There are some books that live very close to the writer’s heart, and this is one of mine.
When I was much younger than today, we moved from Great Britain to Wyoming, and the culture shock was immense. The only thing to love about the place was the wind coming over vast sweeps of long grass and whispering secrets into my aching ears. When we left again, this time to move to the Pacific Northwest, I cried as quietly as I could in the car, telling the plains and the wind I’d be back.
It took many a year, but I finally returned. Not physically, but I’m not sure it matters.
Fireside was the only publisher willing to take a chance on this book, for a variety of reasons, and the only publisher I felt comfortable trusting its bloody beating heart to; this beautiful cover was made by Eleanor Chuah. I’m proud and honored to invite you into this book, my dear Readers, and I hope you enjoy it…
The first night we spent in that ancient mobile home, the wind mouthed its corners with a low whispering almost like words from another room.
Desiree Sarpe and her family–minus their domineering, abusive patriarch–have settled on the Wyoming plains, where the wind speaks, the grass whispers, and power comes in the strangest, most ordinary of forms. Unfortunately, the past and its terrors can’t be easily shaken, and Dez is about to find out how brutal, bloody, and costly magic really is…
Sometimes the stars align, and my once-monthly insomnia (no doubt a hormonal thing) rouses me not at 2am or at 3am, but at 5:30am and I can lie in the dark, thinking, and roll out of bed early because the urge to write is filling me from toes to scalp with raw tingling.
The Muse is a bitch, but sometimes that’s useful.
So I got up, fed the dogs, swallowed my porridge while grumbling about the injustice of having to feed my own meatsack, and made some very, very strong tea. And now I am typing, which is where I longed to be ever since opening my eyes.
It’s quiet outside because of the fog. It’s not quite a pea-souper, wrapping its fingers around each leafless branch; the wind earlier in the week stripped most of Autumn’s finery and hurried her home. Now all I’m waiting for is the rains. Cold, dark, damp, that’s when I’m most productive, lighting a candle to keep the night at bay.
Of course, lying in bed, I knew what the Friar Tuck on a Spaceship scene I was struggling with yesterday needed. The answer arrived on little cat feet like the fog itself, and is one of the reasons I’ve rolled out of bed. And, of course, the storm king and the witch are finding their feet. The witch needs kidnapping, of course, just so I can write the scene with her beating the shit out of thugs in a van and eventually bursting out of the vehicle on a puff of flame and shrapnel, dusting off her motorcycle jacket as the daimon and the storm god arrive to “rescue” her and find out she’s rescued herself, thank you very much, and when’s dinner?
Of course, there’s revisions on The Maiden’s Blade to deal with, too, but those are proving troublesome. I need a certain lord to do something, but he’s proving cagey. Plus, plenty of that book rips my heart out, and I’m already feeling a bit sore and tender in the cardiac area.
So today’s work is cut out for me, and I bend over my cobbler’s bench, cutting and stitching, my fingers pricked and bleeding. Friar Tuck needs to understand just what sort of snake-pit Prince John’s court is, and his crisis of faith–already well underway–needs some higher stakes. I was trying to write it yesterday, but Robin and Gisbourne kept intruding, and I finally had to write a conversation between the two of them. I wanted to do it while they sparred with lightsabers, but I think they need to have a different convo while they do that, an exceedingly male “let’s punch each other and then go for drinks” one.
Dawn has strengthened. Everything is grey, though the cedars are black lacework blots. They’re not whispering this year, having gone to bed early; all the trees round here are determined to sleep deeply. It’s like they sense something coming.
…dear gods, I hope they’re wrong, but they’re trees, and as such, it’s not likely. But for today, there’s work to be done.
Sir Boxnoggin and I found this unlucky bundle of feathers while out running. The crows have already been at them, and Boxnoggin was extremely interested, but I did not let him give more than a token sniff.
Poor birdie. Nature’s cleanup crew has already recycled most of them by now, I reckon. Such bright plumage, on such a grey day.
