Non-Sleep, Reflecting Light

I can’t blame the eclipse, or anything other than the chewing of my brain on itself, for last night’s lack of sleep. Sam Phillips’s Reflecting Light was playing nonstop inside my skull while bits of stories cascaded around, some merging, others breaking apart. Sometimes that happens; the leaves fall in a thick blanket, ready to drift against tree-roots and nourish other saplings.

At least my spine crack-popped every time I rolled over, so my back feels a lot better. Something must have loosened up, and it’s about damn time.

It’s a bright morning, outright sunny in patches, with a damp spring wind. We’re almost to the time of year when a few open windows provide all the climate control the inside of the house needs. Which means Boxnoggin will be beside himself with glee, keeping track of every stray noise and breeze, trotting down the hall to inform me of every change in the neighborhood, leading me out into the living room to witness whatever’s happening in the street.

I think it’s also how he ensures I get enough breaks during the working day. Boxnoggin is an inveterate believer in stopping to smell the roses. And the bushes. And the pavement. And everything else.

Revisions on Klemp’s book (the second Ghost Squad novel) are still underway. I still have no real title for it, but that’s a quandary that doesn’t need solving until later. I want to title it Duty but I don’t want the rest of the series locked into D-words. (Of course, Jackson’s book could be titled Douchebag because he’s a little…problematic. But problematic heroes are fun!) I might just end up titling it what it wants and breaking convention with Tax’s book, which comes next–but I don’t have to write that until I’ve finished the second Sons of Ymre.

No shortage of work, which is of course how I like it.

A thin, trembling calm has descended upon me. Maybe it’s pulling back from social media, maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s building my running mileage back up after bad weather and injury kept me a little more housebound than I’d like. Whatever’s responsible, I don’t care. I’m too busy using the breathing space. And Miss B is still holding steady, though every day I wonder if the inevitable slide downhill will begin again.

She’s eager for walkies, and if I run my own weary corpse today there’s a higher chance of actual sleep tonight. Maybe it’s the weather change keeping me from crawling into sleep’s deep country. Maybe I don’t want to miss out on what time I have left with Miss B. Maybe it’s hormones, or stress. Regardless, I absolutely will not go back to insomnia. Driving myself into the ground has always worked before, so that’s the order of the day. An immense amount of work cries out to be done, and I’m just the mad writer to do it.

At least it’s not still Monday. Yesterday felt bloody endless. A fresh new day with a whole new set of mistakes to make looms.

I suppose I’d best get started.

A Cracking Start

So it’s Monday, and we’re off to a cracking start. First the dogs attempted murder through sheer exuberance (stepping all over me while I was helpless and recumbent in bed), then through positioning–i.e., tripping Yours Truly several times when I finally achieved some measure of verticality. Then I almost missed a stair on the deck while taking them out for morning unloading, and had to grab at the banister with both hands, while whatever I was holding was flung in a high arc and landed in a rhododendron. Then I was standing, staring myopically at Horace de Brassiere and wondering why his little blue light wasn’t turning on, and for good measure why the red one wasn’t on either.

Then I realized the damn coffeemaker wasn’t even plugged in, let alone turned on. And to top it all off, a little while later I forgot I was holding a pen (making notes on today’s to-do list) and went to push my hair back, stabbing myself in the face.

So, yeah. We’re doing well around the Chez this morning. Super well.

Today is for working on Hell’s Acre, and also starting revisions on the second Ghost Squad book. The latter is Klemp’s book, eagerly awaited by many Readers if my inbox is any indication; the zero draft got a highly positive reaction from beta readers and the second draft did very well with the editor. I’m glad to be working on revisions instead of generating new text, for once; I’m exhausted and dredging up New Words sometimes seems an insuperable difficulty–unless it’s Space Werewolves, apparently? I don’t know, my brain is a smoking wasteland, I just live here.

