A JoCo Day, Calloo, Callay

A half-pony, half-monkey monster would be a distinct improvement over a lot of what’s happening right now.

…maybe I should back up. I’m listening to Skullcrusher Mountain this morning, since I woke up with Code Monkey playing inside my head. (Long story.) Pretty sure the day’s going to be all right, especially with that soundtrack.

It’d getting more and more difficult to crawl out of bed in the morning. The dogs need brekkie and loo breaks, of course, and that’s pretty much the only thing that dragged me forth this morn. It just doesn’t seem worth it to resurrect on my own account; suffocating myself with my pillows has rarely seemed so enticing.

Life goes on, of course. It could hardly do otherwise. There are books to write and a box of author copies arrived yesterday; I should open it today and see what lurks within. The dogs have had breakfast and a loo break, but they need their walkies like I need a daily run. The children need their mother, no matter that they’re adults now–and isn’t that strange?

I thought motherhood as a job–not an emotional state, which is constant–would be over once the kids reached a certain age. It’s somewhat of a relief to find out they still need their mum, albeit in different ways, as they embark upon adulthood. More relief springs from the fact that they actually seem to like their mother, and are not frantically attempting to escape me by chewing their own limbs off as I did at my son’s age.

Finding out I’ve raised a brace of adults who actually like their parental figure and actively want to spend time with me is a deep gift, one I’m absolutely grateful for. I suppose there really are things to get out of bed in the morning for.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s time for a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains to get the day truly started. Boxnoggin has interrupted the typing of this post at least four times now, excitedly informing me of such things as a leaf blowing down the street or someone walking a trio of dogs near our mailbox. Both events send poor ol’ Lord van der Sploot right over the damn edge.

He needs a walk; I suppose one wouldn’t do me any harm either. At least the smoke has cleared out again, and we’re looking at enough rain to extinguish the local forest fires. Small mercies; eventually, the rain always comes.

Exeunt, humming Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write goddamn login page himself“, pursued by politics…

Today, Comic Relief

There was some clearing last night, and I was ecstatic at the prospect of maybe, just maybe, being able to run this morning. Alas, I woke up to more dense smoke and the air quality advisory extends until noon. Pretty sure we’ll get to noon and said advisory will shift to “lol u thought we were done? nope.”

I have coffee, so my mood will almost certainly improve… but not soon. At least the caffeine will make me a little less cranky. And tomorrow there’s rain in the forecast, which will be a boon and a blessing–if it actually happens, of course, meteorology being what it is. Weather is a highly complex system, and the tiniest invisible thing can throw a forecast wide of the mark.

I’m pretty sure my role today is “comic relief”, and that’s best performed with an edge under one’s humor–well hidden, like a straight razor tucked in a pile of folded silk. The important thing is that edge must never, under any circumstances, punch down–you must always employ it at least laterally (at your own privilege) or ideally upwards (at those more privileged).

The dogs are unhappy with only a block’s worth of walkies each day instead of a proper ramble. I start coughing as soon as I step outside–another reason why I’ll probably climb onto the treadmill even though I’m absolutely aching to pound some pavement–and it can’t be good for their lungs either. But they don’t understand things like air quality, climate change, or elections. To them, I am the sole goddess of the world, and though my ways are strange they do not question, merely complain.

Loudly, in some cases.

In any case, I’ve drained my coffee cup, and yesterday’s work in The Bloody Throne was late but satisfying. I’m at the point where planned scenes can be thrown merrily out the window because the final shape of the book is now visible, and all that’s necessary is to fill in the blocks left over. The book isn’t quite ready to break free and gallop for the finish, but it’s only a matter of time.

I’m ready. I wish I was back at my pre-lockdown productivity rate, but I’m having difficulty switching between projects for the first time in my life. Something in my innards has broken, and I’m not quite sure how to keep us all fed (not to mention the lights on) if I can’t work at least at 75% of my norm. At least I can sit cross-legged while writing now, and that is making my back ever so much happier.

