Pineapple Thoughts

I am a pineapple, floating gently on blue waves.

…Perhaps I should back up a bit.

I was reaching the end of my ability to bear up a few days ago, I think, under the pressure of oh, let’s see, everything going on now. Then Ammon Bundy came out in support of BLM (but not the Bureau of Land Management, he’s still mad at them, I’m sure) and all the absurdity just… floored me.

It was a helluva news cycle. That wasn’t even the biggest item on the WTFJHT docket that day.

One cannot provoke or schedule the moment any absolutely baffling mess (like, say, yours truly putting together Ikea furniture, or surviving a pandemic in a failed state) suddenly reaches the point of “laugh or scream and die, pick one path, AND I SUGGEST LAUGHTER.”

So I started to laugh, and I felt that curious internal sense of pressure bleeding away. I was absolutely stick a fork in me, M-O-O-N spells done. The kids were a little concerned, the dogs were snout-down in their food bowls and so, unconcerned, and I was laughing like a hyena who had just discovered a pile of juicy carrion in just the right stage of decomposition.

I took a few days off after that, and now I’m having more luck with work. I was getting afraid that even my capacity to absorb bad news had been knocked out of whack by *gestures* all this.

But now I am a pineapple, floating upon the deep blue sea. It makes just as much sense as anything or everything else.

The Princess appears to have hit her own moment of absurdity too. “Mine doesn’t happen all at once like yours, Mum. I just sort of wake up one day and I’m done.” The Prince just shrugs; he processes in other ways.

It’s not quite exhaustion, though there’s a component of pure fatigue. I suppose it’s just that I’ve been stripped down to bare metal, there’s nothing left to come off, so why not laugh? This is, incidentally, the moment people become truly dangerous, because every last fuck is gone and we might as well.

I sat down today meaning to talk about hope, but I suppose I’m past even that. There’s not a lot left but shaking my head at the sheer outrageous absurdity of it all. We don’t even get a proper villain, just this painted-orange shitgibbon and a crop of petty criminals stuffing what will soon be useless paper in their pockets while an entire nation burns.

Yet the dogs still have to be walked. The squirrels still have to be yelled at. The kids still need me, and if I don’t write, we don’t eat. Of course we might not eat even if I’m working my ass off, the way things are going, but it’s either write or go mad, along with scream or laugh fit to die, so I’m choosing the former of the former and the latter of the latter.

So I’m testing a new plugin today, to bring a little art to the semi-daily posts, and one of the images was a pineapple floating along. It just… struck me.

I thought, hey, why the hell not? It’s pineapple, after all. It’s the fruit that digests you back. It’s a spike-covered monstrosity going for a swim, in utter defiance of its own impossibility. Fuck you, it says. I’m a fuckin’ pineapple, and you can’t change that. You’re gonna lose if you try.

I don’t know about your coping mechanisms, dear Reader, but I hope they’ve arrived and are doing their work. I hope they’re serving you well; mine have arrived at the last ditch and are putting up a valiant effort. In the absence of hope, I will take the giggles and chuckles; after all, they are the traditional best weapon against demons.

Evil cannot stand honest laughter, and tries to crush and stamp it out. The ability to find something funny–or, barring that, to simply laugh as you’re going over the edge because nothing remains but the irreducible called a soul and you realize that cannot be taken away, ever, no matter what they do–is kryptonite to these banal villains. So until further notice, I’m laughing.

If it sounds like a howl, or a screech, or the dying scream of an enraged goddess who will now return from the dry land of death to fuck your shit right up, well, now you know one of the deep secrets of witchery. Cry if you must, laugh if you can, scream in the darkness. Sooner or later you find out nothing in that darkness can match the juggernaut you’re capable of being, and the knowledge leaves a mark.

Maybe I’ve found a new superpower. It’s possible. Or, you know, it could just be that I’m a pineapple.

Floating on the warm blue waves.

Either, at this point, is just fine with me.

Parenthetical Tuesday

The only thing that levered me out of bed this morning was the idea that I could have coffee, and already this morning I’ve had to block someone trying to mansplain the publishing industry to me.

