Catkin Cycle

Shed skins.

The magnolias are shedding catkins because the waxy white, sometimes blushing, blossoms below are bursting free. The flowers are lovely, yes. But I love more the spent skins, the tough furry guards, scattered on sidewalk and lawn. Their time is done; they stood watch and now may rest. Even if the bed is stony, they take sleep gratefully. My heart hurts at their bravery, at their discard, at their service ending so ignominiously–but they don’t seem to mind.

I think they’re so tired they don’t care where they’re dropped.

To create means to understand that everything is already and always alive, and also that everything will perish and transform. The great wheel spins on, flickering through bright waking and dark sleep–the catkins will provide nourishment as they rot, the tree will blossom again next spring, and when trunk and branches fail their decay will fuel some kind of new growth no matter how humans poison the atmosphere.

They’re still fuzzy, the catkins, but it’s the wiry brush of an old animal’s fur. They’re survivors, grizzled and experienced, shielding the tender beneath them. Now they are leathery grey peels, Spring’s first windfall, and the cycle moves on.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. Remember to protect yourself so you, too, can rest.

Blank Day

Woke up to snow–winter’s last gasp, and will probably be gone by tomorrow–and normally that would be exciting. Normally I’d be thrilled, and watching the dogs cavort in a frosty wonderland would make me smile. I might even try some sort of tokking and tikking, or Insta reeling, in honour of the weather.

But not today. The news was horrid last night and just keeps on getting worse and worse today.

There’s no sense to be made of it except the fact that bullies suffering no pushback will continue to escalate. Large or small, a bully just…keeps going, until they’re met with actual consequences for their actions. Caving doesn’t work. Attempting to “understand” and console the bullies doesn’t work–and I say that as someone who firmly believes understanding brings compassion.

Compassion should never be mistaken for weakness. Yet bullies consistently do just that, and the cost mounts to a terrible level before humanity mounts an immune response to the infection. The idea that the sickness might be endemic torments me.

From the local to the national to the international level, we’ve put up with bullies, coddled and propitiated them, for far too long. They’re great at divide-and-conquer, of course–bullies use the method because it works. Yet their playbook is thin. Domestic abusers, bigots, and dictators all work off the same timeworn strategies, weaponizing the empathy and distraction of the rest of us. It’s an effective set of tactics because it strikes right at the heart of the cooperation that is humanity’s biggest feature and advantage. It works partly because we have a deep need to get along, and partly because sociopaths and malignant narcissists do not feel the shame the rest of us do. Rather, they are rewarded for their brutality, turned into highly paid CEOs and lauded as “strong rulers.” Then they terrorize the rest of us, even though we outnumber them by several orders of magnitude.

You’d think we would have learned by now. You’d think history would have taught us.

My heart hurts, and so does the rest of me. I can’t look away, and while I know I need to focus on telling stories so others can find some hope or relief, I just…I can’t. I don’t know what to do today.

The dogs are, of course, unconcerned. They are simply, wildly ecstatic at the fact of snow, even Boxnoggin, who downright loathes being cold. We’re all safe at the Chez, but for how much longer? And how much more of this can I watch before I break?

I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Sunflower Cleanse

How doth the garden grow?

I have always loved small solar bobbles like this, but never had the chance to buy any. For one reason or another, it just never happened…until recently. I saw them online and thought, well, it’s a plague, might as well get something that makes me happy.

So I did. This cheerful little fellow is in my office window. He won’t get much of a chance to dance until summer, this being the rainy Pacific Northwest, but just looking at his little face makes me smile.

It’s been a long bloody week. I had to turn blog comments off–Readers didn’t see the avalanche of harassment, trollery, and spam, because it was all trapped in the back-end queue. Going through said queue was taking more and more time on blog days, so…I ended up turning off all commenting here. There’s still social media, the contact form, the Twitch teas, and my newsletter, as well as my Discord server; there’s no shortage of Lili.

