Little Kindness

A tiny bravery.

If all goes well, this will be a silk tree. Of course, a lot depends on if I’ve provided the right growing conditions, and if the seed was truly viable and not damaged by recent weather. If it doesn’t work out, the tree one block over will produce a new crop of seedpods next year, and I’ll try again.

Assuming we’re still here next year, that is.

There’s just a hint of green, and it’s by no means certain. A hundred things could go wrong. I have another seed in a similar pot, and will try to coax both along. Over and over I plant, and whisper encouragement, and wait.

If everything goes as I hope, there might be a sapling in our yard next year, but that’s no guarantee either. Insects, rot, drought could all strike–we had a tiny oak that didn’t survive last summer’s 115F heat dome. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) But who knows? Maybe we’ll have a silk tree eventually, with its marvelous powdery scent for a few weeks in summer and its pretty pink and yellow blossoms.

Of course, by then we might not be in this house, or something. No guarantees there, either.

But still, it’s important to whisper a little love into any seedling one can. I’m feeling low and drained these days, my beloveds, and doing my best to hold on. A little kindness, a tiny murmur, a small corner where the growing conditions can be tweaked and helped along…it’s all I can do. I don’t know if it’s enough, but it’s what I’ve got.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, dear ones. These are terrible, extraordinary times, and we’re all on our last frayed nerve.

See you Monday.

Year Three Begins

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The sound of shatter.

It’s a brand new year!

The dishwasher has stopped working, there’s a leak under the kitchen sink, and the tire pressure sensor light is on, but it’s a new year. Amazon has decided to start penalizing authors because e-thieves are pirating their books, but it’s a new year. The CDC has decided to sacrifice lives for the economy as if they’re Republicans, losing what little moral and scientific authority they had left, but it’s a new year.

December 25th rolled around with a new item here at the Chez. The Princess picked up some cheap crockery at the dollar store, and we began the day by shattering a plate apiece, by either deceleration or hammer, on the back walk. The kids are enchanted with this, and can’t wait to do it again next year.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, holidays are…problematic, for me. Every single “holiday” I endured growing up was a nightmare of mounting pressure until the inevitable raging explosion from one of my adult caretakers. At that point, the worst had happened and all I could do was endure.

There’s a certain relaxation in, “it’s happened, all I have to do now is hunker down.” So this year, as the pressure and tension of anticipating the worst on a “holiday” mounted, I decided to do something about it. And lo, it worked.

The sound of breakage triggered the release valve, and the rest of the day was actually pretty nice. It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed Christmas in decades, frankly, and the kids were absolutely thrilled. Everyone got a plate to break, we all pitched in with the cleanup, and then there were good things to eat and a cosy blaze in the fireplace all day. The kids are bound and determined to do the same thing next year, if the pandemic doesn’t end up getting us after all.

…yeah, you can tell even my agathism is taking a beating. We’re in Year 3 of the Pandemic, after all. If one goes historically, this is the year things will get sorted (the Spanish Flu basically took three, I’m going to cover my ears and scream if anyone says, “but the Black Plague…”), at least on the epidemiological front.

I also received some…let’s call it “news”, on Boxing Day. Not unexpected, and I was prepared and braced, but it was still deeply uncomfortable and called up a lot of complex feelings. I’m not surprised things started to go haywire just afterward.

So here we are in 2022. May this year be better than the last, however incrementally. I’ve got a load of work this morning, including making bloody phone calls to get the leak under the kitchen sink sorted and the car’s tires checked. Of course everyone will be doing everything they put off last week because of the holiday, so nothing will get done in a timely manner, but that’s to be expected under current conditions.

There’s nothing to do but keep going. I sent off yet another book–the second Ghost Squad novel, Klemp’s book–last week too, very early but that’s better than late. Now I can turn my entire engines to Hell’s Acre, and also spend some time on the second Sons of Ymre book. I intend to work until it becomes an impossibility; it seems the only way through.

Welcome to the New Year, my beloveds. If all else fails, try breaking a cheap plate or two. It worked wonders for us, I’ve gotta admit.

Excelsior, and all that.

Before the (Holiday) Plunge

Blogging will be kind of spotty between now and the New Year, my friends. I’m…tired.

In any case, it’s Christmas Adam (we call it that because it comes before Christmas Eve, har de har har, old joke, STILL FUNNY) and I’m taking a deep breath before one of the most stressful events of the year–and that’s saying something, given how 2020 and 2021 have both turned out.

There’s a lot to be grateful for, but I just want some rest. If I could sleep until January 1, I would not mind a single bit; for one thing, it seems like a great way to make a dent in ever-mounting pandemic exhaustion.

Alas, it’s not an option, either biologically (having to get up to wee rather destroys the plan, no matter how tight-knit said plan is otherwise) or practically (the kids, not to mention the dogs, would be Quite Unnerved). So we struggle on, boats against the current and all that.

I hope you have a lovely holiday, beloveds. I hope it is full of good things to eat, low to no stress, and all the things you want but nothing you don’t. I may be about before the year turns over, or I might not. I suppose I’m saying “don’t expect much”, and if that isn’t a bumper sticker for the past couple years, I don’t know what is.

