Deepened With Waiting

It’s been very chilly for this part of the world; yesterday the Prince insisted he knew how to split wood. I found the axe, he rolled out the cedar chopping-block the guys were kind enough to leave us (more about that in a moment), and by golly and garters, he split wood. He used a rubber mallet to wedge-and-maul a lot of it, I am told, and he was so proud. This achievement matched that of the Princess, who built her very first fire from scratch (instead of using a Duraflame log) while I was busy battling the hordes at the grocery store.

We have the firewood because of the cedar that came down in the backyard during that awful windstorm. The neighbor across the back fence got the rest of the cedars taken out wholesale (barring two small survivors to the north of the fir tree) a few days ago, and now when I glance out my window there’s…a house, instead of the green screen of beautiful trees.

This is not ideal, but given that the whole row went into shock when he had some fly-by-night grifters–who had no clue what they were doing, and overpriced as well–come out to “trim” some of the cedars years ago, it was inevitable. His bad choices have had consequences, and despite that I’m being gracious.

For now.

There are still a core of reasonable people masking up in public places, and for that I am grateful. Masked folks are allowed much further into my personal space than disease-breathing naked-facers, and I hope some of the latter have been shamed by my visible (even behind my own mask) disgust with their complete lack of sense.

I finally got to the attack on the elvish city yesterday; it was a good day’s work. I do think I have to go back and rethread the final bits of it, since I want a particular person to find the narrator as she stands watching doom approach. But that’s easy enough, and I know precisely what happens for the next eight thousand words or so. I’ve been looking forward to this, especially the section titled Naciel’s Run, for well over a year. I like letting things marinate, sure, but I was actually unable to work on this book due to stoppage at the publisher end instead of the usual reasons.

I can only hope it will have deepened with the waiting.

It should warm up to the usual damp winter chill by tomorrow, but we’ve one more frigid day. I suppose once Boxnoggin is walked I’ll clean the fireplace and get another blaze going. The cedar smells lovely, even if I would rather have the trees, and it takes a lot of pressure off the heating system. The dog, of course, was extremely hesitant about a change, but soon realized he could bask in his nice cushioned bed, radiant heat bathing his every hair, and has grudgingly decided this is acceptable as long as the humans are closely supervised while poking at the warmy-box.

Imbolc has passed and the light strengthens. My office is far too bright; hopefully we’ll get something else planted as a privacy screen once the fence is repaired. If it’s not one thing, it’s another–and now my coffee is finished and Boxnoggin needs his walkies.

Onward to Thursday. Here’s hoping it’s a quiet one, I have the ruin of a city to write…

A Very Short (Rattlesnake) Sale

I don’t often post on Wednesdays, but I had a few minutes and there’s a one-day sale going on. Today (February 1, 2023) only, Rattlesnake Wind–my “Baba Yaga in Wyoming” book–is $1.99USD in ebook through certain retailers.

Rattlesnake Wind

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…

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google, and Kobo.

The soundtrack for the book is available here, too.

The book has a teenage protagonist, but it is definitely not a YA novel. (I should be very clear about that.)

And now I have an elvish city to sack, and hopefully enough caffeine to get me there. See you tomorrow…

Fire of Many Sources

Got up, took Boxnoggin out, made coffee, built a fire. We have to use up those cedar rounds, after all, and it’s cold enough. I’m feeling very Foxfire Books right now. I mean, it’s not scrubbing the bristles off a boiled pig carcass, but it’s something. (The dog, wiser than I, has already gone back to bed.)

I finished John Rechy’s City of Night this past weekend. I can see why the book was so formative, especially for the non-Shakespeare bits of My Own Private Idaho. A lot of it rang very true; it’s amazing how much street life doesn’t change through decades. Of course, the experience of a male hustler is significantly different than that of a young girl, and yet the faces are absolutely the same. The beat is there, even if the music is variations. I kept thinking Rechy was what Kerouac so desperately wanted to be, but didn’t have the courage (or the writing chops, the honesty, or the discipline) to pull off.

But we all know my feelings on Kerouac. Anyway, next up is Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness, which feeds The Black Land’s Bane, naturally. A great deal of the current trilogy was inspired (very loosely) by The 13th Warrior–though I never read Eaters of the Dead–while both 13th and Eaters rely heavily on Ibn Fadlan. There are even, I am told, great chunks of Eaters taken wholesale from translations, which shows that at least Crichton knew to take from the best.