So today I walk the dogs, climb begrudgingly on the treadmill, and find some humor amid the pile of wreckage. The last bit will save me, I suspect; if I can laugh, I’m some version of all right. My sense of humor tends to be pretty mordant and bleak anyway; today, however, there’s going to have to be some slapstick amid the smoke.

We’re on the downhill slide, almost done with the week; soon we’ll stagger past Friday and be able to celebrate another small victory.

I can’t wait.

Smoke, Lens, Still

I had hoped for a break in the smoke today.

The weekend was… eerie. Saturday was dead silent outside, with no trace of birds, squirrels, rabbits, stray cats, or any of the other local fauna. The sky was a dirty yellow lens, sheer and featureless; there wasn’t even a bright spot to show where the sun was hanging.

Sunday there was some movement, and the fog slowly turned white over the course of the day. This morning it’s not as fuggy-close, but it’s getting all your minerals in one breath out there. We need rain; falling water shouldn’t be uncommon in September in the Pacific Northwest, but here we are.

Climate change is a helluva thing.

The strangest thing about the smoke is the unsettling quiet. No leaf blowers, no animals, very few people out walking, very little traffic. The combination of fog and smoke swallows all sound. It’s still close to a London pea-souper out there. I half expect to see Jack the Ripper leaning against a streetlamp post.

On the bright side (assuming there is one) I only worked a half day on Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend cleaning and stuffing new media into my head. I watched The Blue Angel and Fritz Lang’s M because I finished reading Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. I also watched Goedam, a series of eight-minute Korean horror films, and the first episode of Arthdal Chronicles. And half a Humphrey Bogart movie just to round things out.

I suppose I’m adapting to apocalypse. But I hate that any of us have to.

If not for the treadmill, I probably would go mad. But at least I can run in the garage and my lungs don’t feel like dry Brillo pads afterward. Small mercies.

I’m eyeing my Monday warily. As long as we can agree not to hurt each other, we’ll get through the start of the week fine. I have some combat scenes I want to write, especially since we’re getting into the part of The Bloody Throne where the barbarians arrive and all three warring countries are in the field. Big sweeping epic battles are some of my favorite things to construct, next to individual combat and scenes full of fashion snappy multilayered dialogue. (I’m also fond of angst and forehead kisses, but then, we knew that about me and I contain multitudes.) And plenty of characters who deserve it (as well as one or two who don’t) aren’t going to make it out of this story alive.

If you imagine me as a raccoon rubbing its paws together and giggling, you’re pretty close to how I look this morning. Smoke be damned, there’s a story to write, and I suppose I’d best get to it.

See you around.

Tree, Arc, Next Life, Climb

Yesterday was gasping-hot and utterly humid, although it did cool off at night. Still, that sort of thing wears on one’s body. I have become a temperate beast, and cannot imagine how people live in tropical greenhouses. I’ll probably spend my next life as a moss-hung tree on the Olympic Peninsula, gulping at rain and communing with the mycelium at my roots.

This morning is cool but still humid, and they say it’ll reach 94F. And I was just exchanging relieved emails with my writing partner earlier this week about how it seemed to worst of the heat had passed.

Ah well. It’s always something, and at least in this house we have AC. Take the small luxuries where you find them.

This week has been all about the epic fantasy. I need to reread to catch the rhythm before jumping in again; the zero draft has to be done by November. Plus the last half of the last season of HOOD is spiking for a finish. If I drive myself to bare nerves again I think I can get both done, which just leaves the question of deciding the next serial for my very dear subscribers.

If I think only about that–the sheer amount of work ahead of me–I can almost forget the conditions we’re all laboring under. I want to retreat into my writing cave and just not watch the world burn anymore. I can’t stand it; the number of people who apparently long to risk their own lives worshipfully licking fascist boots is far more than I ever imagined.

I have spent my entire life believing humanity is worth saving, and I suppose I still do. I just… have doubts, sometimes. We could end suffering in short order, if we refused to obey greedy bastards and their hateful henchmen.

It’s the henchmen that are the largest problem, seduced by the idea that if they just hate hard enough, if they’re just cruel enough, they too can be greedy bastards at the top of the pile. If not for helping henchman hands, the one percent could very well be forced to surrender their ill-gotten gains with relative ease and the politics of hate and disaster capitalism could be left in the dustbin of history where they belong.

