A Dawn Refused

Woke up to the very last (I should think, I hope) proof queries for The Bloody Throne, which I answered and sent back while absorbing coffee. The series has had a particularly difficult birth, what with orphaning (though my editors have all been stellar) and pandemic, but I think–or I fondly hope–it has come through all right. Mostly due to my beloved and long-suffering sensitivity readers, I suspect.

In any case, I won’t heave a sigh of relief until the author’s copies come, because that will mean it’s really-for-true done, not just sort-of-done.

Tuesday started with a rosy dawn, a clutch of work coming down the pike, and some very excited dogs. Both B and Boxnoggin are prancing about, eager to get to walkies; Boxnoggin in particular has already barked his fool head off at a delivery once this morning and, I suspect, cannot wait to get strapped into his harness and cause some kind of mischief outside the house.

I’ve a newsletter to get out, some more Hell’s Acre to write–Gemma, I think, has an uncomfortable interview with the director of an orphanage and then is accosted at dinner–and some She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to get done too. (The antagonists are arguing, the hero is tied to a post, and I think I know how this scene ends but I could be wrong…) All in all, it’s a very busy day, and I’m…

[[time passes]]

…I had to get up twice to calm Boxnoggin down. He is just beside himself this morning, since the aforesaid delivery came much earlier than expected and consequently constitutes a Change. And, of course, for this dog–even more than for usual canines–ALL CHANGE IS BAD. Even good change causes him a great deal of upset. He’s as nervous as a tired toddler, all the damn time.

Poor fellow. I do my best to keep everything calm and even for him, but sometimes even a human with opposable thumbs and a swollen prefrontal cortex can’t deal with everything, sheesh.

I suppose that’s my cue to get my teeth brushed and the silly fur-covered critters ambled. Boxnoggin’s not going to rest until he gets me out the door, and Miss B’s getting into the act as well. It’s a wonder I get anything done with these fuzzy-ass toddlers “supervising” every breath.

At least I was able to lie in bed for about ten minutes while dawn tiptoed through the east, and could see a slice of pink clouds through my window. Rising with the sun is never my favorite thing, so being able to throw an arm over my eyes–peeking out every once in a while to see the beauty–and refuse to do so was pleasant indeed. Alas, I was coaxed out of my warm bed (for a certain value of coax, Boxnoggin is really earning his “von Titzpunch” title lately) and set upon the day, so I suppose I’d best get to the next thing on the to-do list.

I keep giving longing glances at the new baseball bat, but I can’t practice with it inside. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Ah well.

We are embarked upon Tuesday, my beloveds. Please keep all limbs inside the carriage, and don’t look too closely at Wednesday’s formlessness in the distance. (The abyss tends to look back into one, and that’s never comfortable.) Make sure you’re buckled in, and remember, just getting through the day is a victory in and of itself. Take the win, no matter how small, where you find it.

Over and out.

Goodbye, September

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Yesterday the full canine complement of Chez Saintcrow was washed, dried, and flea-treated, the grocer’s and pet store were visited for supplies, linens and towels were washed as well, a great deal of other housework was done, and the copyedits on Sons of Ymre #1 were finished. There’s a few final global changes to fold in on the very last, but those are tiny and it’s ready to be sent off and turned into proofs.

And I am so fatigued I had difficulty sleeping. Apparently I’m in the stage of burnout (yes, by now I’m sure it’s not The Plague™) where I’m too wound up for proper rest and just have to push for pure exhaustion to grant me some surcease. If I play my cards right and do the proper kind of work in the proper proportion today, that might happen this evening.

I’m hopeful.

I also received an amusingly nasty missive yesterday, telling me to “shut up about politics and just write [stories]”. I am baffled how the letter writer thinks any of my work is divorced from politics, since I happen to be a human being, and have no intention of hiding my thoughts on the state of the world. Honestly, the things some people will say, thinking the internet grants them anonymity. (Spoiler: IT DOESN’T.) I had to laugh at the absurdity.

On a brighter note, as a treat and reward for finishing CEs, I got myself a subscription to the Criterion Channel, which I’ve been eyeing for some time and saving pennies out of the budget for. I’ve loved their Kurosawa and Kieslowski collections, and am looking forward to diving into the rest of their offerings. After I finish prepping this week’s subscription drop, I might settle with a plate of brownies, plus some cold milk, and watch something black-and-white. (Probably an Ingmar Bergman.)