What you can’t see to the left is Miss B’s own super-fancy office-bed. She and Sir Boxnoggin have reached the stage of acquaintance where they will bask in sunlight with their hindquarters touching, or synchronize their sleeping positions. By the time winter arrives fully, I’m sure they’ll be happy enough with each other to sleep in a pile of limbs and fur, especially since Miss B has the lovely long coat and Boxnoggin runs warm.
The rains have arrived again. False summer has fled, heat-stressed leaves have dropped and those who survived the drought have begun to turn. Miss B is sanguine–she remembers, however dimly, that water falling from the sky is a thing.
Sir Boxnoggin, Lord van der Sploot, however, is agog. Things were not like this in Texas, he informs me, every time he has to step outside. I tried to remind him of a hurricane or two, but he informs me archly that what he remembers is dust and heat, not this damp bullshit.
Lord van der Sploot is not a big fan of change. I don’t blame him, he’s had more than his fair share. He needs a good long chunk of boring, nothing-ever-changes time, and we’re doing our best. It helps that feeding time, running time, and playing time is all the same, even if there is water where there shouldn’t be.
I took a forced rest this weekend, in order to gear up for the big push to get Steelflower in Snow out before the end of the month. I managed not to work except for a thousand words or so on Incorruptible, mostly because I don’t want to lose momentum. It was a chore to keep myself from working, but I did get all my Sunday cleaning chores done early. Other than that, I stuffed a lot of movies into my head, watched another couple episodes of Castle Rock–though I must say, the Queen episode brought everything nicely to a halt for me and I’m not sure I want to continue–and managed to read a good chunk of The American SlaveCoast, which I’ve had to take in small pieces because it’s just so devastating.
Once I’m finished with that, I can reward myself with finishing Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart, the Middle English edition. Right now the main characters there are in Ruck’s secret fastness and I want them to stay there until I can return.
In order to get there, though, I’ve got to work. The siege portion of Steelflower needs some heavy revising to make it ready, and I should probably go looking for the glossary, too.
*sigh* No rest for the wicked, ay? There’s also a run in the rain to accomplish, while Sir Boxnoggin complains next to me. He’ll settle down once it’s clear we’re outside to work. I may even have to get him a little coat, since he’s shorthaired and runs warm. He’s glad to have a nice bright home to return to, full of comfy beds, pets at the drop of a hat, and regular mealtimes, and his gladness helps when I start dragging.
Other than that, I have my SAD light on just to stay ahead of the game. I’ve been more productive on rainy days than I was all bloody summer. And bonus, with the rains, not so many people will be out letting their dogs off leash or wanting to stop me while I run in order to exchange commonplaces about the bloody weather.
I’ve waited half the year for this, and dammit, I’m going to enjoy it.
The nights are finally cool enough to leave a window open and sleep through. Trees are burning their summer leaves, letting them drop, and emerging naked from the fire. Rain lingers though the afternoons warm; the ground is damp. The Great Pumpkin approaches.
I can’t wait. My favorite time of the entire year-wheel is upon us. I hate raking leaves, but the joy of being forty-plus is that I don’t have to. There’s always neighborhood kids or landscapers looking for an extra buck, and I will gladly pay for a little peace of mind. The scars on my palms from childhood raking have stretched and whitened, submerging until I can only feel them when I spread my fingers and stay tense for a little while. I’m sure they’ll pain me as I grow older, but that’s fine.
I don’t understand people who fear getting older. Sure, there’s facing your own mortality, but one can die by misadventure, violence, or sickness at the drop of a hat at any age. The further I am from my helpless childhood, the better. I have my own car, my own money, my own home full of things I love. I don’t have to speak to my past tormenters or allow them any of my mental real estate.
And, frankly, the longer I endure the more chance I’ll outlive them, and be granted the real freedom of knowing they’re permanently barred from harming me.
Perhaps that’s why fall is my favorite. It reminds me that I’ve survived so far by hiding under ice and bare branches when necessary, conserving my strength and fire until needed. In the rain, tears can’t be seen, and the blurring of falling water gives me both solace and camouflage.
