

There’s no ringing conclusion or grand decision today. I’m just…looking at things. And I don’t think I want to make any hard and fast resolutions until there’s been at least a short period of calm. The news cycle hasn’t been pummeling me like it did last year, for which I am devoutly grateful, and yet the hole we were cast into is just so deep, getting out is an epic in and of itself.

Speaking of which, how am I writing two epics at once? There’s Hell’s Acre (which premieres in June) and Cold North, both massive undertakings. But then, I’m not really myself if I’m not juggling slightly1 more than I think I can manage. I’ve edits coming down the pike too–a final look at The Bloody Throne, revision on the second half of The Black God’s Heart, and today I hear from an editor about Sons of Ymre.

Publishing is such a delayed-gratification game. It’s unreal. By the time a book hits shelves, I’m already two years farther down the road. Also, Moon’s Knight is resting with a certain other editor now, and if they don’t take it, I’ll be looking for a cover. Because dammit, my beta readers deserve to see that book out in the wild, sooner or later.

The amount of work I managed to get done last year is somewhat shocking. I didn’t think I’d done anything at all. Looking back and realizing “no, Lili, you kept working frantically because the alternative was sinking in quicksand” is…well, not quite uncomfortable, but not pleasant either.

I suppose it’s a measure of hope that I keep going, both with the books and with blogging. I’ve always hoped that seeing the life of a working writer a little closer–though not intimately, I save that for other spaces–might help other writers feel a little less alone. This kind of career is both achingly lonely (when there’s nothing but you and the blank page) and shockingly crowded (when one deals with agent, editors, marketing, production staff, and all the other quality-control staff). The dichotomy can drive one mad.

I mean, if one isn’t already mad just contemplating this kind of work. It does tend to rattle one’s bolts.

Case in point: When I started this post, I was thinking solely about whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I’ve ended up amazed at the amount of work I did last year under some harsh conditions, and am bracing myself for another glut of revisions to fall on my head.

So it goes, I guess. And through it all, the dogs need walking and I need caffeine–the withdrawal headaches are no fun at all. So I bid you a fond adieu, beloved Reader.

But only for a short while. I think I’ll keep blogging after all.

Over and out.

Frustration, Climbing Out

I’ve been rolling my eyes so hard this morning they threaten to pop right out of my head. The howling by authoritarian corporate dinosaurs attempting to return to exploitative pre-pandemic practices and meeting any faint resistance at all is bleakly amusing. I’m sure they’ll attempt to use the militarization of the corporate state to stamp out any resurgence of workers’ rights, but at the moment I’m savoring their baffled cries of “but we’re offering STARVATION WAGES, why won’t you let us abuse yooooou?”

There are a lot of frustrations in freelancing, and I am incredibly privileged and lucky to have the job I have. I know very well that I bucked the odds, but still, if the Princess hadn’t been working over the past year and a half, we’d probably be homeless. She didn’t want to quit, despite my fear of losing her to the plague.

I actively resent the government and corporate malfeasance, not to mention visible, public, sociopathic glee at the pain of the poor among that orange blivet and his coevals, putting us in this position. I’m also furious at the caving and caviling of Democrats to the Republicans who made all this inevitable. There’s half a million Americans plus dead, and the toll is only mounting despite the bare minimum of social safety net and help watered down at the insistence of rich Republicans.

It didn’t have to be this way. Everyone was warned. People screamed their heads off about this all the way through and were belittled, ignored, and mocked.

And the federal government has the temerity to charge me taxes for last year, too. It’s bloody maddening.

…I should stop looking at the news first thing in the morning. *sigh*

Yesterday was eaten up with (masked) errands and (video-only) social duties. Today I’m itching to get back to the second book of Black God’s Heart. The race to the finish of a zero won’t happen this week, but if I work through the weekend, possibly next? I’m possessed with the idea that this book is the last bit of 2020’s gauntlet to run through.

It’s an irrational conviction. I fully understand the irrationality. But I can’t shake it. I spent last year focusing on the next thing, then the next, then the next, going from handhold to handhold because if I slowed or looked down even for a fraction of a second, I’d be lost. Perhaps the recent physical collapse is a function of that.

You can only run the engine so hard, for so long, before things start to shake loose and ping around the compartment.

In any case, I’m up for more than twenty minutes at a time now, and despite still being exhausted I’m managing a fair amount of work. I write, I cook dinner, I go to bed. That’s it. The sum of my life now. The essentials, as it were.