Hopefully it will be soothing enough that I can crawl into bed early and do something more than just toss and turn. Come tomorrow (October approacheth, good heavens, where on earth did September go? Pandemic time is an elastic rollercoaster) I have to turn all my engines–such as they are, straining and whining–to the proofs of the final Hostage to Empire book. Maybe after that’s marked up and sent back I can take a slightly longer break. (Spoiler: Probably not.)

Miss B and Boxnoggin are no longer damp, but both are a bit perturbed at smelling like shampoo instead of their usual doggy selves. It must be a bit like vanishing; heaven knows when I can’t smell the world due to nasal drip I feel somewhat adrift. They’ll be back to their usual healthy aroma in no time, though, and today’s walkies will no doubt help with that. I’m seriously dragging, but they have kindly allowed me to consume a double jolt of coffee without insisting to be taken around the block posthaste, for which I am utterly grateful. I think they can sense my exhaustion.

I also have an idea for yet another romance novel, which I should stick in a fresh Scrivener doc and set aside to marinate just in case. My romance editor likes suspense, and this one’s a dilly. The brain never stops, even when trembling on the edge of deep burnout. I suppose I’m just not built to rest.

At least there’s lovely grey cloud-cover today and the prospect of rain later. If I had to deal with summer temps and the associated ills I might well turn into a puddle and save all the pearl-clutchers trouble by expiring from pure heatstroke.

And with that, my tongue firmly in cheek and my temper thoroughly reined by sheer tiredness, I shall embark upon prepping brownie supplies and walking very clean (and disgruntled) canines. September and the week are almost over, and my very favorite month approaches.

See you around, beloveds.

Tornado, and Historical Murder

There was an actual tornado in the area last night–“weak”, they say, but even a tiny one is no joke. The dogs didn’t even hear any thunder; I know this because if they had, Boxnoggin would have been pressed as close as possible to me, shaking so hard the entire bed quivered. The poor fellow does not like skybooms.

He’ll adjust to falling water, but noise is a different story. It doesn’t help that he has fennec-style ears, poor thing. The loudest event we had chez nous was a dead branch falling from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir early in the day, which hit a table and broke one of the planters on it.

I was going to harvest the epazote soon anyway.1

Summer has officially been broken, and not a moment too soon. I was about to desiccate into dust. I did get about a hundred pages of copyedits eyeballed yesterday, while listening to Anonymous 4, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé. It was quiet and lovely, but I had to knock off early to make dinner.

I also finished Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and now I need to get everything else she’s written. People who say history is boring haven’t read enough of the good stuff, and there seems a positive conspiracy, both in the school system and out of it, to make ‘what happened before now’ as dry and droning as possible. I think it’s because people who know their history are forewarned about the bullshit kleptocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and authoritarians pull, so said ‘crats and dictators seek to control it–and make it boring–as a matter of course.

In any case, that particular book was a joy to read2, and is full of crunchy historical events and analysis. I am tempted to take another running leap at Homo Necans now that I’ve got Southon’s book under my belt, to compare, contrast, and do some pleasant deep thinking about. An active reading life is somewhat like a spiral; engaging with a book may lead one to a deeper understanding of a previous text, which just happens to be one of my very favourite things.

Of course, I might not have the energy for more than a few pages before I pass out, either on the couch or in bed. Whatever this is–and the current diagnosis is indeed burnout, since I’ve not lost my sense of smell, there’s no fever, and the scratchy-throat is going down–it has robbed me of the will to attempt anything more complex than simply hanging onto the edge of my day with teeth and fingernails, getting the absolute minimum of work done so I don’t fall too far behind.

And I hate it. I positively loathe not being able to work at my accustomed speed. It puts me in quite a temper, or it would if I had the energy to be peeved instead of grimly determined.

In any case, I’ve a limited amount of pep today, and most of it needs to be spent knocking out more CE pages. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move to the proofs on the third (and final, I get a lot of emails asking about that) Hostage to Empire book.

I loved that series, but writing the third during lockdown and some of the associated problems (not anyone’s fault, not even the Romans3) robbed me of every inch of joy in an achievement. I will be relieved to have it finished, though I know what happens to the characters several years afterward…well, less said about that, the better.

