Bit Up and Down

I started yesterday by taking the dogs out, feeding them, then returning to bed with the iPad to watch the inauguration. Balancing the electronic on my chest, I clutched a smaller electronic–my trusty phone–in my free hand and was almost too scared to glance at either.

It wasn’t until the poetry that I began to breathe again. I didn’t relax until noon EST had passed and it was official, Sunkist Stalin had no more usable nuclear codes. I can’t describe the depth of the relief and fresh pain sweeping through me. Relief because there hadn’t been an explosion of violence at the last moment, because the worst of the nightmare was finally over, because some of us have survived. Fresh pain because of all we’ve lost, the amount of work still waiting for us after the earth-scorching and looting of our public weal, and how many didn’t survive to see new hope at all.

I had meant to get some actual work done yesterday too, but… yeah, no, didn’t happen, I shouldn’t have even tried. The Princess was off work too, so both the children were home and we took the day very, very easy indeed.

I’m still on a rollercoaster of emotions. I dreaded (and thought quite likely there would be) fresh violence on MLK Day, and even more on Inauguration Day. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. I’m flat-out ecstatic upon that point, while also struggling with huge waves of feelings I couldn’t give any time or energy to for the last five or so years. They’ve burst their bonds and demand to be sorted right-bloody-now, thank you very much, while I would much rather they just kind of… vanish.

But feelings don’t vanish, especially ones shoved aside during trauma. They will lie in wait like gat-damn tigers, like Jawas looking for ships crashed in the desert, like writers searching for an unwary word. They will demand their time to be processed.

So don’t be alarmed if your own feelings are a bit up-and-down today, dearly beloveds. It’s absolutely normal. Survival was resistance, now we take stock of what we’ve lost. We’ve emerged from the crash blinking and dazed, staring at the wreckage and patting ourselves down, not quite sure whether we’re alive and/or intact. Resistance becomes the work of healing and pushing those we fought so hard to elect in the right direction, which is another variety of thankless task.

All the stuff we said “I’ll deal with that when the bleeding stops,” about is still hanging around, wanting its turn. Be gentle with yourself right now. The pounding has stopped, and we need a breath or two. Yes, there’s a lot of work; no, we’re not done yet. But we need a moment (or two) of rest in order to run (or stagger) into the future.

At least we have a future to stagger into, now. Which means I have a scene revolving between Giz, Marah, and Robb to write today. If I burst into tears a few times during the task, it’ll just mean I use a few more tissues than normal.

Before hope, write words and carry water. After hope… write words, carry water. (To coin an aphorism.)

See you around.

Nervousness and Fanfic

We’re at less than 48 hours until adults are in charge again, and I can’t settle. I can barely breathe for the anxiety. I’m braced for more terrible fascist violence. I expect a good hard run today will help shake some of that out, but the nervousness is going to mount until the actual event.

Quite possibly beyond, too. Already I can’t even sit still.

The dogs don’t know why I’m so nervy, of course, and I’m content to have it so. The last thing they need is politics swamping their tiny doggy brains. Still, they’re both very concerned and sticking to me like velcro, attempting to soothe whatever invisible thing is tormenting their human.

Tormenting me is their job, and they don’t like being superseded.

I was supposed to take the weekend off, and am also not allowed to work today. Burnout is awful. I want to work, not least because it’s how I escape *waves hands* All That. I might–might–be allowed to write some fanfic; the only question there is what kind.

There was a bit of a dustup on social media over the weekend about fanfic. Someone just had to get shitty over it, which is about par for the course and happens with depressing regularity. I was heartened to see everyone whose opinion I respect weighing in on the side of “Fanfic is glorious, stfu”; it let me know I’m following the right people.

You can’t get better as a writer without, well, actually writing. (And reading, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Fanfic is great practice; it can be training wheels, fuel, and bowling bumpers all at once. It’s also a deep compliment to the original writer–I love your characters/world so much, I can’t let go of either.