I don’t have any ringing conclusion today. I barely have the wherewithal to get out the door to walk the dogs, who are somewhat impatiently waiting to prance sniffing around the block. The movement will do me good, and today will be spent with the book. Intellectually, I know that once I finish this zero draft I’ll find another book to obsess over, but maybe the recovery period will allow me to take a breath.

Maybe.

Take care of yourselves today, beloveds. It’s looking like we might have made it through the worst, but the hole is so deep that just stopping the digging isn’t the victory it could be.

Climbing out will still be a bitch.

Constancy, Uncertainty, Trepidation

I spent the weekend veering between half-lucid struggling to get some chores done and transcribing what I could of last week’s longhand work. It was unexpectedly soothing. Of course I’m super behind and that’s irksome, but at least some work was accomplished. More than I’d hoped, actually.

The shadows are very sharp this morning. it might be because I’m half in the world of Black God’s Heart, where they bear terrifying things. Even spring sunlight isn’t as helpful as it could be, since I keep looking at said shadows and waiting for them to twitch.

On the bright side, the second book is almost half done. So there’s that. Everything in in place and moving; today’s work will involve naps and a combat scene. The latter has to be done before I can move on but I’m still a bit physically miserable; there will be some blocking it out in my office and much wincing and groaning.

I don’t know about other writers, but I feel everything my characters do. They are not me–I’m always very clear about that–but I do feel with them. It’s a very specific hyperactive empathy. To be a writer is to observe human beings and the rest of the world with sharp interest; I have often wondered where the line between empathy and voyeurism resides in we who create in this fashion.

Everything, even my own pain, is material. I’ve hung upside down in a car after an accident (winter road, deer, don’t ask) and while part of me was reacting to the situation in realtime the writer in the back of my head was taking furious notes. So this is how it feels…remember that bit…oh, okay, that makes sense…

I don’t know how much of that is also tangled up with the processing-of-trauma function writing fiction can serve. Themes are not always trauma, but when something bubbles to the surface in a story it’s good to run with it, because there’s power there.

The fear is where the power is, many a time. Again, not always…but many times.

Our state is about to open vaccinations for everyone, not just the most at-risk. I’m incredibly nervous waiting for that, because I’m sure a lot of selfish assholes will want to Chad and Karen around without masks and endanger people who aren’t lucky enough to get vaccinated yet or immunosuppressed folks. The selfishness on display over the last year and a half is still there, still murderous. And corporations are already making noises about reasserting physical control of their workers, dragging them into offices before vaccination is widespread. How on earth are we supposed to trust companies or coworkers again, after what we’ve just endured, after what we’ve seen some people do?

The vast majority of us quietly did what we were supposed to, locking down as far as we could and carefully masking up. The assholes get more airtime because the media’s hungry for ad money and ratings, and that makes the rest of us–the people who did our best and rearranged our lives as far as we could while swallowing our deep fear and powering through the trauma–unheard and unseen.

We’re never going back to the way things were. I haven’t even begun to think about how that might affect the stories I tell. Due to the nature of publishing I spent last year working on things that had been written before the world changed (and still am, truth be told) except for the portal fantasy, which was (I can admit) pure escapism because I needed an escape.1

Once both my kids have at least the first jab I suspect the relief will wallop what shaky scaffolding I have right out from under me. I haven’t even thought about what my own shot(s) will do. Honestly? I don’t think I expected to survive.

Now that I have, what on earth am I going to do? I don’t even know how to write about that. The fear is where the power is, but what resides in the numbness?

I don’t know, and I’m wary of finding out. But this book still has to be written, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, as always. And the dogs still have to be walked, every morn, world without end, amen.

It’s nice to have some constants in the uncertainty. But I won’t deny a certain trepidation. I feel like Black God’s Heart is the last wicket I have to run through before I can put 2020 finally to bed.2 The problem is, I’m sure there will be a great deal of unquiet dreaming from that particular sleeping-cave.

We’ve seen the monster. I’m not at all sanguine about seeing what it dreams after slouching to Bethlehem.

And with that cheerful thought, I’m off to walk the dogs.

Tired Work, In Longhand

I slept most of yesterday–proper sleep, not the falling into a black void for most of the day that’s been happening lately. There seem to be no other symptoms left, or if there are I’m too tired to notice them. The only thing I’m suffering is exhaustion so deep and wide it mimics total apathy. Even breathing seems like hard work.

Still, I woke this morning with what is probably a short-term burst of energy and the urge to listen to old-school Madonna. And I’ve gotten a fair amount of work done in longhand, which I’ll have to transcribe when I can sit up for longer periods of time.