It irks me, because I love my usual (non-troll) commenters. But the past few years have emboldened malignant jackasses to a degree almost past belief–not that I ever had much trouble believing the worst of such people, having been on the ‘net almost since the beginning. Ah well.

Anyway, we’re now at Friday again, and there are little things to be happy about even in these benighted times. I wish you a sunny weekend, dear Readers, and a bit of peace. We could all sorely use some.

See you next week.

Something Indeed, Survival

Another mist-drenched morning. The dogs are very calm, probably because all the clouds come down to earth muffle extraneous neighborhood noise. Except, of course, the helicopter that nearly buzzed us last night. It sounded low enough to take off a few roofs. Both kids came out of their rooms, wondering what the hell; the dogs were anxious for a bit, glancing in my direction to see how they should take the event.

Wonder what was up with that. And I’m slightly amused by everyone looking at me to see if they should worry about an Unexpected Event. Of course, that’s part of the essence of motherhood–and there was the time I, as a chaperone, stood up on a bus of fourth-graders beginning to spool themselves up on a field trip and hissed, “When it is time to panic I will let you know.”

Peace was restored, the troublemakers in the back were model citizens for the rest of the ride, and I was much in demand for class trips after that.

So. It’s Thursday. The Marked is on sale, and Sons of Ymre #1 is due for release later this month. Which means my own brand of panic will be in full bloom; release days always put me in a state. So far, February’s been an…interesting month. January seemed to last forever; this particular calendar-division isn’t far behind. I keep saying, “You know, last year…? I think?” and one of the kids will say, “Mum, that was last week.”

I mean, I’ve known all my life time is subjective, but this is ridiculous.

Perhaps some of the slipperiness of the fourth dimension lately comes from a certain form of completely accidental vengeance. The thing about time, and about surviving, is that sooner or later one outlasts a few things. Say, for example, that the Universe serves up a great deal of karma to someone who tormented you mercilessly when you were young and therefore temporarily helpless. (Though when you’re under eighteen and trapped it doesn’t feel temporary. Far from.)

Now, self-satisfied social mores might bleat that one isn’t supposed to feel any satisfaction from such an event, especially if one was born female and ruthlessly battered into being a polite, perfect victim because that serves the interest of entrenched powers. But watching karma (also known as “consequences”) come around the mountain like a freight train to paste a long-ago abuser is…well, it’s something.

It’s something indeed.

So time has lost most of its meaning, I’m enjoying my coffee on a quiet morning, and every once in a while the thought, “Huh, I survived,” drifts through the warp and weft of my concentration. For most of my life I never even compassed that I might. My own survival was invisible, because it did not occur to me that it was possible. And now I’m here.

I suppose I could always be so calm in disasters because I assumed I was already dead and most of my “life” was just marking time waiting for the cosmos to notice and update the paperwork. As a coping mechanism, was it ideal? Hardly. Useful? Very. Effective? In various ways, yes.

And now, in this the third year of pandemic, I look out my office window to see the fog pressing between cedars. I listen to the dogs breathe as they wait, half-napping, for morning walkies. If this is a victory, it’s a quiet one. The plague might still get me, and if it doesn’t the ongoing fascist coup (what, you thought that was over? Ha!) probably will. But I’ve lived long enough to see the muscled arm of cosmic consequence administer a well-deserved bitchslap, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

At the moment, it’s enough. And my coffee, sipped slowly, tastes very good indeed.

Fog and Publishing

It’s a quiet, misty morning. Miss B made her feelings known early, and nosed me out of bed. Boxnoggin and I could have easily slept another few hours, but Miss B is an old lady and wanted her breakfast. So here we are. At least there’s coffee…

…and news just landed in my inbox that Draft2Digital is buying Smashwords. Of course I breathlessly raced to a few fellow writers to discuss, and the prevailing feeling seems to be “better than Amazon buying it just to turn it into a zombie cesspool of harassment like they did to Goodreads.” It looks like the erotica component of Smashwords, with their relatively new self-tagging system, will get greater distribution (for non-“taboo” stuff, i.e., the Very Bad, No One Will Touch This For Good Reason, What’s Wrong With You things) and to my mind that’s a good thing. The Smashwords store (in all its, ahem, glory) will probably remain for the “taboo” stuff, which is also a good thing.