I have strong and very definite feelings about writing–I believe in writing every day. (Burnout, of course, means only about 200 words a day on something that won’t ever be published, but it’s keeping the habit that matters.) But as for what that daily writing can be? It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfic, drabbles, original, dialogue sparks, or what-have-you.

A writer isn’t a writer without a lot of reading; it doesn’t matter what you read. It matters that you read, and likewise, it doesn’t matter what you write. It matters that you write.

It matters that you get in the habit of prioritizing your writing, that you reserve some of your daily energy for it, that you practice. It matters that you do. Writers write, it’s the nature of the beast.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people will be upset at the “write every day” thing, but you’re here on my site and I’m telling you what I think, so deal. The fact remains that fanfic is a gift, a great practice, plus it strengthens a writer’s grasp of characterization, structure, plot, timing, and craft. I suspect the “writer” of that silly thread touching all this off is just annoyed that nobody likes her characters enough to write ficlets about them.

I can’t, of course, read any fanfic of my own work, for fear of poisoning the well or possible legal ramifications. But you bet your bippy any time I’m told someone loved my stories enough to want to write in those universes, I get a deep warm feeling and can’t help but grin. I consider it a huge high compliment that the characters in my head have also made themselves at home inside someone else’s. It’s a beautiful, joyous, loving gift, even if the fanfic writer was mad at me for an ending or a character’s fate.

Love or hate of my work is fine. The job of a writer is to provoke an emotional reaction, and either is acceptable. The very worst reaction to one’s work is lukewarm boredom; I don’t even mind the hatemail or the how could you emails, because those mean I’ve done my damn job.

So. In case there was any confusion about where I stand on fanfic, let me reiterate: Fanfiction is GREAT. It’s awesome, I love it, and it makes writers better. Do it all you want. It doesn’t matter what you write, it matters only that you write.

And now I go walk the dogs, not to mention run myself ragged, and try to distract myself from dread and anxiety. And later today I’m probably going to write some Madalorian fanfic. Sure, only 200 words or so, but it’ll keep my hand in, and it’s my own personal fuck you to the idea that fanfic writers are somehow lesser creatures.

Over and out.

Swimming, Smile

The morning has started with Boxnoggin jostling Miss B into punching Yours Truly in the mouth with her paw. Of course when I let out a short blurt of surprise and recoiled, both dogs realized their human was hurt in some fashion and scrambled to attempt aid. Which meant stepping upon my recumbent self, nose-punching me in the eye, scraping my shoulder with doggie nails, and then getting into a shoving match with each other. I had a swollen lip before I even rolled out of bed, and my eye is still watering.

This doesn’t bode well for Thursday, but maybe the day’s just getting everything out of its system early?

At least I have coffee. Some days the java just tastes better, and this is one of them.

I only got 450 or so words on HOOD‘s Season Three before dark yesterday. Once the sun went down, though, things got better and I ended up with a solid 2k+. Of course I’ll have to look today to see if any of them are good words that can be retained.

No silver lining without a cloud, naturally.

Once I get the zero of Season Three out, it’ll be time to cross that off my big to-do list and figure out the next six months’ worth of writing. Normally I juggle one serial, two trad publisher books, and one project Just For Me at a time, with small breaks for revisions, copyedits, and the like. With the loss of productivity due to pandemic, fascist coup, and related stress, I’m not sure if that’s do-able.

But if I don’t write, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. Not to mention I can’t go a day without writing at least something, or I start to feel diamond-tipped insect-feet itches under my skin.1 It’s just easier to continue pushing myself than to allow any sort of break.

It’s very… sharklike. Keep swimming so I don’t suffocate, and wear a smile.

So. Thursday is antsy, but so am I. My coffee has cooled rapidly while typing this, and the dogs are very eager for walkies. I find myself eager to get out for a run; getting rid of cortisol and other stress chemicals through sweat has been a real sanity-saver. Of course, it doesn’t balance out the stress-eating, but then again nothing’s perfect.