The rest of Black Land is Tolkien, with a heavy dose of influence from Neil Price’s magisterial work on Viking magic. No book ever springs from one source; many are the freshets and streams which make the river of a story. And I’ve got to get this elvish city sacked in the next few days’ work, dammit. It’s taken too long, I want falling masonry, flame, and swordplay.

Of course, I’ll have to nurse the fireplace along until the kids are up to help. It takes a lot of strain off the rest of the heating system, plus the cedar is very fragrant. The sky is lowering and it smells like snow, though I’m sure we’ll only get sleet as the next warm front pushes in. I hear there’s actual white stuff (again) a few hundred miles north, but here the river often manages to keep such things at bay.

I mean, it didn’t over Yule–that ice storm was something else, and the winds right after brought down the cedar we’re burning now–but generally we escape real long-term cold. I’m sure many of the insect eggs burrowed into the ground to wait for spring are dying off, as well as the slug and snail eggs too. Which is a mercy; their numbers have been ravaging for a while.

It’s about time to go feed the fire again. I can hear it popping happily from my office. At least the chill means there’s a lovely draw up the chimney, and the ash, worked into compost, does wonderful things for the garden. Boxnoggin will yawn and mosey out as soon as I make a move toward brekkie, and though he’ll complain the cold will also force both of us to move rather swiftly. Not a bad prospect, all told.

I’m not feeling well lately. I suppose it doesn’t matter much. Putting my head down and simply enduring has carried me through worse. At least there’s the fire, the winter light, and the prospect of actually getting some damn wordcount.

It’ll have to be enough.

Not Homeward Yet

What the actual what-what, it’s Monday again? I feel like we were just here? But that’s a frequent occurrence these days. My sense of time, both objective and subjective, has suffered what I suspect is irreparable injury from pandemic and fascism and whatnot. If not for my desktop and phone keeping track, I wouldn’t even know what month it was, let alone day.

Which pretty much means I’m hosed if the electronics start deciding to mess with the temporal continuum. But then again, they could hardly do worse than humans so bring on our new robot overlords, says I.

It is a very clear, very cold morning. Boxnoggin has once more turned his nose up at breakfast–he does this as a matter of course, knowing full well the food will still be there later if he decides to peck at it–and gone back to bed after complaining throughout his entire backyard post-sleep unloading. His complaints did not take the form of hurrying through the entire affair, despite it being frigid. That would be too easy. No, he had to complain and take his sweet time finding the proper spot to piss upon.

I love this dog, even if some of his choices are incomprehensible. I’m sure he feels the same about his humans.

We had an actual fire in the upstairs fireplace yesterday, burning chunks of the well-seasoned cedar that came down in the backyard during the terrible windstorm. It took all day for Boxnoggin to get accustomed to it–for ’twas a change, and all change is bad to this particular canine–and this morning he is looking at the fireplace with puzzlement because it’s no longer snapping, popping, and providing warmth. It does rather need to be shoveled and brushed before I build another fire, despite the cedar burning very clean; if I am exceeding ambitious I will get that sorted today.

(Probably not.)

The river race in Fall of Waterstone has been written, and I had high hopes of getting to the actual sacking of an elvish city during the weekend. Alas, this being an epic fantasy, the elf-king of that particular place wanted a conference; my tongue is thrust deeply into cheek since the narrator clearly believes “this meeting could’ve been an email”. Fortunately nobody will burst into song, for lo though I love Tolkien I have a very low opinion of my own doggerel and I want to get to the FIRST BIG SET-PIECE BATTLE, which will feature fire and slaughter and narrow escapes and falling masonry and a huge troll twist-burning with malignant magic and, because I am Like This, a particular exercise in rhythm-writing I’ve been looking forward to for over a year.

And I’m not even halfway through! There’s still fleeing to the forest kingdom, an elf-queen who looks like Gwendoline Christie, ash-orcs riding spiders and direwargs, plus the stunning (and kidnapping!) conclusion to write. And then there’s book three, involving the cursed werewolf city, a thrilling escape, yet more battles, death vs. giant liches, a sea-voyage to talk to the source of all pain, a celestial battle that will destroy half the continent, and a bittersweet ending.

Go big or go home, and I ain’t heading homeward yet.

It’s difficult to attempt something of this size and nature without someone standing at the cave-mouth to fend off monsters. I’m basically engaged in a fighting retreat with this trilogy, which we all know is the most difficult of maneuvers. But in a few years it’ll be done, and no matter the critical reception, I will know what I’ve accomplished. That’s going to have to be enough.