The big consideration is this makes D2D even more of a viable alternative to KDP, and that is a distinct good. Amazon is the elephant in the room, and a nasty one at that. Competition may be unwelcome to Bezos, but for authors it’s a gat-damn boon. I’ve been waiting for a market correction to deal with Amazon for a long while, and while this isn’t it (D2D’s still far too small to truly challenge the behemoth) it’s at least a step closer.

For readers, this means greater variety; anytime we get alternatives to Amazon it’s a net good for consumers too. So I’m cautiously hopeful.

What excitement first thing in the morning, eh? I’m only three-quarters of the way through my coffee, even.

Yesterday’s Tea with Lili is up; in it, I talk about NFTs, the recent Gumroad thing, types of publishing, and self-care. Not in huge depth, since it’s only fifteen minutes. I’m liking the short format, though it’s not what Twitch recommends. Apparently one isn’t a real streamer unless one does it for hours per day, but I don’t have that kind of time. I’m still playing with schedule, format, and a couple audio issues, so we’ll see what happens.

Also, the cover reveal for Sons of Ymre is up over at Patreon, too. All subscribers got the cover reveal early–just one of the ways I say “thank you” to my beloveds.

I suppose I’d best get some brekkie, and get the dogs walked. I might even get to run before the vapor burns off, which will be nice despite the risk of seeing Pyramid Head through the drifting cloud. Of course, if I did see something like that, I’d already be running, so the reasonable reaction (running away) would be a no-brainer. Of course, if he was menacing another poor civilian, I’d probably have to Get Involved–a particular pastime of mine, attempting to aid underdogs.

I would probably die early and messily in a video game. Or who knows, maybe I’m an NPC. Now there’s a story idea, albeit one I don’t have time for at the moment.

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It’s starting out rather a doozy. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Giggling Motivation

I’ve been obsessed with doing tiny, foul-mouthed “motivational” graphics lately–just looking at templates and clip art, playing with text, and slapping the result up on Instagram if it’s not too ill-tempered. I had a crazy idea for a storefront where they were all free, more a storage method than anything else, where people could just right-click them or sign in and leave funny reviews.

So I spent a couple hours last night getting used to WooCommerce and playing with themes. I popped one up and giggled…

…and it took about a half-hour for the trolls to show up. Which has got to be some kind of record, but them’s the breaks when one is a public person on the ol’ internet. I was unattached, so I nuked the entire damn thing.

I’m not mad. Sure, it was annoying for about five minutes, but now I know more about WooCommerce and theme integrations, not to mention the backend, which is valuable information no matter which way one slices it. There’s a great deal of value in being unattached to the subject of what is, after all, only momentary hilarity. (Like life. And isn’t that a cheerful thought.)

Besides, I’ll have about a dozen better ideas in the next half-hour. It’s not like there’s any shortage. I went to bed and watched YouTube until I fell asleep, like the feral chaos gremlin I not only am but downright glory in being.

Speaking of gremlins, Miss B is under my desk, her stomach gurgling. She turned her nose up at breakfast because it was (gasp!) merely kibble. What she’s really waiting for is a toast crust or two, as is my usual wont to toss to both her and Boxnoggin of a morning. Walkies will give her an appetite as well.

I also realized something integral to the plot of Hell’s Acre. It hit me right between the eyes as I was giving the ballroom scene a bit of spit and polish for the week’s fiction drop, and I gasped so loud Boxnoggin came trotting down the hall to investigate. I also said, “SON OF A BITCH,” and that brought my daughter to her doorway, peering to discern whether I was swearing at a bit of news from yon internets or had just killed a character.