The monthly newsletter went out yesterday, so there’s that, too. And the werelion story’s free teaser is doing rather well at the moment. We’re on the final two weeks of that book being up as a serial before I take it down and start sending it through the editing pipeline. There’s also The Dead God’s Heart duology needing its final brush-up before it goes into copyedits. It will be nice to have that last one put to bed, not to mention getting covers and preorder links for it so I can do up a books page.

In other words, there’s no shortage of work, and maybe if I can get some caffeine in and stop stabbing myself in the face I might even get a chunk of it done between walking the dogs, forcing my own corpse to run for a few kilometers, getting estimates for house repair (that snowstorm, my gods), and planning dinner–I had a whole chicken and an InstantPot, so yesterday was very tasty indeed. And Miss B is still holding steady, so that’s a giant relief.

I’m taking things on that last front one day at a time.

One thing I’m not doing is checking the news, or very much social media. Any tenuous calm I might have achieved lately won’t bear that weight without snapping. News, especially bad news, filters into my sphere without it anyway; I can’t escape. Nor do I want to, precisely–but I do need a bit of amelioration.

Here’s hoping I don’t break a limb if Monday began as it means to go on. I did eventually figure out that I should actually turn Horace on if I wanted coffee, and caffeine is currently soaking into my starved tissues like a blessing from heaven. Plus, a bit of Good Mischief I performed before the weekend has finally reached its intended target, and hearing that it made someone’s day (and will provide them with a little relief) has done my mood no end of good.

Welcome to the week, my beloveds. I can hope it will turn out well, or will at least end in a stalemate.

Over and out.

Habit’s Candle

I’m vertical, and coffee has been not just attempted but achieved. All I want is to crawl back into bed, but tossing and turning there will do no good. I’m tormented by news of the outside world, of course, and struggling with the feeling that my stories don’t matter in the face of all this horrific destruction, all this hatred.

I know I started writing because I was unsatisfied with the ending of a Little Golden Book. I think I continued, at least partly, to figure out why my childhood caregivers hated me so much and kept harming me. Sometimes Child-Lili thought if I could just find the right words I could make them understand they were hurting me, and that would naturally make them stop. Later, I realized that they already knew, they had known from the start, and they either didn’t care or actively enjoyed my pain.

Maybe that realization constitutes growing up? But in any case, I kept writing. By then the habit was too strong.

I write because I must; I also write to transmute the pain of daily life into something else, something a little better. All creation is transformation, whether of materials or of grace. How many times will I create only to see it ignored, torn down, cast aside? How much more of this despair, abuse, pain, and hatred do I have to watch? I know my job as a writer, as an artist, is never to look away. Yet I’m only human, and I’m so, so tired.

It could be that it isn’t writing itself which has me exhausted, but publishing through all this–pandemic, fascist coup, rising tide of hateful xenophobia and misogyny, all the pain and horror and death. And really, what use are my stories in this current mess? Great stories might change things, but mine may be, well, other than great.

I used to tell myself that if a story saved even one person from the deep end, if it ameliorated the pain even once for one person, it was more than enough and I could consider it time and effort well spent. I don’t think that’s entirely wrong and I don’t regret a single story, and yet I find myself wondering if I should just…give up, sink, let the water take me. Nothing I do seems to truly matter, especially when I go to the grocer’s and the vast mass of people wander around with naked face-holes, breathing disease, not caring if they kill an elderly person, a child under five who can’t be vaccinated yet, an immunocompromised person. And then I come home and a fresh hell descends with the news cycle.

The selfishness, the uncaring, is just my childhood caregivers repeated over and over again. They get what they want, and don’t give a damn about–or they actively enjoy–the pain they cause. Ever since 2016 I’ve felt trapped in my childhood again, beaten both physically and emotionally with no relief or escape in sight. I thought there was some small hope with a change in administrations, but the people we voted in with such sweat and heartbreak won’t fight on our behalf. Instead, they seem content to cash their lobbyist checks and make performative gestures, like the teachers who reported my bruises and lacerations but in the end did nothing to save me.