If I’m indeed recovering, the trick will be not pushing too hard. Every time I get ill or injured, I make it worse by putting off any rest as long as possible and then leaping back into the fray the instant I start feeling the least bit better. I know I shouldn’t, of course–I’m always on friends and loved ones to be gentle with themselves after illness or injury.

I give very good advice, but very seldom follow it.

It doesn’t help that over the past few years I’ve witnessed pandemic, rising authoritarianism, and ongoing fascist coup. Even my ability to find silver linings or transmute pain into art is creaking under the strain. This comic strip sums it up perfectly–and also gives me some hope, because it’s pain (you guessed it) transmuted into art.

I should feel better. I should be grateful to be so lucky, so immensely privileged to be able to rest at least a little. I should be happier.

But I’m not. And it feels like a very personal failing.

At least I felt like eating this morning, and the void seems to have retreated. I’m going to have to work twice as hard to catch up; my job requires a constant juggling of chainsaws. Any halt means a rain of buzzing gas-powered sawblades, and who needs that? Not me, that’s for sure.

I’m hoping my optimism–such as it is–will come back. If all else fails, there’s sheer spite, which has kept me going through personal disasters and might as well be pressed into service for worldwide ones. I’d really like to be a nicer person, but if spite is what it takes to survive, well, that’s what I’ll use.

So, while this temporary flush of energy lasts, I’ll let the dogs drag me around the block and see what fires remain in my email inbox. I’ll work as long as I can, and probably end up sacked out on the office floor at some point in the day. The nice thing about that is the dogs will be overjoyed to have me so accessible, and probably stomp on both my kidneys and my liver to boot. I’ll call it “canine massage.”

In about a week vaccinations should be open in our state. That means the Prince and I have a shot (ha ha) at getting appointments. I suspect I’ll feel a lot better once both kids have at least the first jab, and once we’re all three thoroughly immunized I’ll probably have some variety of crying fit from sheer relief. If I focus on that–and on the fact that I have to finish the second book of Black God’s Heart–I can ignore everything else. At least I’m making progress on the latter, if only in longhand. It’s even soothing to write in a spiral-bound notebook again; my gods, how that takes me back.

Boxnoggin is resting his chin on my knee and Miss B is right behind him, crowding close and giving me the full benefit of sad doggy eyes. They want their walkies; who am I to deny them such a small pleasure? Wish me luck, or at least enough energy to get around the block.

Over and out.

Quiet, Silver Linings

The house is quiet. The dogs know I haven’t finished my coffee yet, though when I do they’ll prance down the hall, attempting to herd me out for walkies. Sometimes it’s vexing, but then I think of how baffling plenty of things must seem to them. Ritual and habit are comforting when one hasn’t much control. Even a canine can feel upset at a lack of agency.

So I call upon patience, of which my stock is slender indeed lately. The exhaustion makes everything twice as difficult as it should be, especially bureaucratic paperwork–which I attempted yesterday, and am about at the point where I’d love to burn everything down and walk into the forest, never to be seen again.

…I’m only half joking.

I suppose I should be heartened that I’m (evidently) processing some of the last year and a half. It means I’m safe enough and have enough bandwidth to deal with it, which is supposed to be a good thing. Unfortunately I don’t want to deal with it. I want to just continue coping and not have to feel this, because frankly? It sucks.

It doesn’t help that I’m furious at the abdication of responsibility by government last year, either. We’re personally lucky, here at Chez Saintcrow, to have survived in the shape we did, but it’s still touch and go, and no help is coming because, well, I’m a freelancer. I’m sure someone will bleat “Well, you shouldn’t have chosen this career”, but a single mother with two toddlers had to make what shift she could, and now I suppose I’m unfit for an office job because my tolerance for petty bullshit is close to nil.

Not that it was ever very high, indeed.

So I’m waiting for the moment the absurdity of all this will provoke me into screechy laughter, and meanwhile searching for silver linings. Like said dogs, like the fact that both kids are healthy and one has had the first vaccine dose, like the fact that the words are still showing up reliably, like the lilacs greening at their branch-tips.

My twenty minutes of coherence is all but up. So I have to bolt the rest of the coffee, brush my teeth, and collapse for a short while to gather enough strength for walkies. The dogs, of course, will take stomping on my kidneys for a short while in lieu of getting the leashes and harnesses on.

But at least I have kidneys to stomp on, and dogs to do the stomping, and both kids are tucked safe in their beds. The Prince is on spring break and the Princess has a couple days off work, so they’ll be up to housebound hijinks later today, I’m sure. I’m just glad the Prince’s cough has fled.

See? Silver linings. One must relentlessly pursue them, especially if the alternative is too grim to be contemplated.