In any case, the minimum for today is another hundred pages of CEs. In order to get there, breakfast must be attempted, the dogs must be walked, and maybe a few kilometers run to shake me into some kind of alertness have to be achieved. Yesterday’s run in the rain was lovely, but also a torment. Still, it did give me enough short-term energy to untangle quite a few commas, ellipses, and copyeditor queries.

Off we go into Tuesday. Hopefully no more tornadoes are lying about, but if they are, well, we’ve a basement. We’ll see how it goes.

Over and out.

Struggling For Momentum

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Yesterday was a wash.

Oh, I achieved a few things. I staggered through the day, throat-sore and nose-dripping, and got the bare minimum done. Then I slithered to bed very early, and was senseless until just a short while ago.

You’d think twelve-plus hours of solid sleep would help, but I’m just as tired as I was yesterday. Of course, I did six months’ worth of work in two weeks recently, and that leaves a mark. I can’t decide if my symptoms are sheer exhaustion, an incipient cold–though our little chez hasn’t had a cold or anything like it since before last year’s lockdown1 because masks work, or The Plague™.

Running is going to be a misery today.

Miss B is no longer vomiting–it was just a minor tummy upset, but she is an elderly statesdog, and I take every small health event seriously. She’s beginning to deteriorate with age, poor thing, and while her quality of life remains high I can see the time when it won’t be and I’m going to have to make a decision.

I try not to think about it much, to just enjoy the days we have left.

And at least it’s cloudy. The weather is swinging wildly between summery afternoons and cool damp mornings; the nights are chilly enough to suit both me and Miss B, who finds a warm night a torment. She is, after all, wearing a fur coat.

So. A portal fantasy out last month, HOOD‘s Season Three out this week, and I think my next release isn’t until November? I know the third (and final, for those asking) Hostage to Empire book will be out sometime soon, since I have the first proof pass waiting its turn in the queue. Plus, Sons of Ymre #1 (which is in the CE stage) will probably be out before it, and I just got confirmation that the contract for Sons #2 did indeed reach the publisher.2 Once preorder information is available for those latter, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it here.

I did watch some deep-dives on YouTube influencer drama, and am extremely glad that’s not my job. I meant to watch a Shaw Brothers film before bed–The Kid with the Golden Arm–but fell asleep before the first fight set-piece was over.

Ah well. That’s why there’s today.

My inner harmony is still struggling a bit. The small, toxic proportion of the population, addicted to cruelty, who still violently refuse to mask or vaccinate insists on spreading more death and destruction. Add to that the complete lack of help for the people who can’t afford to get vaccinated because a few days off work to deal with possible symptoms will drive them into an escalating spiral of poverty, and the entire thing makes one want to throw up one’s hands in despair. The moral injuries just keep coming, and the empathy fatigue grows steeper.

Still, no matter what else is going on, the dogs need their walkies and the words must flow. Hell’s Acre has taken a surprising turn, and I need to bring it back to centre to braid in a few other things so it doesn’t careen entirely off the rails. Today’s work will be a scene with the hero disposing of a corpse (because that’s the kind of guy he is), then shifting to She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to write about the secondary antagonist, a baroness who will find the hero half-senseless near the mill pond.

That will be amusing.

Come next week, it’ll be CEs and proofs all the way down. But for the remainder of this one, I can battle whatever health issue this is, try to get my head straight, and hope that another contract–one wending its way through a tortuous maze of legalese–will be done up soon so I can share some absolutely amazing news with you.

I suppose there are things to look forward to, even now. But it still doesn’t change that the dogs need walking and I should probably force myself to some breakfast, since coffee seems to be settling. After that I’ll be engaged upon the day, momentum having been achieved, and I won’t stop until dinner.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see what happens; if I end up almost faceplanting on my keyboard because I’m so damn tired a wee change might occur.

See you around, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves; for what it’s worth, the week is almost done.

Reading All Night

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I’m almost cross-eyed with insomnia, which is on the one hand familiar–I’ve spent a lot of time in this country–and on the other, deeply annoying, since it’s nowadays the exception rather than the rule by dint of sheer hard work. Learning, as an adult, how to relax enough to sleep consistently was difficult indeed, and I know one bad night does not mean I’ll return to my previous state of constant, dreadful hyperawareness.

It’s just hard to remember as much.