I fled, I saved myself. But now it feels like I’m right back in the middle of that, albeit with no physical wounds. Where it hurts can’t be seen, and consequently hurts more.

Intellectually I know this is trauma speaking, retraumatization and revictimization. I know it’s the depression, and that depression lies. I know I have to continue because this world doesn’t have honor enough to simply strike me down–even if the meteor is approaching, there’s no guarantee it will get here before we starve to death so I’m forced to keep going, keep trying. I’m still caught between knowing there are people and creatures who depend on me and the irrational, deep, unavoidable feeling that if I vanished–this moment, today, next week, next year–nobody would notice or care. It’s a hideous place to be in, and the worst thing is, it’s familiar.

I’ve lived here before.

This isn’t a call for help; everyone else has all they can handle just keeping their head above water and no rescue is coming for any of us. This is simply a record, because I realize, after all, that I am incapable of stopping. Even this–even this–is a sharing, so that if others are feeling the same way at least you know you’re not alone. This is my candle in the darkness, guttering but still alight, and I am holding an inadequate shelter against the hideous hateful storm, inviting you to share it for a moment or so. To rest, before you continue your own battle.

I am creating meaning out of this suffering, putting it into words, and setting the work free to find and comfort who it can, in whatever way it can. Even at my lowest, even amid All This, the habit is too strong to break. Turns out I don’t need hope, I simply need to continue.

I hope it carries us both through, my friend. I’m so sorry it’s like this. I wish it were better.

But it isn’t. And it’s all I can do to keep this candle alight, even as I sink.

Working May Wonders

It’s May (happy Beltane, if you didn’t get wished one yesterday) and there’s a double sale going on. So the month has started out brilliantly, but I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through the year. Pandemic time has all but broken me. I mean, regular time was bad enough, but one trauma after another since 2016 has burned up and burned out plenty of my coping mechanisms.

The dogs got me up early this morning by being obstreperous brats, and have continued in that vein. I don’t mind much–it was the sort of weekend where I need a few days to recover, though I didn’t do work per se. A lot got done around the house, mostly things I’ve been putting off, which was great on the whole…but not very good for my nerves.

So I’ll take it easy and work a half-day, maybe. It’s time to go back to Hell’s Acre, and also time to get the second Sons of Ymre put to bed. Fortunately I don’t have to do it all today, I just have to make a stab or two. A few wild pokes and the rest of the day (what remains of it) can be spent…I don’t know, reading on the couch or something. I’m working my way through Anaïs Nin’s diaries, (currently on volume 2) and while sometimes they’re maddening, I also enjoy them very much.

I put off reading them for a long time. I suspect I was waiting for this great current uncertainty, so I could read her own great uncertainty in 1937. Knowing what’s coming and whispering “oh honey, no” is oddly comforting. Life goes on, even amid *waves hands* all this. And it’s interesting to see her fall in and out of love; sometimes I want to reach through the pages and shake her. “Anaïs, my dear, he’s just using you, wake up.” Like reading old letters from a young, terribly damaged friend. Then she’ll write about writing, and describe some of my own experience so neatly, so exactly, that I’m caught in grinding envy.

All writers know the feeling.

The new office chair is working wonders, at least. I’m sore all over, but the soreness is that of changing how I use my muscles instead of the sharp or grinding agony triggered by how the old chair forced me to sit. I can already feel the results in hip mobility, and my back is loads better. The stabbing pains in my neck have gone away, so that’s great. I am going to have to start yoga on a more-than-occasional basis, though.

I’m getting older, and writing is brutally hard on the physical body just as it is on the emotional or spiritual one. My emotional aches require different medicine, but at least I can ameliorate the physical ones with a new chair and some stretching. Not to mention grow lights and moving some houseplants into the office, which has done me a world of good.

“You’re becoming the filthy old hippie lady you were born to be,” my daughter said with great seriousness, which cracked us both up.