I write, I run, I care for those under my aegis. But sometimes I stop and take a breath, feeling a bone-deep gladness that I have seen many autumns now and each one takes me further from a horrifying pit of bleak despair.
It’s good to survive. Many don’t, and we who do carry them curled inside us. We carry those who cannot crawl any further, and those who were subsumed in the darkness. Each day we are granted, each day we fight through, is a victory for the forever silent as well as for ourselves.
If you’re carrying, today, try to take a deep breath.
I needed some time off from eighteen-hour revision days, so my writing partner said, “Lacey. Let’s go to Lacey.” What the hell is in Lacey, you ask? LOTS OF STUFF.
For example, there’s Shipwreck Beads. A warehouse. Of beads and beading supplies. Lest you think, well, that’s not so amazing, let me just reiterate: a WAREHOUSE. Bigger than my own domicile. In fact, multiple domiciles stacked on top of each other, because there were two floors. (We did not head upstairs, the bottom floor was more than enough for multiple hours of browsing.) I’m glad we made a circuit once, looking over everything, and then decided on purchases, because if we’d taken a cart (yes, they have CARTS, for BEADS) neither of us would have gotten out with any money left at all.
I sent that picture to the kids, and the Little Prince responded with, “You’re hitting the right…beads!”
Punning is apparently in his genetic code.
Anyway, once our endurance was exhausted there we broke for lunch and found the continent’s sketchiest Mexican restaurant right next to a biker garage. (The number of Harleys in the shared parking lot was approaching critical mass.) We also found a much less sketchy restaurant, and if I could ever drink tequila that would have been the place for it.
*sigh* I can’t drink at all anymore, but it’s nice to contemplate, I guess.
“I just wanted to see your eyes out on sticks,” my writing partner said, and they were. That particular Cabela’s is warehouse-sized too, but an order of magnitude larger than Shipwreck. And it was packed, both with goods and with people. You could do a lot worse than settle on one of the benches there and people-watch, listening for dialogue snippets. (All things feed the work.)
In the middle of the vast space was a two-story fake hill covered with taxidermy animals. Yes, you read that right.
What I didn’t take a picture of, though I should have, is the hollowed-out interior of the hill, where the aquariums are. Sturgeon, trout both rainbow and speckled, pike–and big fish, too, just swimming around. Oh, and catfish. Boy howdy, were there ever catfish. I’m pretty sure that when the poor things get large enough they’re hauled out and consumed by the employees. There was even a polar bear (shot in 1970, according to the placard) and–are you ready?–a whole zebra, which was not on the fake hill but on a platform jutting out from the mezzanine.
We did not see a huge chunk of pink camo, which my writing partner assures me is otherwise a staple of the place. (She was a bit put out by this, to tell the truth.) But I scored some good hoodies for a fair price, which is what I wanted out of the place. Now, along with new jeans, I’m totally ready for winter. Which is good, because today began with grey skies and glorious rain, finally.
The weirdest thing about Cabela’s was in the loo. There was a biohazard sharps container on the wall, and it was pretty full. We figured there’s probably a lot of diabetes in their customer base, because it had a bunch of blood sugar testing strips among the insulin needles.
Cabela’s is also where my writing partner found a stuffed wolverine while I was writing Weasel Boy. I had to go by and say hello.
We returned home with plenty of crafting materials, a squeaky rabbit toy for Sir Boxnoggin, a smoked rawhide bone for Miss B (which she is guarding assiduously while I type this) and various other odds and ends. It was good to get out of the bloody revisions for a little bit, all the characters were starting to blur together and I needed something other than chewing the bones of an epic fantasy for a few hours. And now, of course, along with proper hoodies I’ll live in come winter I have enough earring material for MONTHS.
Today, of course, it’s back to the grind of revision–taking each sentence, turning it upside down, shaking it, using a scalpel to pare it down to bone. I’ll work better for having had a brief break, and I might even get this bloody revision done. I’m so far in the weeds I can’t even think about what it will feel like to have this book off my plate, and it irks me every time I look at my task list.
So that was my weekend, my hoopy froods. I hope yours was similarly enchanting and terrifying.