But the rest of us are kept scrabbling too hard for survival, not to mention turned against each other, to do it. The arc of said history may bend towards justice, but I see precious little of it lying about right now.

I know there’s hope somewhere, I’m just not seeing it today. All I want to do is tell a few stories, maybe provide a few people with a little surcease from the agony. Sometimes even that seems impossible.

Miss B is under my desk, blissfully unaware of such things. To her, the world is simple–breakfast, walkies, pets, dinner, bedtime, and in between are naps and the supervising of her poor dim non-furry humans, who may be gods of the can opener and the den where we spend out days but seem not very bright when it comes to the business of noses, fur, and herding. Lord Boxnoggin is similarly blissful, though his duties include alerting when any damn thing–dog, human, car, delivery truck, stray leaf–wanders down the road before the house.

Neither of them care about politics; their sole concern is dinner with a soup├žon of gathering their pack in one place so they can be certain all are accounted for. Sometimes I wish I had so few concerns. But I worry so they don’t have to, the way I do for my children. If there is an arc towards justice, it seems to lie there.

I try. But the worry grinds past my nerves, stripping the insulation and drawing sparks. There’s only so much one lone mad writer can do. My doubts sometimes rise like ghouls from the grave, slavering and ravenous-quick; the only hope I have is to run far enough, write fast enough, love hard enough to outstrip them.

So far I’ve managed. But I’m tired, my friends. I’m so, so tired. Even my usual pick-me-up of performing an act or two of care for others isn’t renewing me as much as it might. I feel like I’m trying to put out a five-alarm fire with an eyedropper of gasoline.

I know you’re probably exhausted too. It kind of helps to know one isn’t alone, even when one feels it dreadfully and is forced to put a brave face on things. I long to stop swimming for a few moments, but I can’t risk sinking.

So it’s onward, my eyes fixed on the next few drafts to finish, the next few hugs the kids need, the next few dinners the dogs require, the next few jokes I’ll spin for online friends, the next few steps in the endurance run called life. There’s a point in any climb when all one can focus on is the next few handholds. You can’t spare the energy to think about the finish, all you can do is perform the next few moves. You can’t even hope you’ll be able to solve the problems after that; there isn’t enough fuel.

Honestly, if I’m a tree next time, it’ll be a nice change. I just hope I’m put somewhere relatively inaccessible so the chainsaws don’t happen along.

Good heavens. I’m even pessimistic about my next life. I suppose that means I should get back to work.

Catch you later, my beloveds. I’ll keep climbing if you will; if you’re tired, rest for a bit. I’ve got the rope.

Sooner or later we’ll make it.

Art, Transmute, Possibility

I have often thought–and remarked–that the creative process is one of transmuting. An original alchemy, absorbing the pain (or joy) of being alive and transforming it into a piece that not only mitigates the burden of experience but also invites others inside as well.

You are what you consume, what you transform, in creative terms as well as physical or emotional. Which is a maxim of greater or lesser degree–one’s body turns everything to energy, heat, and shit no matter the nutritive “value” of what’s consumed, and one’s emotions have deep internal as well as external wellsprings.

…I’m even qualifying my metaphors today. Let me try again.

I have to confess I have often prided myself on the amount of punishment I can take and turn into art. But even my ability to transmute pain is being severely taxed right now. The constant retraumatization is fucking awful–and I’m in a relatively privileged position so far. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share my immunity, and the added load of guilt for being relatively safe while others suffer is crushing.

I have no great shining theme or call to hope today. All I’m after is the ability to get through until I can retreat to bed and escape the burden of consciousness for a few hours, probably assisted by some antihistamines since alcohol gives me hives anymore.

The next stage after hives is anaphylactic shock, but even that isn’t proving the deterrent it could be.

I thought once I’d finished with the recent mini-breakdown it would be easier to get back to work; I thought it was a gauntlet I had to run through and I could skid past the finish line, bloody and battered but still whole. But the hits just keep coming, and even retracting into my shell doesn’t work the way it used to.