I do have to note that a kneeling or cross-legged meditation chair not only has effects upon back- and neck-aches, but also upon digestion. Peristalsis is either aided or hindered by the position one spends most of one’s day in. You can imagine, and I’ll leave it at that. I suppose I should stop eating breakfast at the desk, too. It was only ever meant to be a temporary time-saving device, not a long-term habit.

If I am very, very focused and get the things on the to-do list done today, maybe I can play hooky with the space story. (Since the werelion thing is out of my hair at the moment.) It’s a great relief to be back at “I’m juggling two paying projects and something weird that delights only me.” Maybe it means I’m healing, or at least adapting.

The coffee has cooled and I’m on the dregs, Boxnoggin is whining urgently down the stairs for the Mad Tortie to come play with him (she will not, she is far too wise for any of his hijinks) and Miss B is ragefully chewing on her own hindquarters because she wants me to stop clickety-clacking and get her goddamn toast crusts prepared. She can’t eat her plain brekkie kibble, oh no, but gods help me if I don’t share a morsel of my own habitual breakfast. On the day I switch back to gruel she will be ever so irritated. “You wish the Miss B to eat porridge? Like the peasants? Jail for Mother. Jail for Mother for one THOUSAND years!”

All our animals use the Miette voice. Some of the houseplants do, too.

Bright sunshine is pouring through my office window, too, which seems like the final insult. I’m off for brekkie, my beloveds. I hope your Monday is pleasant, and if not, at least calm and quiet.

See you around.

A Hood and Wonder May


May has begun, and I thought I’d run another sale. Or two!

The first season of HOOD–my Robin Hood in space serial–is now $2.99USD in ebook until June 1.

Season One

The Great Migration was centuries ago; two generation ships reached the Anglene galaxy with its clutch of terraform-suitable planets and performed their work.

Anglene is smoldering. The galactic insurrection is supposed to be crushed. Robbhan Locke, a Second Echelon soldier, has returned to his birth planet along with other veterans, finding Sharl Notheim holding all of Sagittarius in his mailed fist for Parl Jun the Regent. 

There’s no redemption in homecoming. Even Marah Madán and Ged Gizabón, Robb’s childhood friends, have been forced into accommodation. The Sharl won’t stop squeezing until he’s made maximum profit for his royal patron–and covered up all his wartime indiscretions.

Heroes aren’t needed here, but even a damaged man can fight…

On sale direct, or through Barnes and Noble, Apple, Amazon, and Kobo.

And because that’s not enough, my surrealist novella (20k words) is pay-what-you-want through Payhip until June 1. This deal won’t be available anywhere else, it’s Payhip only, though you can find the ebook elsewhere for a set price.

Beast of Wonder

She wakes up in an airport, staring at a baggage carousel.

She remembers nothing, not even her name.

And then, the danger begins…

Again, the pay-what-you-want is only available through my Payhip store. If you like it, and want it in paperback, that’s here–but the paperback has a set price.

And if you like HOOD, you can use the code “MAY40” to get 40% off the ebook box set over at Kobo until May 23rd. (US, UK, CA, AUS, & NZ, I think.) Just put the code in at checkout!

HOOD: The Complete Serial

Anglene is smoldering. The galactic insurrection is supposed to be crushed. Robbhan Locke, a Second Echelon soldier, has returned to his birth planet along with other veterans, finding Sharl Notheim holding all of Sagittarius in his mailed fist for Parl Jun the Regent.

There’s no redemption in homecoming. Even Marah Madán and Ged Gizabón, Robb’s childhood friends, have been forced into accommodation. The Sharl won’t stop squeezing until he’s made maximum profit for his royal patron–and covered up all their wartime indiscretions.

If the Gran Parl Riccar can be found, he could save all of Anglene. In the meantime, Robb, Marah, and their friends are going to have to do it themselves–if they survive.

The war is over, but “peace” is a relative term…

I think that’ll keep us warm until June. Enjoy!

