Struggling For Momentum

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.

Back to Scratching Itch

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I’m settling down to my blog post a little late this Thursday, mostly because I’ve been fighting with print distributors. Well, fighting is a strong word. I’m simply being very clear about expectations and deadlines.

*sips tea*

I tested a new-ish print distro with four books, and have seen a 75% failure rate. Certainly not ideal by any measure, and let’s not even talk about people not bothering to read an email before they cut-and-paste a reply. To be fair, I know the reps are quite probably overworked–which is why I try to make it easy, giving all details for maximum clarity in every. single. email.

To be even more fair, the matter has finally escalated to the level where something has a chance of actually getting done, so that’s a good thing.

Had I been in publishing less than almost two decades (my, how the time has flown) I would probably just have given up on all four editions, but I know when to be stubborn by now. I have been treading the edge of Karen as this thing wears on, because by the gods, I will not be undone by a bureaucracy.

I will say the irritation was great fuel for the morning’s run. I woke up with grandson’s “Oh No!!!” in my head at high volume, so that was on repeat for a nontrivial number of kilometers. I’m still a bit sore (and dotted with various bruises) from the swift and complete moving job we did for a friend Tuesday, too. Stretching, a tonne of hydration, and going to bed early tonight will probably make me right as rain.

Today I get a burrito for lunch, some fun subscription stuff drops for my beloveds, the dogs are relatively calm, and while very warm the weather is not overly awful. And I get to throw both a heroine and her suitor into a Very Dangerous Situation, with bullets flying.

It feels good to be writing again, instead of dealing with distribution hassles, formatting, edits, or proofs. Just scratching the itch for twenty minutes or so on a day when I’m exhausted juggling other chainsaws is not optional. For the rest of this month I’m back to producing new words instead of dealing with the ones I’ve already written, and it is marvelous.

I wish you a lovely Thursday, my friends. May we all get a chance to do something we like today, instead of enduring what we must.

Over and out.

Puzzled By Cruelty

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Yesterday was all about line edits; Sons of Ymre #1 is inching that much closer to publication. (Yes, as soon as there’s preorder information, I will absolutely let my beloved Readers know.) I was up what passes for relatively late last night–the dogs went to bed without me, and are bright-eyed and fresh this morning while I drag.

I am a night owl by temperament, but years of having to get the kids ready for and delivered to school have left a mark. Now that’s over, the dogs are still on a schedule and creatures of habit who view All Change as Very Very Bad do not take kindly to schedules shifting. Left to my druthers I’d be up around 1pm, work until 3-4am, and fall into bed around 4-5am, depending.

Alas, it is not possible, and my body’s protests must be listened to though they change not a whit of what must be. Ah well.

The news from Texas yesterday put a dent in me, as well. I know a certain proportion of people just plain enjoy cruelty; it is a fact of existence on this planet, like gravity or nitrogen. Still, it’s puzzling. Why spend all your time being a racist, misogynist asshat when there’s a literal infinity of other things to fill one’s earthly time with? These people could go touch grass, learn how to unicycle, write songs, watch some movies, or even just take a goddamn walk.

Instead, they apparently want to be nasty little fascist dipshits. Why spend that kind of effort? It’s absolutely and literally easier to just…not, to simply be kind or at the very least leave other people alone.

I suppose that’s part of why I write. Not deepest, most overarching reason–I am, quite frankly, unable to stop, and have been ever since second grade–but an important one nonetheless. The addiction of some people to cruelty has baffled me literally all my life, starting with childhood caregivers who hurt me apparently just for funsies. It made no sense to Child Me and makes even less to Adult Me. (For whatever value of “adult”, I suppose.)

I wish I knew why. Attempting to understand might be the writer’s curse or just a function of empathy, I haven’t decided. Yes, I’ve written villains; I’ve even written characters who enjoy cruelty for its own sake–Perry in the Kismet series, for example, or a few of the antagonists in Afterwar, not to mention Summer in Gallow & Ragged.