It’s been a while since I was up all night reading, by far the most pleasant way to spend such sleeplessness. I finished Cornelius Ryan’s classic The Longest Day, which I’d never read before; I have his A Bridge Too Far and The Last Battle as well and will probably knock off one or both of them today. I don’t think I’ll be able to get much in the way of actual work done, but reading is important too.

It is a continual perplexity and grievance to me that I can’t read in a genre I’m actively writing in, while I’m actively writing in it. If I want to read paranormal romances, I need to stuff them in when I’m not writing them; same for epic fantasy or suspense. My inner editor goes absolutely bonkers and I end up trying to rearrange the text inside my head rather than reading and enjoying it, so I’ve learned to stagger and schedule my reading-for-pleasure. I suppose that’s why I tend to gravitate toward so much history. It’s oddly restful to read what I can’t change and will probably never write.

My productivity is going to take a hit today, but we’re still in a pandemic, so…I’m going to try not to worry much about it. Even my capacity for anxiety is started to break down under current conditions, which says a lot. Fortunately I can write something just for me, tell myself knocking off early to continue aforesaid history reading is research, and go to bed even earlier than usual tonight.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes, being Monday and all.

I suppose I’m still climbing, hand over painful hand, out of a pit of hopelessness. I haven’t quite hit the “everything is absurd and I must laugh to keep from screaming” stage yet, but I was startled into grim amusement during the long slow shoal between three and five a.m., the worse time in my particular insomnia cycle. You see, the thought I could just choose not to care about this went through my head, and the Three A.M. Wiggins, as the “what-ifs” which tend to crowd at that hour has been named chez nous, fled like frightened birds.

At least they didn’t lighten for takeoff like real birds. I felt a great flood of relief, but it was too late to attempt sleeping, so I just turned the light back on and read some more history.

Whether a poor silly human is sleepless or not, the dogs need walking, which means I should probably get some toast and strap said canines into their harnesses, in that order. Another jolt of coffee wouldn’t go amiss either, I’m sure–but that can wait until we get home. It’s a nice chilly morning, fresh and clear since we finally, finally got some rain.

Maybe that was the sleeplessness, my weary corpse glorying in the fact that summer might win one or two rearguard battles but is definitely and irretrievably in retreat. I know it’s many people’s favorite time of year, but I’m always happy to bid it farewell.

All of which is to say, I’m still hanging on, out here at the raggedy edge. One finger slips, then another, but my grasp is still relatively solid.

Relatively. So I’ll go put some toast on, tell the dogs they can wait for brekkie like always, take a deep breath, and start what’s going to be a day filtered through a lens of sleeplessness. Around 3pm it’ll take on the particular underwater wavering, another familiarity, and I’ll start counting down the hours until I can crawl into bed, grateful and hoping for a win at the roulette wheel of unconsciousness.

Monday and I are eyeing each other from foxholes, and I devoutly hope Monday knows the ancient rule of don’t start none, won’t be none. If the day forgets, well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to teach that lesson, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Over and out.

Low End of the Pool

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I can’t decide if I’m feeling this way because some good luck is finally coming ’round the bend, or because I’ve finally hit the end of my ability to deal with the goddamn worldwide dumpster fire. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, really.

Things seem to be shaking loose in a few areas. Pretty much everyone I personally know is vaccinated (except for those under 12, who I am still worrying for with every breath) and that’s one relief. The four books I tested with a certain print distro are all sorted (it only took over two months and too many emails to count, but it’s done) and there should be no more problems there. A couple contracts are wending their way through the process, my kids are both healthy and having a reasonably good time (for some value of “good” in the current state of things) and it appears we might survive some of this relatively intact.

The massive survivor’s guilt hasn’t hit yet, but I can feel its rumblings. Mourning is staved off by numbness, because we are certainly not out of the woods yet and as Jessie Ventura once growled around a wad of tobacco, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” (Yes, I’m too busy ducking.)

I can feel the wave of “Processing Those Emotions, What, You Thought They’d Just Go Away?” lingering in the near distance, like a slo-mo anime explosion. You know the kind–everything is silent, and one watches the approaching shockwave numbly, unable to move. All the grief and anger and anxiety and other tangled emotions I didn’t have time for while sheer survival was the priority are threatening to burst the dam I shoved them behind. I absolutely know the crisis is ongoing, so I keep patching the dam and waiting, waiting, waiting for yet another shoe to drop.