Except for dogs, that is. Even when they punch me in the face first thing in the morning.

All right, Thursday. We’re not going to hurt each other (any more), are we? Because I’m in a mood to lay some napalm if you get dodgy.

Over and out.

Repair or Gasp

I should be occupied with the copyedits and with finishing HOOD‘s Season Three. I have errands to mask up for–things that can’t be put off, no matter how much I want to. We’ve been in strict lockdown since last year (my gods, what a sentence to type) but groceries still have to be obtained, and delivery is too expensive.

At least there’s rain; the downpours and flood watch means not a lot of other people will be out unless they have to be. The dogs won’t like their walk being so damp, but it’ll mean Boxnoggin won’t feel he has to defend my honor against another dog or a passing van, at least. He’ll be too busy complaining about the wet.

For all his square head (he’s often mistaken for a nanny dog) and big mouth, he is a surprisingly dainty and nervous fellow. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch; still, she is becoming an elderly statesdog and I don’t like making her endure rough weather.

I closed yesterday asking for tiny victories and little hopes, and goodness, did you lot answer! A lot of Readers are into pottery, which I love but haven’t had a chance to indulge in since high school. I took one pottery class and was absolutely enthralled by the wheel. I remember reading in a history book that pottery’s big revolution was the building of a container around nothing, which also represented a leap forward in human understanding, and the idea has lingered in the back of my head ever since.

Everything about pottery fascinates me. Jude’s breakdown while slamming clay in The Marked gives me goosebumps to reread; writing it was one of those times I felt I was channeling something else instead of Being In Charge, so to speak.

If I had the energy, I’d go on a digression about the different altered states one falls into while writing, or indeed during any creative endeavor. I’m not sure what portion of creativity is fueled by the fact that humans just love getting high in whatever fashion–the states of flow or channeling or grace or what-have-you while Making New Things have a lot of similarity with chemical enhancement of various sorts.

I’ve also been told that I’d enjoy The Repair Shop, which I should add to my queue. I do have to watch the second season of The Mandalorian first though, since my beloved Left Hoof really wants to nerd out over it with me.

It’s strange to be looking forward to things, however dimly. I spent a lot of 2020 just trying to keep my head above water. I’m swinging wildly between faint hope and deep despair, for obvious state-of-the-world reasons, and each time I’m in hope there’s just so many good things lying about to be discovered.

The despair, though… it’s a real doozy.

Enough. I’ve to finish this coffee and get started. The lights are flickering; the wind and rain might put paid to any errands. Which would be upsetting, since I’m setting aside a run today to get them bloody well done, but it would also be all of a piece with 2020’s lingering effects. I’m unsure whether the faint flickers of hope are the timeline healing itself or the last gasps before we plunge downward yet again.

I know it’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s where I am this morning. I’ll probably feel better once coffee (and dog-walking) is done.

I wish you safety today, dear Readers, and I hope if you have errands they can be achieved quickly and with a maximum of social distance. I can’t right the entire timeline, but I can try not to make my tiny part of it worse, and that’s my entire goal today.

Dream big, and all that.

See you around.

Knitting Weekend

The weekend was almost as exhausting as the week it closed out, wasn’t it. Whew.

But it also held good things, and this morning I want to focus on the good things. On Saturday I decided to do something I’ve never done before, and livestreamed a bit on Twitch. It wasn’t much–just me sitting, knitting, bitching, and answering questions from the chat. There were a lot of questions about writing, and a lot of me staring blankly because I couldn’t think of anything to say. I am told I have a restful voice, though.

It was an interesting experience. I intend to have some regular Saturday sessions, only for as long as it’s fun. I’ve promised myself the power to can the whole experiment the moment it becomes un-fun. it was nerve-wracking and exhausting but also cool to get Reader questions in realtime, though I’m sure my frequent digressions are maddening.