New Chair and Basic Division

The dogs are somewhere between excited and unnerved this morning, since there have been ch-ch-ch-changes at the Chez. For one thing, we had the insurance adjustors out on Tuesday, and that meant an hour of poor, unhappy dogs barking excitedly from my bedroom (Boxnoggin) or my office (Miss B)–separated because if they’re put in Durance Vile together they start wrestling, and I didn’t want our visitors to think we had a pack of wolves hidden down the hall. I needn’t have bothered; they made just as much noise separately as they would have in the same room. At least there wasn’t any further damage.

So they’ve already had one Big Change in the Holy Routine. Then I committed the grave sin of moving some office furnishings around, in preparation for the new chair. That’s right, I finally broke down and bought a Pipersong after months of dithering. Now I can sit cross-legged or squatting while I write, and the difference is phenomenal. Said chair arrived early yesterday morning, and the Princess laid claim to the box as soon as it thumped on our front steps.

She loves putting together furniture, not to mention doing home repairs. “It’s like puzzles,” she says, excitedly. Give her an allen wrench and some Ikea furniture, and she’s a happy camper. So, since I loathe the entire experience of assembling, I left her to it–and left the house to acquire groceries, which the dogs were also upset over. Not only had boxes been rearranged and the monstera plant moved into the office where Mum spends most her time, but there is also a new contraption in here.

Anyway, they were brats all yesterday afternoon, unnerved by even this small amount of change. And this morning they’re clingy and needy, wanting all sorts of reassurance. Any change is bad, according to them, and they want lots of petting and praise and attention to normalize the world again. On the bright side, in a short while they’ll forget things were ever otherwise, and the new chair (not to mention the new office configuration) will be the new normal.

As for the chair itself, it’s marvy. I was going back and forth about the price, but the Princess pointed out that I’ll be using it literally every day, and if it lasts a year that’s basically a dollar’s worth of comfort daily. Not to mention it’ll practically pay for itself with increased productivity. The most productive time in my working life was when I could write sitting cross-legged in my papasan chair, a lapdesk and laptop upon my knees. Now I have an actual desk, but I can sit cross-legged, or squat, or turn the backrest around and lean on it while I sit tailor-fashion. And it’s glorious. It will also mean that I shift position more during the day, which will cut down on the rising back and neck pain.

My wrists are going to feel better too. My previous chair was a big-and-tall version, which I could sit cross-legged in with a bit of work, but I often didn’t. It was also a bit too low, so my wrists got entirely too much stress. They’re a little twinge-y at the moment, because I just finished the serial-revision of the werelion book. It’s now up on a serial platform under a pseudonym (though several of you have already found it, good work, you madcaps) and will remain there until June, when I’ll take it down, possibly put some of the spicier bits back in, and let it out into the wild as a book. That should happen around September-ish.

I wasn’t able to test this particular serial platform fully under my Real Author Name, since they’re just so horrible at author services. I figured finishing the testing under a pseudonym instead was acceptable, and now I know the platform’s back end and will watch how the complete story performs for a couple months. I figured since I was just going to have this book lying around and it was probably unpublishable (at least in trad or even indie) I might as well have a go, as they say. That way I can also add to the knowledge pool of other writers when we get together to swap war stories.

There is a basic division in humanity between “I suffered through the horrifying thing so I want everyone else to suffer as well” and “I tried the horrifying thing so you don’t have to.” This is also clearly shown in the “debate” over canceling student loans. One side says, “I suffered through servicing predatory lenders and I want everyone who desires an education to feel that pain” and the other says, “I suffered through it and I don’t want anyone else to do so ever again, so let’s find something better.” The difference is ontological, and crucial.

Anyway, the dogs are simply beside themselves, though I haven’t even finished my coffee yet. On the bright side, the shooting agony in my neck whenever I spend more than a quarter-hour at my desk have vanished, so there’s that. I don’t have to focus through the discomfort to get anything done. The bloody chair’s already paying for itself, and ahead of schedule too.