It’s a toss-up, most days.

Anyway, now I am chortling and cackling with glee while I type, then popping over to my browser to make a few more graphics while I snort-giggle, then returning to work. All the switching is probably wearing out my neurons, but at the moment it’s what my brain wants so that’s what it’s getting. I also figured out the next step in the second Sons of Ymre book, and it looks like there might be preorder links for the first one awful soon. I may even let subscribers take a peek at the cover. It’s very…oiled. And gleaming. And it delights me.

So things are kind of looking up. I might decide to throw a bunch of these graphics onto my Tumblr and see what happens, or make a brand-new home for the little beasts. I would like them backed up somewhere searchable, because I think they’re funny as all get-out. I’m sure others might disagree…

…but part of hitting my mid-forties is finally accumulating enough life experience to do as I please in certain areas, and devil take the naysayers and the trolls. Besides, I’ve too much work to do, and I work up with Kehlani’s Gangsta playing inside my head for the second time this week.

It could mean a whole new book is gestating. If so, the damn thing will have to get in line, I’m busy.

Happy Thursday, beloveds. I’ll see you around…

Constant Grinding

Spent most of last night staring into the darkness and listening to the radio inside my head. After finally dropping off, I surfaced somewhat blearily with Kehlani’s Gangsta on repeat inside my skull. I’m still whistling it softly as I type.

I’m sure there are people who don’t have music constantly playing in the halls of their grey matter. I’m told there are people who shut their eyes and have nothing but blessed silence. I can barely imagine what that must be like–my own head always has a tune playing somewhere, not to mention a hamster wheel constantly revolving with story ideas, plot tangles, and story architecture. The third thing perpetually grinding in there is a low-grade hum of worry, speculation, weird facts, funny things, and a stream of self-talk both vicious and amused, all underlaid with constant hypervigilance.

It’s a wonder I get any rest at all, frankly.

I’m waiting for one last distribution platform to propagate the price drop for February’s sale; I can’t blame anyone for it not being ready since I basically decided what I was going to do at the last minute. It still adds to the discombobulated feeling. I’m never quite inside myself during morning hours. Every bit of me cries out to go back to bed; given my druthers, I’d be up from about 2pm to 1am, spend an hour or so winding down, then sleep the rest of the time. Unfortunately, the dogs have their schedule and I must keep to it. Years of two toddlers being Morning People and then their attending school during hours most convenient for daywalkers have left their mark. I always wonder how much more I could get done if I wasn’t continuously fighting my body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

And today is Imbolc, so there’s a tonne of cooking to be done. The bread dough wants attending, and I should play around with making Instagram graphics. (Like this one.) Ideally I’ll get a system down for book ads and the like, since I’m supposed to be using Insta more. I had left because the platform was “liking” posts for me–unethical, as well as nerve-wracking. I don’t hit like or favorite buttons anywhere because it sends me into an anxiety spiral; the instant I touch it, I start thinking someone will be upset because I fave’d one thing and not another, and it gnaws at me until I want to burn down my accounts and leave every form of social media forever.

It’s just not worth the wear and tear on my nerves. I’m sure the algorithm hates me, but that’s fine. The gods know I give it enough food elsewhere.

Oh! On a more pleasant (hopefully) note, I have the first Tea with Lili up. I’m still playing with format and the like, and I dislike all the filler noises I use. It’s all a skill, and learning will be pleasant once I get into my groove. I should do up a list of subjects for teatimes; it’s always better to have structure about so one can depart from it at will.

The dogs are most eager for the day’s ramble, the bread starter is ready to be turned into dough, there are things to roast for soup later in the day, and I should really think about breakfast. The coffee is beginning to soak in, and that’s a mercy. The light is returning; I thought winter would never end, since time has become both elastic and immobile during the plague.

Tuesday beckons. Keep your limbs (and head) inside the gondola, folks, and try not to make eye contact since weekdays often interpret it as a sign of aggression.

See you on the other side…