Come Sunday, there was a full day of chores, and finally I could settle with more knitting and Secrets of Great British Castles, which was fun to binge and deeply interesting. (There was a lot of knitting this weekend.) Of course I did a lot of doomscrolling, too.

I can barely look away.

Still, it’s Monday, which means work. There are copyedits to get done, and the last thing on the master to-do list hanging over my desktop–finishing the zero of HOOD‘s Season Three–to strike off. I have been waffling about what serial to do next. It might be Division Seven, it might be the story spurred by my Sapphire & Steel binge… I am also thinking about whether or not I want to try The Highlands War as a serial, but the chance of someone being pissy and torrenting chapters, thereby killing the entire series all over again, is not really one I want to run.

Before I get started on that, though…

Last Thursday I blogged about cookies and the fascist rioters storming the US Capitol. I woke up this morning to find a commenter (who has apparently had comments approved here before, which is how this particular one got through the mod queue) taking issue with my loathing of fascists, and telling me I had LOST a READER because of it.

I shall repeat my response here, so there is absolutely no confusion, grey area, or lack of clarity: GOOD. If my loathing of racists and fascists means you won’t buy my books, GREAT. I do not want you or your money. Off is the direction in which you may fuck.

I am deeply and genuinely baffled that this commenter thought they’d get any other response. At least it gives me the chance to be absolutely clear about where I stand. And that, as they say, is that.

I’m doing my best to focus on the good things–the dogs thrilled to be embarking on another day of adventures and snuggles, the kids going about their own lives full of daily victories and setbacks to share, books to write, knitting to do, friends to cheer on and console, the cedars at the back fence to talk to, a run to accomplish, coffee to drink, the prospect of lunch, the fact that I’m still breathing. There are good things still, and things worth fighting for.

Gods grant I don’t forget it.

So, to end in a more pleasant place, what good/fun things are happening in your slice of the world? Tell me all about it, if you’ve a mind to–no matter how small. Tiny victories are still victories, indeed.

After all, we’re still here. And I think that’s grand.

Of Many Minds

This morning I peered at the internet, said “what in the Sam Hill…” and immediately thought of Stonehenge. It’s pretty certain the saying was around before Hill built it, but I never let that get in the way of a good free-association.

Yes. Hello. Good morning, it’s Tuesday, my brain is twenty-four coked-up monkeys partying inside a skull full of breakable things and odd ends, and that’s even before coffee. Once caffeine gets in there, it’s going to be a real party.

Yesterday was spent on the first third of Black God’s Heart, which needed trimming and shaping in light of the finished arc of the book. It’ll get easier as I go along, since the more I wrote the more of it I could see, and I eventually arrived (in a series of oscillations) right where Book One needed to halt.

Or… maybe not. I’m of two (more) minds about the ending, which has never happened to me before. I think I’ve the right one, though it’s counterintuitive; I would prefer the book to end a different way but a story does as it does.

Which means the ending’s a question for a different day. Today is for revision now that I see the shape and have a whole corpse, even if the fringe at the toes may need a slightly different trim once I finish this pass. My urge to pack a lunch, get in the car, and drive up the Gorge to see the ol’ Henge again probably has something to do with avoiding work and wanting to sink into a good long drive where I can dream and build new stories.

It’s so uncharacteristic of me to want to leave the house at all, let alone for a car journey, that I’m a little weirded out. I’ll ascribe it to pandemic stress and the urge towards solitude; I haven’t had the house to myself in months. Not that it’s bad–I have doors to close should I need it, and can always go for a rambling walk in the park(s). I know I’m lucky. And yet if even I’m feeling the urge to flee, well, I can imagine how bad it is for others who don’t have my luck.