Now that I think about it, “comfortable with cruelty” is a hallmark of many of my villains or antagonists. Yet those characters, foul as they are, cannot hold a candle to the petty, nasty, apparently endless brutality and mendaciousness of real-life authoritarians. Even Perry, and he was dead set on killing the entire world if it got him what he wanted from Jill.

Fiction has to make sense on some level. Real life, alas, does not.

I wish I understood. It’s long been my fervent belief that understanding breeds compassion, and while I’m fully aware sociopaths and narcissists view compassion as weakness it’s still integral to me, I will keep it that way, and it doesn’t mean I’m unprepared to enforce my boundaries. I can even view the understanding as a way of anticipating the behavior of those who like cruelty for its own sake, so I can protect me and mine from their depredations.

I suppose the only hope is to keep writing. There’s finicky little changes to go over in Ymre now that the bulk of the line edits are done, I just approved a shiny hardback for Moon’s Knight, and today is subscription day. The next major project is revisions on The Black God’s Heart diptych, but there’s a fellow writer’s book to beta read and an article to copyedit for another friend in the queue, so those will be loaded to the cannon first.

Not to mention walkies with a pair of excited, bratty, furry toddlers and a run to get in. The latter, at least, will help me concentrate and get through the rest of the day. I will mull over the mystery of why some people are cruel goddamn dipshits during both, I’m sure, and arrive at no answer other than, “They like it, and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.”

It is not a satisfying explanation, but at least it grants some succor. It will, as I often say, have to be enough.

Over and out.

Week of Mondays

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Someone in the neighborhood has been roofing since Monday. Or several someones. The nail guns and staple guns are going like a fusillade. I’ve just made my peace with the fact that Monday’s happening all week.

And it’s been kind of a dilly so far, frankly. Maybe just considering every day Monday is how it’s gonna be from now on, I dunno. But I’ve had a new release, line edits for Sons of Ymre #1 landed, I still have the HOOD omnibus to fold in proofreader changes on, the Black God’s Heart diptych has edits lingering, plus there’s a lot of Hell’s Acre to write.

And Guilder to frame for it, as usual. I’m swamped.

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve crossed off my weekly to-do list–CEs for The Bloody Throne, a contract for some new Ghost Squad books, arguing over the phone with an insurance company (always big fun), and fixing the (not so pleasant) results of the print distribution experiment for Moon’s Knight, not to mention the release day proper for the latter. (For the curious, the print edition is currently available through Amazon; other channels will have it in due time. I have pretty hardback plans, too.)

Yet I feel like I’ve done nothing, and it makes me want to weep.

The only cure is putting my head down and working like a demon though the weekend. Revisions won’t get accomplished, of course–but I think it’s very likely I can get the omnibus proof sorted this weekend and Season Three prepped for September release, which is just within the schedule I set earlier. Which means the omnibus can get sorted for October-November.

That’s the thing about book releases. By the time they happen, the book’s already probably a year (if not multiple years) old. I’m already juggling a brand-new set of chainsaws, and flinching every time I look at the old one(s).

But it’s a nice cloudy morning, it smells like rain though I think that’s a polite petrichor fiction, and the chattering of roofing equipment isn’t quite soothing but it does (hopefully) mean someone’s getting paid for their work on a relatively pleasant day. The heat seems to have retreated a bit, and we’re no longer miserably sheltering in any AC we can find. There might even be tomatoes in a short while, because the plants are looking very happy indeed.

Of course, I probably won’t get out to harvest them, being head-down in a whirlwind of work being my preferred state. I suppose a week’s worth of Mondays is a small price to pay for getting a new book out into the world and making a dent in the massive to-do list. I guess all that frantic work I did during lockdown is sort of paying off? At the time, I was just trying to keep my head above water.

Whomst among us in 2020 wasn’t, though. *sigh*

All right. Thursday also means subscription stuff to get out the door, and I suppose I should start the proof changes today if I’m going to work through the weekend. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and a writer definitely qualifies as both.

Or maybe just this particular writer does.

See you around, beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, mask up, get your shot(s), and keep holding on.

Even a week of Mondays has to end sometime.