I say this not to complain (much) but so others know they’re not alone. I’m flexible in the face of disaster, I know how to endure–yet even my endurance has its limits, and I’m tired.

I’m so tired.

At the same time I wonder if this feeling is because any good luck at all, for the past *counts on fingers* *gives up* multiple years has been carrying an even bigger load of terrible things behind it. All during Mango Mussolini’s tenure, every inch of hope I had was repeatedly kicked in the teeth, and while it was familiar–I spent my entire childhood that way–it’s still not ideal. Hell, it’s something nobody should have had to suffer, and yet we did.

And it’s still not done. Papaya Pol Pot and his criminal cabal are still fucking things up whenever and wherever they can.

Not only that, but the acute discomfort of knowing we’re privileged, the shameful gratitude I feel because so far my own cohort has escaped relatively lightly, eats at me.

So I’m feeling rather low end of the pool today, my beloveds, and I suspect even my usual panacea–working myself down to the bone–won’t help. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop; the words, after all, must flow. But…again, I’m so goddamn tired.

The dogs know I’m a bit under today, so they are graciously allowing me to finish my coffee with a minimum of canine supervision. It’s a chill morning, but there’s no rain yet, which means Boxnoggin will not step outside and give me a sidelong “what the hell did you DO, mother?” look.

Small mercies, the only kind we get these days. Still, their quality isn’t strained.

If you’re feeling exhausted, my beloveds, if you’re at the end of your rope, if you’re frayed down to a single strand and there’s no real rest anywhere–you’re not alone. There might be some comfort in that. At least, I hope there is.

Just hold onto your end of the line, and I’ll hang onto mine. We’ll get through Thursday together.

Ambitious Blue-Word Hilarity

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It is a lovely grey morning. I get to run today, after tweaking my ankle last week on the stairs. Everything should be healed up and ready for another brutal road-thumping session.

I can’t wait.

Before that, though, coffee must be absorbed, the dogs need walking, and some breakfast probably wouldn’t go amiss. Once I get all that done and my corpse pushed through a few kilometers at what passes for high speed, the rest of the morning will be given to administrivia like answering correspondence, since there seems to be a fresh crop springing up like mushrooms after rain.

But the afternoon, ah! The afternoon will be for a combat scene (Hell’s Acre is coming along nicely) and some hilarity in a short story (She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero) for my subscribers. I might also be able to shoehorn a bit of Klemp’s book in, too. I am ambitious today.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to feel ambitious. Maybe I’m adapting.

Last week ended with a great deal of hilarity. Someone was very upset at the fact that there are (gasp!) bad words in my books, and that the protagonist of Moon’s Knight standing at the funeral of her best friend was angry at a god.

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What precisely have you been reading of my work, that this is a surprise?

I find this fascinating as well as risible. I did a whole five-book series about a Necromance, a seven-book series about a hellbreed hunter whose feelings on her own Catholic god are complex at best, both full of bad words galore, and all my books have violence and questionable content, let alone wrestling with questions of belief and going toe-to-toe with the divine. Said books, not to mention my social media feeds, let alone this very blog, are stuffed with four-letter and blue words deployed for maximum effect, hilarity, or emphasis.

What, precisely, about a grieving character thinking–not saying aloud, mind you, but thinking–a few bad words in a sky-fairy’s direction while standing at the side of her best friend’s grave offended in a way that the constant use of every bloody-blue word I wish to employ doesn’t? How exactly could this ever be a surprise to anyone with even a cursory relationship to my work? It’s baffling and hilarious at once.

I don’t mind the one-star rating–you do you, Anonymous Reader, you’re entirely entitled to your opinion–but the pearl-clutching does irritate me a bit. It seems just a teensy tad disingenuous, considering my oeuvre. And yes, the only reason I’m highlighting this is because said person is entirely anonymous and will stay that way. Otherwise my amusement would be entirely private.

Though no less intense.

At least I can laugh at the absurdity. It’s always nice to have a chuckle or two on a Monday. Sets everything going in the right direction.

The dogs are crowding close, expressing their ardent desire to get out the door for their usual sniff-and-trot. Miss B is reminding me I am, after all, made of meat, and Boxnoggin is using the strategy of giant dark puppy eyes to slather on a layer of guilt. I suppose I should get moving instead of snort-laughing while I type.

Let’s kick Monday in the pants, my friends. See you, as my grandfather used to say, in the funny pages.