Tuesday is going to be a laugh a minute, I can already tell.

Things I’m thinking about today:

  • The only thing that’s going to stop the selfish asshats who won’t wear masks (in the middle of a pandemic spread by respiratory droplets) is social disapprobation, shunning, and shaming. Next time you see someone not wearing a mask when they should, remember that.
  • There are many divisions in the family of humanity. On my optimistic days I think the biggest one is between those who say “I suffered, so everyone else has to as well” versus those who say “I suffered, so I never want anyone else to go through that.” On my pessimistic days it’s “people who actively like causing pain” versus “people who are horrified at causing other people pain.” Today? It’s a toss-up. You could say that both those Venn diagrams line up perfectly, though. Maybe they’re BOTH right.
  • For a long time, reading history, I’ve had a theory that every nation-state, if it endures long enough, eventually has a fascist stage analogous to a teenager flirting with shitty selfish behavior just to try it out. It is a stage in development with hideous casualties, and it seems inescapable. Nothing about current events has disabused me of this view.
  • If the infrastructure goes down and coffee becomes scarce I will probably become a juggernaut of cranky destruction.
  • More than I already am, I suppose.

Also, someone got to this site by searching “what is Mikal in the Bannon & Clare series” and it makes me smile a little. I love that people are still reading and engaged with those books, and wish I could have written the companion trilogy where Emma and Archibald go traveling. (Of course the middle book in that series was them going to their world’s version of America, and featured Jack and Cat from The Damnation Affair.) But as for what Mikal is… all the clues are there, especially when Emma meets Rudyard, but it will have to remain implicit unless and until I write the second trilogy.

I like giving Readers the space to make up their own minds, and I especially like the satisfaction that comes from figuring out a riddle or two. I don’t hand-hold, and I prefer to leave many things between the lines. So, all the clues to what Mikal is are there, but the more interesting questions are why he attended the Collegia, why he broke Shield conditioning for Emma, and what precisely he intends to do with her later in their life together. The latter is the easiest to answer, I think, since we already know what he regards her as. (A stone is a stone…)

And with that I’m off, since the dogs are ready for walkies and I have consumed the serving of magic morning bean-juice that renders me calm and agreeable (or as close to those states as I ever approach) instead of the silent-snarling misanthrope I habitually roll out of bed as. Today will be a hot day (for our part of the world) and I want to get all my outside duties done before too many humans are up and moving around (since the sun seems to drive them mad) or I expire of the heat.

(Also, today seems to be very parenthetical, as some days are, and I regret not a single bracket.)

Over and out.

Not Further Behind

It’s Monday, I have coffee, and there’s a trip to the grocer’s in my immediate future. We need milk. I dread leaving the house if it’s not for walking the dogs–at least outside I can cross the street to get away from selfish jerks without masks, and the open air means very little viral load.

At least a Monday visit isn’t as bad as a weekend visit. I’m sure the church crowd yesterday was a Petri dish. And speaking of selfish jackasses, someone is still setting off fireworks between midnight and 1am somewhere in the neighborhood. The Princess hopes they run out of them soon and that all their bacon burns–a quite elegant curse, but I have spent some time cogitating on far less gentle wishes.

It’s a good thing I’m not telekinetic. Especially nowadays.

I didn’t peek at social media this weekend, unless one counts livetweeting Netflix’s The Old Guard on Saturday evening–which I enjoyed roundly, by the way. I like watching Charlize Theron in combat. Plus there was Matthias Schoenaerts, whose performance in a different movie I once wrote a whole-ass romance novel around, and KiKi Layne, who is incredible. I liked the movie very much, if you can’t tell. It was directed by a woman and very refreshing to see female pain not being sexualized by and for a male gaze; I had the same feeling while watching Birds of Prey.

I also got some reading in, and it was pleasant to settle on the couch and fall into a book, even if that book was history and as such, a cavalcade of blunders and nastiness. I’m finding very little to be amused about in the human condition nowadays.

I didn’t get half of what I wanted to done during the weekend. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, and the stress of wondering whether it’s the plague, or whether we had the plague back in March, or whether we haven’t had the plague and should dread its advent… it wears on one. But the dogs must be walked, my own tired carcass must be exercised, and the business of living goes on, and on, and on.