Sometimes that’s all a writer gets. It’s very dark-night-of-the-soul around here lately. I’m hanging onto the ledge with teeth and toenails, because my hands are busy writing.

So. Monday it is. I’m really enjoying Tumblr right now, and most of my professional network has moved over to Mastodon as well–except the publishers, but they’re always the last to arrive because it takes a long while to execute a turn when you’re that ponderously sized. Whales and elephants manage it more swiftly because they’re magic, but corporations are exceedingly inelegant brutes. And Boxnoggin has figured out I’m almost done with coffee, so it’s breakfast-and-walkies time.

At least that never alters. World without end, the beast needs his slouching ’round a few blocks. And maybe I’ll get to the sacking today.

It would be nice.

Bryophyta Courage

Moss. Mycelium. Maybe some lichen too.

I’ve been obsessed with moss lately. I mean, I already liked it, but then there happened along the #Mosstodon tag on the fedi. (There’s also the #LichenSubscribe tag, which pleases me deeply, and let’s not even talk about the donkeys.) So I’ve been happily taking pictures of winter velvet, no doubt also pleasing a few botanists and biologists curious about such things.

Heaven knows there’s never any shortage of moss around here even in summer, though it does tend to get a bit dry and crackly. I won’t run out of subjects to point the cell phone at, that’s for sure.

I finally wrote the river race that’s been knocking around in my head for over a year, and today I get to set up the destruction of an entire elvish city. The elementalist does need to have a chat with the king about his parenting methods before then, perhaps; I’ll get there as the story–and the Muse–wills.

One of the things I love about moss is that it grows in places no other self-respecting plant would find even remotely acceptable. It creeps into cracks, feeds on detritus, covers the garbage left behind. Hell, it’ll even grow on bare rock, especially if its best bud lichen is around. Moss takes adversity as a challenge, like Bugs Bunny takes a thrown gauntlet.

Anyway, this crop is merrily growing on a creosote-soaked railroad tie repurposed to hold back perhaps-contaminated topsoil. It fries in summer and drowns autumn through spring. The locale is terrible for any living thing, but there’s the moss, happily soaking its wee roots, lifting its many green fingers. Some has spread to the rocks and small chunks of concrete below, because even stone is friable when you’ve got the sort of time moss does.

One can learn a lot from dear old Bryophyta. And with that happy thought, I wish you a pleasant weekend.

Pride of Survival

Got good news in the inbox yesterday (of a sort, but still a hurrah), a rejection before coffee this morning (not unexpected, minor boo), and I get to write a scene I’ve been planning for well over a year today (major celebration, but performance anxiety ahoy). So, Thursday is a mixed bag, as usual. The most difficult part is moving through all the emotional stages after rejection at high speed while also getting caffeine into my bloodstream.

Fortunately I’m an old hand at that sort of thing, and this particular one barely makes a dent. It merely opens another door.

The monthly sale post has been updated. There’s a lot going on right now. I’m kind of looking forward to taking a break in February, not least so I can get The Fall of Waterstone situated. The river race is about to begin, then there’s the (interrupted, sort of) wedding, then fleeing from OMG ALL THE BAD STUFF, and the fall of yet another kingdom to write too. It’s a big, meaty, sprawling book, and I would be frightened of attempting it if I weren’t so busy. I don’t have time for fear; like spice, the words must flow.

And there’s the matter of a book of short stories to put together. I’ve been kicking around the idea of an anthology of all my shorts (or the shorts so far, since I’m sure I’ll write more) in one place, with some extras. Like the less-than-500-word experiment story, and the Dolly Parton homage, and that one story I know will piss everyone off.

…that last one is somewhat vague, since I’m dead sure a lot of my stuff pisses people off. Occupational hazard, and I won’t deny a certain amount of satisfaction in it either.

I finished reading Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, which was lovely and painful. I’d forgotten how slim a volume it is, but packed tight with sentences polished bright and sharp–I like the Norton Critical editions in these cases because they give sorely needed context. I knew when it ended I’d yearn to read Jane Eyre again, but when do I not? A long time ago, my writing partner’s husband said, in tones of surpassing wonder, “How many editions of Jane Eyre do you need, anyway?”

To which my writing partner and I chorused, “All of them, of course.” Just one more reason why we’re friends.