See you around.

RELEASE DAY: She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero

Happy Yule, my beloveds! It’s the darkest night of the year and the day the kids and I celebrate even if we miss the festival on the 25th. Tonight a candle will hold vigil for me, since I have lost the desire to be awake all night. And boy howdy, do I have something fun for you!

You may or may not remember one of IndigoChick Design‘s premade sales, where I snapped up a lovely, enchanting cover I really do have to write something serious for. It was the tagline on the cover that got me, though: She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero. It reminded me of those 70s pulp gothic romances–women with great hair fleeing old houses. Of course I had to buy it, and I had to write a story.

And this is what happened.


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She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero

Titness McHawttie has fled her marriage to the disturbingly virile Byron Blackheart, Lord Chestthumper. Can she survive a night upon the moors with her faithful almost-unicorn–and will Byron find his vanished bride in time?

Now available direct from Gumroad, from Barnes & NobleAppleKobo, or Amazon. (Paperback also available.)

Note: This is a short story, about 10k words.


There’s all sorts of stuff jammed in here–gothic romance conventions, a pinkish almost-unicorn named Chicken, a dashing highwayman, an aged herbalist beldam, a cold-hearted baroness, Rocky Horror Picture Show callbacks, references to the divine Bette Midler, a distinct whiff of the SNL Scorched Corset skit, and more! Some of my beloved subscribers, whose support gave me the time and resources to write the dang thing, are also Tuckerised in it.

The “Lady” comes from my Yule gift to myself–an honest-to-gosh Scottish title–and “Alana Smithee” is a long-standing in-joke between Lady Skyla Dawn Cameron (also a Lady now) and Yours Truly. It’s 10k+ words of hilarity, and I had a great time putting it together.

I also begged my long-suffering cover designer for a new pulpy cover, and she gave me something great. I mean, just look at it. (I’m particularly fond of the 99p sticker. Takes me back, that does.)

So, just in time for Yule–I was waiting last night for one last sales platform to update; it’s near Christmas and everyone is overwhelmed–Titness McHawttie is fleeing across Heathencliffe Moors, and Byron Perssy Blackheart, Lord Chestthumper (who has fought more than one duel with persons mispronouncing his title) is in somewhat more-than-lukewarm pursuit. I hope you enjoy this little tale, my friends. I had a wonderful time with it.

And with that, I’m off. We’ve a busy day here at the chez, between some last-last-very last-minute shopping to prepare for the weekend, the dogs needing walking, a few spiritual observances, running my weary corpse, and some more work on Hell’s Acre. One I finish my coffee and swallow some toast I’ll be flying low with no brakes; should you hear a howling in the distance, don’t worry, my friends. It’s just me, moving at speed.

See you around.

Boostered, and Well-Filling

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The Princess, being a frontline worker, had her booster appointment on Tuesday; the Prince and I went along to ask if they were doing walk-ins as well. Fortunately, it was one of the few pharmacies in the area offering them, there was nobody else in the store, so all three of us got our booster and flu shot at once.

The relief is immense. So immense, in fact, I’m not sure how much of being absolutely wiped out yesterday (and frankly, almost totally wiped out today) is psychological, and how much is my immune system pitching a gigantic fit. Either way, it’s far, far better than suffering the plague or influenza, so here we are.

The kids both had mild arm soreness and a wee bit of fatigue. So far their side effects are very small, which I am unendingly grateful for. I am logy, still a bit feverish, and brain-fogged, but the fatigue has gone down a bit. I will say, whether it was the relief or the fever, I had hypersaturated, very odd dreams.

None of them were worthy to turn into a short story, let alone a book, so that’s a bit disappointing. But I shall persevere. Gods know I have enough material to keep me busy, even after shoving three books out the door and into the wild, wild world.

All my engines can turn to Hell’s Acre for a short time now, then I can give Ghost Squad #2 a bit of a shake and a towel-down before sending it off to beta readers. At the very least I have to get all of the brackets out.

Song that never ends, no rest for the weary or the wicked in our benighted world, and all that.

Before I forget, a huge shout-out to everyone who told me what movies, books, songs, and the like they’re using to refill their wells right now. You guys are a very eclectic bunch! (Feel free to add what you’re reading/watching/loving right now! I always love hearing about it.) I’m reading Burkert’s Homo Necans (because that is my idea of fun) and have been talked into watching the Wheel of Time series on Amazon.

I knew a few WoT fans in high school, and their behavior over the book(s) convinced me I wanted nothing to do with the entire thing. Later, I shelved them during my many stints as a bookstore worker, and the behavior of the male fans there just deepened my conviction. But, as one of my friends pointed out, misogynistic neckbeards are up in arms over the Amazon Prime adaptation being “diverse” and “woke”, so it’s probably worth a try.

I like the costuming (I am Team Suspenders, and some of the sweaters delight my inner knitter) and the CGI is great, not to mention Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney. (The latter sparked one of my favorite characters in the Livi Talbot series.) So, all in all, it seems pretty awesome and I might give the books a try, though that Rand guy irritates the living DAYLIGHTS out of me already and I can’t wait for him to get stabbed by a giant trolloc or eyeless thing already. I’m only a couple episodes in, so we’ll see. I might even give the books a whirl, who knows?