On the one hand, it’s not a bad thing. On the other, it’s exhausting.

There’s also a great deal of work to get done today. I have thrown up my hands and decided “catching up” is a chimera; I will instead endeavor not to fall further behind. And to that end I bid thee a civil adieu, my beloveds; it’s time to get the dogs walked before the sunlight pulls other people out onto the street and drives them insane. Honestly, it’s like the big yellow eye in the sky showers most people with cray-juice or something; they start acting like drunken wasps. No wonder I long for rain most of the year.

All right, Monday. I’m not ready, but I am prepared. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Finally, Sleep

Nobody was setting off fireworks last night, and I was exhausted from the Mike’s Deck Affair. (Suffice to say one of my neighbors was engaging in what sounded like demolition or incredibly enthusiastic home renovation and I lost half a tumbler of whiskey in the calla lilies, with bonus squirrel… look, maybe you just had to be there.) What I’m trying to say is that I actually slept, and so did the dogs. They are bright and bouncy this morning, while I am logy and wishing I could go back for another round of smothering the pillow with my face.

Instead, I have coffee, and the dogs need walking, and I should haul my carcass through a run. I’m sure by the end of the last I’ll feel somewhat energized, and ready to tackle a full day’s worth of work.

Or, you know, I’ll simply be mildly exhausted and wanting a nap, but settling for tea instead and yanking words out one at a time as I chip at the coal face in my mind.

At least The Bloody Throne is proceeding apace. What I thought the book’s shape would be turns out to be close but no cigar, as they say, which means frequent pauses to stop and feel my way in the dark. I know it ends in the same place and I know the major handholds, but that’s somewhat like five different people trying to describe the elephant from constituent parts, as in the old tale.

The book keeping me alive right now is The Black God’s Heart, where a flying seventies-era van just carried the protagonist over a lot of water and to a skyscraper to meet a particular sorcerer from folktale. (Aw, come on, lemme see you saucer, Bugs Bunny crows inside my head, and I’ll have a hard time not putting that in the book, let me tell you.)

I can tell that someone’s going to ask me to make parts of this book clearer, but I am not a writer who hand-holds much if at all. So I’m already anticipating the editorial give and take on this one will necessitate much self-searching–am I refusing to change something because I’m selfishly resistant to altering my word-baby, or do I really have a point? Finding that balance will be difficult, but at least I’ve been through the process enough that I can spot a hurdle or two ahead of time.

Apparently I’m going to be messily mixing and mangling metaphors today, too. If that’s what a little sleep does to me I might as well stay awake.

…just kidding. I’m over forty and have had a lifetime of insomnia, I will always choose sleep. Whether or not I actually get it is another matter.

And with that, it’s time to get out the door, for the weight of a canine stare upon my right shoulder is absolutely crushing. Boxnoggin is near the door, looking very much like an ancient Egyptian statue with his nose pointed at me and his ears all the way up. He is READY for a walk, thank you very much, and as soon as I hit “publish” and bend to tie my shoes he’s going to be nose-deep in my shoelaces attempting to “help.”

Heaven knows I need all the aid I can get today. See you around, dear Readers.

Off the Ground

I can’t quite seem to get off the ground this morning. (Morning, I say, though I’ve had a spot of lunch and settled with a cuppa.) I blame the lack of sleep from some douchewads setting off fireworks at midnight again. It’s past the “maybe they’re just confused” point and well towards “it’s a good thing I’m not pyrokinetic.”

A very good thing.

On the bright side, there was actual rain this morning–not very usual for July, but I’ll take it since it means most people stayed off the road. A Fed Ex truck did follow the dogs and I for most of our walkies–not the driver’s fault, he had a schedule and a route, and the overlap was purely coincidental.

Just try telling the dogs that, though. Boxnoggin was convinced the big vehicle was Up to No Good, and Miss B has never met a delivery truck she didn’t long to chase down and capture. I don’t know what she’d do if she ever actually caught one, kind of like her (mostly unfulfilled) desire to catch a squirrel; nor does Boxnoggin. But damned if they aren’t both going to try.