Now I’m about a hundred-plus pages into John Rechy’s City of Night, which is reportedly one of the main influences on Gus van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho–the non-Shakespeare bits, at least. I’m reminded strongly of the things I actually liked about Bukowski and Kerouac while reading it, as well as a few things I didn’t, and since I spent so long sunk into Anais Nin I also keep thinking “Anais went through the Swamp of Despair so that Rechy and his like could have good careers.” I am also…well, the feeling is somewhere between amazement and surprise at the fidelity to certain aspects of street life, which shone through in Idaho as well. Maybe because van Sant, like Rechy, knew actual hustlers; in Rechy’s case, he was one and it shows.

It’s like turning a corner and seeing an old friend from a previous (uncomfortable, and highly formative) life era. The embarrassment, the pride, the knowledge of someone else understanding exactly what it was like as well as the shame and queasy pride of survival. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the book at the end, but that’s part of the joy of reading, ennit?

In any case, Boxnoggin has turned his nose up at brekkie and is waiting for me to get my own morning nutriment sorted. I will be full of the scene I have to write today all during walkies, going over and over it so often it might well tear itself out of my head whole and bloody when I am finally able to settle and get the actual writing done. I’m edgy, in a way other writers will understand. This part of the story has patiently (or not so patiently) waited its turn, and now it wants out.

With claws, and a vengeance.

I long to get to it. I cannot wait, so I will bid you a fond adieu. I hope you have something as pleasant to look forward to, my beloveds. It’s always good to have a day full of doing what you were meant and made for.

Almost makes one believe in fate. Almost.

Eggs, Bitter, Wondrous

My dreams have been somewhat feverish of late, but not in a fun way–the kind that I can glean bits of stories and imagery from. Instead, it’s more like mental housecleaning, my brain packing things up tidily and storing them in color-coded bins. Most of the time the interior of my skull is more of a heap, or Barliman’s lumber-room, thing wanted often buried. It’s nice to know someone’s taking an interest in cleanliness; yet I can’t help thinking that Kondo-ing my head is a bad idea.

If only for the monsters which lie sleeping therein, and the risks of disturbing them.

At the same time, it’s been a long while since I’ve had a spate of nocturnal mental activity like this. I’m choosing to view it as some sort of healing (or pandemic trauma) or adjustment (to the state of STILL being in a fucking pandemic), or both. Porque no los dos, and all that. There’s probably a healthy serving of Twitter detox in there; I am now pretty much fully divorced from the site that took up a great deal of my time and social energy since 2009.

After the acute phase of detoxification, there’s a longer period of settling in and finding what one needs elsewhere. I’m glad I set up my Mastodon instance in ’17, and had enough time to get comfortable there; I’m also super glad I kept my Tumblr. The practice of never putting all one’s eggs in a single basket does bear fruit; unfortunately, the fruit tends to be a bit bitter since one never thinks about it until the pinch comes.

Speaking of a pinch coming, my friend Skyla has a post up detailing some more Amazon fuckery. Bezos’s princedom is not a friend to authors, in any way, shape, or form.

Now, a lot of readers ask, “does it help if I buy your books elsewhere,” and sometimes it does. But honestly, my beloveds, buy wherever you please and wherever is best for you, and if that happens to be Amazon that’s fine. Authors just prefer you to buy the books instead of stealing them (remember, kids, e-piracy is theft plain and simple) and we understand our readers have finite supplies of money and reading time. Buy wherever you gotta–and before you ask, libraries count! We love libraries, they pay a fair price for the books they lend and no author dislikes that.

It does help, however, if you also leave a rating or review wherever you buy. We’re all forced to deal with the algorithm these days, in one way or another. Living in the future is endlessly wondrous, and some bits of it suck.

Oh! Before I forget, I have another sale to highlight. If you like HOOD, the Complete Serial ebook is 25% off at Kobo, with the code “25JAN” entered at checkout, from January 19-30. The rest of the month’s sales can be found here.

I like highlighting monthly sales, though it’s a lot of work and I might take February off. What with two massive projects to finish and other chainsaws in the air, I might not have time. Ah well. There’s always April.

…I can’t believe I just typed that. We’re in 2023 already, fa cry-eye. I keep muttering that time has no meaning, but honestly, the amount of psychic (and other) trauma that has attacked our (always very subjective) sense of time passing is nontrivial. And I’m sure it’ll become worse before it gets better.

On that cheerful note, it’s time to embark upon Tuesday. The apocalypse is shambling to Bethlehem apace, but Boxnoggin still needs walkies and the stories must still be told. I am grateful (I suppose that’s the word?) for such things to focus on. It’s better than any number of alternatives I can think of, some swirling through my dreams at night.

Though never moving quite hard enough to trigger a story, alas. It’s not like I have any shortage, though.

See you around.