One of the few things stopping me from plunging over the railing into the abyss is the fact that I have three paying projects unfinished. People are depending on me, so I have to buckle down and at least turn them in. Then there are the kids, and the dogs. All these considerations are getting thinner and thinner as I stare at the catastrophe unfolding, and that worries me.

It worries me a lot.

Like I said, I have no ringing call to hope today. All I have is brute endurance, which I happen to be kind of good at but which does have its limits. This morass was completely avoidable, but nobody cared enough to listen to the people shouting caution while the ship headed for the rocks.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. We might get through this. I don’t see how, but I admit the possibility–which is another function of art. To be able to admit possibilities one doesn’t believe in is a form of alchemy all its own. It’s not quite a superpower, but every time I sit down to write, it lingers behind every word.

The possibility is slim, fragile, and ghostly, but it will have to be enough.

Portal, Book, Coping

I hit the wall last week. Bigtime. I’m still twitchy, but taking a few days completely off social media performed a wonder or two.

It didn’t catch me up with actual work, mind you. But it did mean I am three scenes from finishing a zero draft of a 100k portal fantasy. That’s right, Moon’s Knight is within spitting distance of being done. I don’t know why the Muse chose this particular story as therapy, but I don’t really care. It’s enough that the words are still coming, even if I am now terrified that I’ve thrown my publishing calendar off for the year.

Whatever. Between pandemic and fascist coup, I’m glad to be writing anything, frankly.

I suppose it’s like leaving the house with small children–one always triples the estimate of necessary time, one always has to carry a tonne of supplies, and one has to be ready to stop and go home at a moment’s notice.

The problem is, home is burning merrily. A fully involved, five-alarm fire, so I can only stand on the kerb with my aching hands and bits of stories, watching the light flicker.

Isn’t that a terrible mental image.

Anyway, my method of coping was to become utterly possessed with a book that will probably never be published, and to sink into it when I should have been working on other things. I did realize what was going on and gave myself until today to get it sorted, which means I’m only a few scenes from the end and can go back to regular work either this evening or tomorrow.

The dogs still need walking, I still need a run. We’ve had the hottest part of the year so far, and it’s been gross. Plus the Princess’s bike was stolen from her work this past weekend, which is just cherry on the cake. She doesn’t want me to do anything about it, wants to handle the situation herself. My mother-instincts went into Godzilla mode, but the Princess’s needs take precedence, so I’m biting my tongue and wringing my hands.

There’s a lot of that going around lately. But at least there’s one more book in the world–even if nobody else will ever read it–and I’ve proven to myself that I can indeed still finish a story. I needed the reminder badly indeed.

I suppose I’d best get started. Moon’s Knight isn’t fully finished yet, after all. Just three more scenes. It always takes longer than one thinks it will, but I have a small glimmer of hope and the rest of Monday.

It’s going to have to be enough.

Hope, Dry Land

It’s been a dreadful week. Monday was bad, Tuesday worse, Wednesday a gulp of air but not nearly enough, Thursday below the surface again. Now it’s Friday, so we all deserve a treat.

This is the dog who wriggled out of his harness last week and gave me a damn heart attack, my gods. He has since been very quiet and thoughtful, probably since I only caught him because he treed a cat. (Don’t worry, I made sure the cat could get down before I left the area to drag Boxnoggin’s silly ass home. Nobody was hurt, though I was terribly frightened for about ten minutes.) Also, I got a new harness for him, one billed as escape-proof.

We shall see. But anyway, here’s Boxnoggin after his adventures, worn out and collapsed on his fancy memory foam bed, reproachfully staring at me because I didn’t let him keep the cat.

We’ve all got problems, haven’t we.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. If you’ve reached the end of your ability to cope, you’re not alone. I’m hoping that a little rest and a little scratching the itch of a book I’ll never sell will give me enough strength to break the surface, gasp, and maybe find some way to climb out of the sea.

At least I can’t sink entirely. I mean, just look at that face. The dog needs me to remind him how to get up the stairs in the morning, for godsake; Miss B has her own list of requirements. For them–and for the kids–I’m still struggling for the surface.

May we all reach dry land soon. Over and out.