*sigh* So it’s back to revision today. Yesterday’s work was not all I’d hoped for, but it will get easier as I go on. I’m waiting for the point where The Gangster in the story finally clicked into place and I saw his motivations clearly, plus once I’ve salted in a few more mentions of the Big Bad (not the garden-variety bad) the entire fabric of the book will hang much more smoothly.

At least I know what has to be done. Which is far better than just wandering around in the dark with a machete and a cord, looking for a socket or a monster, whichever happens first.

The coffee is half done. The monkeys have noticed I’m imbibing it. The dogs are waiting for their walk. And yet I linger here, glancing at the cedars out the window every once in a while, waiting to hear their whispers.

Sooner or later, they say.

Sooner… or later, you’ll be free.

I just have to work a bit first, that’s all.

Back To Work, 2021

It’s a totally new year1 and already I’m irritated. I mean, I knew the companies who said “we’re gonna help you during the pandemic” really don’t want to help anyone but themselves, but it’s still galling to see just how true that maxim is. *sigh*

Also, I woke up this morning with Toto’s Roseanna stuck in my head, which is faintly disturbing since I haven’t listened to that song in literal years. I have CaballĂ© singing Norma to wash the interior of my skull clean, but I’m not sure it’ll work. I do have a run this morning, and my exercise playlist is full of catchy stuff, so that’ll probably help.

I just… Toto? Why? The wiring inside my brain is a mystery even unto me, and I’m carrying the whole damn apparatus around.

I took the time between the 25th and New Year’s mostly off; I did finish the zero of The Black God’s Heart‘s first book. This week is all about getting that draft free of bracketed notes and sent off the the editor with queries, some notes, and a suggestion about cover art. I normally don’t do that last; I’m dismal at visual stuff. But I’ve got something good, something I think will really do well for the book(s), and I’m excited to share it.

I did spend some time cogitating restlessly upon a problem in the crisis of HOOD‘s third season, which will be solved in the writing I’m sure but it wouldn’t be a Lili book if I didn’t endlessly agonise over things like that. And I wanted to take a crack at writing a Viking werewolf gothic, but the story isn’t claustrophobic enough for a gothic since all the Tolkien I’ve been reading has crept inside and made itself at home.

I mean, I’m not mad, but I would have liked to be at least consulted about this change of plans.

I know, I know–that’s not the Muse’s style.

Anyway, there’s HOOD‘s Season Three to finish, Black God’s to brush up, and then I send a few chapters of the Viking werewolves to my agent because I think it’s got some legs. It would be nice to get something else sold soon, even if only on proposal.

I used to wait until I had the entire book written, but lately I’ve been working more on proposal. Either way there’s fierce performance anxiety, but after however-many years in the biz, I’ve come to the realization that there will be the same amount of anxiety no matter how I arrange the damn thing, so… yeah. Might as well just live with it.

I’m not going to proffer any wishes for the New Year. For one thing, I’m just too exhausted and glad (Maybe? Is that the word?) to have survived 2020 to scrape up any celebration or good thoughts. I hate the holidays, and long to go back to that short time in my life when I could just hide until they were all over.

Anyway. Our Eve was very quiet, except for the people setting off (illegal) fireworks, but those got rained out in short order just after midnight. It’s not like I quite blame them–after surviving pandemic and ongoing fascist coup, I might’ve wanted to blow some shit up too–but it was unpleasant for both the dogs and my nerves, and I won’t deny a single cackle slipping from my lips when the downpour started and the crackles, booms, bangs, and fizzes were abruptly cut off.

No, I’m not going to offer any wishes. Instead I’m going to say congratulations, my friends. We survived. Lots of people didn’t and we still haven’t had a chance to mourn. We’re still here, and still going. As Stitch so memorably said, “Little, and broken. But still good. Yes, still good.”

…I have not only woken up with Toto in my head, but I’m quoting Disney movies. Time for a run, then to get to work.

It’s a whoooole new yeeeeeear, after all. *strangles the Aladdin theme inside head, runs away screaming*