So today is for gently getting back to work–only for a few hours, there’s no use in courting burnout–and getting subscription stuff out the door. Not to mention walking the dogs and prodding my poor bewildered corpse through something approaching a run. I haven’t had a run in days and it’s beginning to wear on my nerves.

I never, ever can get the hang of Thursdays, but one must suffer them all the same. Time to strap some shoes on, grab some toast, and get the dogs walked.

See you around, beloveds.

Shock of Recognition

It’s been an odd week. Of course, the last couple years have been odd, with spikes of weirdness piercing individual months. Endurance is the name of the game, and mine is faltering more than a little lately.

I hit somewhat of a nadir, so I pulled out the big guns. I actually–gasp!–asked for help, and while I was waiting for the request to wend its way through the labyrinth of electrons every email must traverse, I pulled out the big guns.

That’s right, I returned to Nabokov.

Dear ol’ Vlad’s gotten me through a lot. This time I blazed through Lolita and my personal favorite, Invitation to a Beheading, and now I’m deep in the garden of my second favorite, Ada, and the words have worked their magic. I have been nourished, and I think I’m recovering. But I want to talk about something smaller today.

In 1956 Nabokov wrote an afterword to Lolita.1

And when I thus think of Lolita, I seem to always pick out for special delectation such images as Mr. Taxovich, or that class list of Ramsdale school, or Charlotte saying “waterproof,” or Lolita in slow motion advancing toward Humbert’s gifts, or the pictures decorating the stylized garret of Gaston Godin, or the Kasbeam barber (who cost me a month of work)…These are the nerves of the novel. These are the secret points, the subliminal co-ordinates by means of which the book is plotted…

Vladimir Nabokov, “On a Book Entitled Lolita

I often talk about the “hidden hooks”, the secret places where a book’s tapestry is fastened to something solid in order to make it hang right. I hadn’t realized, though I’d read that afterword at least ten times, that Nabokov was talking about the same thing, though in his own inimitable style. Of course, a Perfessor of Reel True Litrachur will no doubt sniff that my work bears as much relation to Mr Sirin’s as a spavined nag to a gleaming unicorn, but that doesn’t concern me.

I gave what might be termed a violent start of recognition. (As ol’ Vlad might have said, a reader “leapt up, ruffling their hair.”)

One of the things giving me much trouble lately is a certain revision. I had to throw out some2 demands masked as suggestions, and once I did the work stopped resisting, dropping into high gear. My writing partner and agent deserve most of the credit, but a significant part must go to long-dead Vladimir Vladimirovich, who for all his genius struggled much as the rest of us do with writing a goddamn book.

There’s been a certain amount of Twitter Discourse lately on the perception that writing is just typing.3 The invisible parts of the process are difficult, time-consuming, and brutal in several different ways–and that doesn’t even cover the various pitfalls of actual publication, mind you.

Yet there are rewards, not least of which is reading someone else’s book for the fiftieth (or fifty-first, or thousandth) time and finding not only the solace and sustenance one needs but also hidden encouragement from one word-drunk wright to another. Of course he didn’t mean it thus, of course dear Sirin is long gone and probably wouldn’t have been interested in anything I penned.4

The connection remains. The recognition, the spark, the joy of finding a few words in a tongue one can decipher amid a mass of hieroglyphs, still endures. I desperately needed that reminder this week.

I can see finishing these particular revisions now, which is a distinct relief. More than that, a bit of hope has been infused into my bones again, though I have tried to avoid it–2020 kicked me in the teeth every time I gained a little bit of Pandora’s last gift, and 2021 shouted “hold my beer” in that regard.

The cockroach of hope, like my silly stubborn grasp on life itself, just won’t go away. After all, there’s work to be done, and I can’t give up as long as I have deadlines and obligations. The net above the abyss, slipping a bit lately, has caught on a nail.

So here I hang, listening to the whistling of the wind, weaving my own stories. The most I can hope for is that one day, someone else will catch upon a hook I drove into the fabric of my own work, and their slide for the edge is likewise arrested.

It’s a grimly beautiful thought, and I will hold it close for as long as I need to, today and tomorrow and afterward, until the end.

INCORRUPTIBLE, on sale!

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Welcome to December, my beloveds! And in celebration of the new month, Incorruptible is $3.99 across ebook platforms–Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Amazon. You can also buy it direct at my Gumroad store; if you enter the code “ANGEL” at checkout there, the discount will automagically apply!

I really liked Michael Gabon and Jenna, and have ideas for a second book in their world. (In all my copious spare time!) Plus, the cover, by the inimitable Indigo Chick Designs, is absolutely thrilling. (She thought it would be “too much.” Pshaw, as if.)

If you’re not sure whether this is a book for you, the first few chapters are available for free to help you decide. ‘Tis the season for gifts, after all.

Come January 1, regular pricing will resume and I may (or may not) have another book on sale. We’ll see. In the meantime, enjoy Jenna and Michael’s cross-country, demon-infested road trip…