Time to grab some toast and get the dogs on track. I suspect they’ll calm right down after a few traditional morning scraps, and even more after walkies. But in order to do that, I’ll have to stop nattering at you, my beloveds.

Off I go then, to give Thursday a new contour. See you around.

Finish and Insurance

The radio inside my head was tuned to Culture Club this morning. I stood in front of Horace de Brassiere humming and wondering if Boy George ever introduced himself as, “George, Boy George,” when ordering a martini.

My brain is a wonderland. An exceedingly weird one.

I’m six chapters away from uploading the end of the werelion book. I have to say, it’s absurdly freeing to know it’s semi-hidden, and not expecting anyone to find it. It’s an homage to VC Andrews and Cat People, and I expected there to be more erotica. But the book takes the shape it wants, not the shape I think I want, and apparently I was more interested in purple prose poetry and some of the underlying plot features of Andrews’s work. It annoys me to a certain degree, I longed to test my smut-writing.

Ah well. I still have the pseudonym, and once the book rests a bit I might do a “director’s edition” with all the stuff I didn’t put into this iteration. That’s the freedom of choosing another name. One pays for it by having to start all over with building an audience, but sometimes that price is acceptable. And I can view this as just one more lesson in letting the work take the contours it, in its infinite wisdom, desires. The story knows what it needs better than I do in some cases, and part of this career is knowing when those times are.

We’re in the last days of the April sale; Damage is no longer on sale but Rose & Thunder still is until the 30th. I should decide what I want next month’s sale to be, or even if I want to run one. I’m tired right now, from the end of a zero draft as well as the revision to get it into serial format, so I probably shouldn’t be making any decisions until the damn thing is done and I have a few minutes to breathe.

And we have an insurance adjustor coming today to view the storm damage. I am unhappy about this, since the insurance company has never done right by us, but I’m waiting to see if this will be the moment that bucks the trend. I know adjustors are just people trying to do their job and the real problem is the institutionalized nastiness of giant corporations, especially those which profit off human misery and fear (what else is insurance, really?) so it’s no trouble to be polite…and at the same time, I am nervous and so stressed the dogs can sense it, and are tetchy as well.

So today will be a great deal of fun, for a certain value of the word. At least there’s the prospect of one giant project finishing today, so as soon as the adjustor is gone upon their merry way and I upload the last chapter I can heave a sigh of relief and wander out of my office like the shell-shocked survivor of some great disaster. I might even be able to go to bed early, or at least collapse on the couch and groan with feeling while the dogs lobby hard to clamber up and use me as a cushion.

It will be a relief to get back to paying projects, especially if the insurance company tries to weasel out of their contractually obligated replacing and repairing. And I’m taking a week off the other serial before it starts Season Two, so at least there’s that. Maybe I’ll even get some real rest in.

It’s doubtful, but the hope keeps one going. I can feel the coffee soaking in and the dogs are eager for their toast-crust, so I should be about my business. I’ll be calmer, not to mention far more gracious, after we finish with walkies and I get my weary corpse prodded through a run. Exercise works wonders, and while I’m running I won’t have to chew over Great Life Problems, being entirely occupied with dragging in enough oxygen to fuel my shamble and untangling plot snarls in whatever story decides to torment me while I’m out of the house.

…I did have more to say, especially about that silly oligarch attempting to buy Twitter just so he can ban people who mock his silly oligarch self and invite an orange shitgibbon back in to stink up the joint, but I’m not in the mood for that. I do think it’s interesting there was a giant purge of bots along with a mass exodus from hellsite as the news began to filter out, and I have some (probably inaccurate, but I don’t think so since I’ve learned never to underestimate the greed of rich white men) thoughts on what that means. But why ruin my day (and yours) further by unpacking that?

Honestly, I’d rather finish my coffee and get started. Those final six chapters aren’t gonna revise themselves, more’s the pity.

See you around, my beloveds.