So that was amusing, and so was the snail plague over half my run route. It was more like an obstacle course or a fast dance than actually running, since I don’t want to crush any of the poor gastropods. The mild spring fading into a damp summer is doing them no end of good; I haven’t seen this many in years. Of course my hostas and some other tender plants are a little worse for wear, but I suppose that’s what happens when one hosts a buffet and suddenly guests show up.

Anyway, the dogs are sacked out after their Very Exciting Walk, and since I’m upping my mileage (it’s taken me forever to get back to the low end of my accustomed runs, injury and illness taking a toll) I’m very nearly there myself. The spot of last night’s homemade dal was very welcome, but I’m already hungry again and staring longingly at my tea mug as if it’ll magically refill without any effort on my part.

I’m 40k into The Bloody Throne, and it feels like I’m never going to finish this book. It never had a long run of easy days near the beginning, which I would have liked a great deal but coincided with the first flush of pandemic lockdown. Maybe the Muse will pity me and give me good wordcount when I finally get to the set-piece battles and the long slide down to the end. I know exactly where it ends and all the handholds I need to swing there. All that remains is to bloody well do it.

Which means I’d best get back to work. I’m taking the week off HOOD trying to catch up in however slight a fashion; I sense today will require a great deal of Hauser playing in the background while I stare disapprovingly at misbehaving characters.

On to Tuesday, then…

Monday, Not Usual Speed

Well, the weekend was full of good food, I’ll grant it that. The dogs got a whole pile of corn chips apiece, and they were absolutely beside themselves with joy. It almost made up for the artillery barrages. Even though a majority of voters went for the fireworks ordinance, some douchebags just had to ruin it for everyone else. It wasn’t as bad as it’s been some years, for which I’m grateful, but I’m still vexed.

Hopefully it’s the last gasp of selfish knobs in this particular direction. I find myself hoping for the “last gasp” in many directions lately. I spent some serious time on the couch yesterday and finished reading Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India; it’s been some while since I’ve had the mental and emotional bandwidth to read history. (Pandemic and fascist coup will do that to one.) Whatever hope I have lately–and it’s not a lot, mind you–comes from history’s quiet insistence that the crowds in the streets will bring some manner of reckoning to those who seem unassailable.

Of course the book has its lacunae; James is a firm believer in the Raj’s “civilizing mission” (such as it was) so it’s interesting to substitute certain terms from the language of empire into the language of decolonization. Next up on the reading list is Meyer & Brysac’s Tournament of Shadows, and I’m sure I’ll have to substitute a few terms in there, too.

What I did not do this past weekend was work, or do much more than glance at social media. The world is merrily burning itself down whether I look or not, and I was at the end of my ability to cope. Certainly I’m still going to have to be careful; it will take very little to send me spinning into despair again. The lack of sleep from random fireworks at odd hours, making the dogs attempt to smother me in order to gain safety from my closeness, isn’t helping. But I’m sticking grimly to my scheduled runs, hoping to tire myself out enough to collapse and get some good rest when the douchebags stop lighting off cannon.

If I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to work, I should at least utilize it. I might even turn this bloody epic fantasy in on time–although that is a wildly optimistic thought. It will take a lot of tea, I’m sure. Fortunately, I have boxes and boxes standing ready, though only a few bags of my favorite chai masala. I’ve plenty of British Breakfast and a not-inconsiderable amount of Earl Grey, which should drag me through quite handily.

I won’t be quite at usual speed today; having to sleep with both dogs practically atop me sort of put paid to any real rest. But I can run, and that will both give me enough energy to get through the day and wear me out so I won’t bloody care if there’s stray crackles and booms to make the canines nest on me tonight. At least they sleep when they’re nestled as close to Mum as possible. It’s calming to know that I possess some power, however fitful, to soothe their fears.

Onward and upward, nolite te bastardes carborundorum, and all that. I would wish for peace, but that hardly seems likely; instead, I wish for strength.

Or just sheer stubbornness–always a favorite in these parts.

From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.