And with that cheerful thought, I wish you a lovely Tuesday, my beloveds, and bid you a pleasant adieu.

Unexpectedly Difficult

It was unexpectedly difficult to make coffee this morning. You’d think such a simple operation would be easily accomplished, but no. If it wasn’t forgetting the water it was forgetting the grounds, and if it wasn’t either it was staring in perplexity at the stove and wondering what the hell is this thing for?

…it’s gonna be one of those Mondays, I can just tell.

I finished a revise on Season Three of HOOD this weekend, and was going to continue working straight through but my body staged a revolt. I don’t think it’s the plague–though it would be par for the course if I came down with a bout right just before the vaccine becomes readily available–but still, curling up in a tiny ball Sunday afternoon was the best strategy, so I took it.

There’s no shortage of work looming on a Monday. At least I have a little wiggle room in the schedule for the second book of The Black God’s Heart. And at least I finally, finally figured out how to make coffee work and am grimly, grumpily sucking on the morning ration of java. I’m not used to this amount of brain fog and can only hope caffeine will scrape it away.

Part of the loginess might be that I was up at 2am, as has become somewhat of a habit, and there was deep cottony Silent Hill fog out my window. Which was pleasant, but then I went back to bed and the idea that suddenly a leering face might coalesce out of vapor and press itself against the glass just wouldn’t go away.

The problem with a vivid, well-trained imagination is that it doesn’t shut off. Ever. Just like the rest of my brain. So that was fun.

Consequently, I’m incredibly salty this fine cloudy morn, and have a deathgrip on my temper. The last thing I want to do is snap at someone who doesn’t deserve it, so I have both hands and my teeth firmly buried in the hide of my anger. A run will help, if I don’t collapse in the middle of it. I don’t know what I’d do without burning the adrenaline and stress off by hauling my silly corpse along at what passes for relatively high speed.

Anyway, here I am, and here Monday is. We’re eyeing each other like an action movie standoff. We know who’s going to win, or at least survive, but half the fun is getting there. (If “fun” is, indeed, what we can call it.)

The dogs don’t care what day it is, they want their ramble and I can’t blame them. Time to get my jacket and get out the door. We’ll tackle the week together, I suppose.

Excelsior, and all that.

Kindness, Escape

Spent the weekend doing revisions as well as reformatting ebooks and the like; most of those changes should be wending their way downstream. New editions are always a chance to catch the things that didn’t get chased down and thumped before. Even with a million pairs of eyes during the publication process, some stuff slips through. It’s inevitable.

What I did not do was rest. Today it’s back to solely revising the third epic fantasy; all my engines are focused on that. The second year of lockdown is about to start and my ability to focus and push under pressure is beginning to fray at the edges.

Once that’s done it’s on to revising HOOD‘s third season, preparatory to the editing process. I still have to make a final determination on the next serial–it will either be Hell’s Acre, the alt-Victorian trilogy, or Division Seven, the mutant secret agents story. I’m leaning towards Hell’s Acre because I like the language, and I’m not wanting to engage with current-day stuff right now.

I need an escape.

I think we could all do with an escape or two, frankly. I just want to crawl into my stories and never come out. I’m sick of utterly avoidable disasters and broken promises, hatefulness and cruelty. It’s the last that gets to me.

It takes so little effort to be kind. Kindness is the natural state, it’s the lowest energy requirement. It puzzles me: Why do so many people actively choose to stew in violent hate, why do they seek out reasons to be shitty? Why, when it’s so easy to just… not? Imagine what humanity could do if dickwads quit wasting their energy on spewing vileness.

I write because I must, but sometimes I think I also write to try and answer why people do some things. Pouring myself into certain characters’ skins, even if it isn’t on the page–because I have to understand the villains to see how they’re going to act in the story–is an effort to understand.

The dogs are very clingy this morning. I think they can sense my nerves are raw. Or maybe they just want their walkies, since it’s a relatively warm morning. A week ago we were in snowpocalypse (I think? Time has lost all meaning.) and now it’s very mild in the high 40s (Fahrenheit, of course) with crocuses and the like taking advantage of the sudden balm.

Maybe the snow was the last gauntlet to run. It would be nice to have an end to something. Normally I enjoy winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Lately though, I feel like I’ve done nothing for the last winter except sit and stare in deepening horror. I know that isn’t true, but it feels like it.

I’ve blathered long enough. Time to get the dogs walked, my own reluctant corpse run, and then to crawl into the end of a hot, murderous summer in an imaginary land. Getting the third and final book arranged will do me some good, I hope.

Happy Monday, everyone. We made it to another week, yay us. Now let’s see if we can endure through.

Over and out.