Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.

Ridiculous Heat

The heat put paid to any real work yesterday, despite my best efforts and the air conditioning. Of course, I’ve been going without any real rest for a while, so the Muse just threw up her hands and brought everything to a screeching halt. On the bright side, now I know the next handhold to swing to in Cold North, and the next combat scene in Hell’s Acre is just about settled in my head. The only thing I have to get down is the entrance to the battlefield and the first few moves. The rest of the fight depends on the attacker getting to a certain point in the room, and the most efficient way of doing that will break his cover, which he needs until the very last moment. So he might have to amble, or let the opponents get a few shots in while they’re dragging him to meet their boss–which is precisely where he wants to be.

…they take only short time to read, but combat scenes often take a ruddy long time to write. Everything has to be just so.

On the bright side I can go down to the punching bag and work off some angst blocking out the close-quarters part of the fight. I have quite a few Tuckerizations courtesy of my lovely subscribers–sometimes I put out a call for character names, and mostly those walk-ons die in terribly gruesome ways.

So, yesterday was suboptimal but the heat seems to have broken, which means I can walk the dogs and get a nice reasonable run in, as well as leave my office window open a bit to cool it down–unless, of course, the weird alarm in the neighbor over the back fence’s yard keeps going off. I think he meant it as a squirrel deterrent, but it goes off at the least breath of wind and the thing is annoying.

I did finish that book on Rome and the Silk Road; I’ve moved on to a WWII memoir. I’m saving a scholarly Viking book for when a certain question involving Cold North is settled. At least I got some reading in during the heat, between lying on the floor as a puddle and making questionable food choices. (I regret nothing, though my digestion is a bit unhappy. NOTHING, I TELL YOU.)

I knew things were getting ridiculous yesterday when I realized it was 2pm already and I hadn’t even gotten a hundred words. That set off a death spiral where I was convinced, convinced my career was over and I’d never write again. It was a sign I needed some kind of break, so I carried said book to the floor and settled into reading and internal grousing, while the dogs did not pile onto me–it was too warm–but were extremely proximal, attempting to soothe.

They were paid for their care in French fries, and considered that quite acceptable indeed.

So, today I finish an elementalist and a shieldmaid having a heart-to-heart, then get an elf stabbed with a poisoned blade. And for good measure, I get a certain Hellion to the precise spot in a pub’s private room where he can commit maximum mayhem. Pretty sure he’s going to defenestrate someone–by request, actually, a soon-to-be-Tuckerized subscriber really wanted death by window ejection and I have no objection.

For I love my darling Readers and beloved subscribers, and if a little thing like tossing a character through a window will make them happy, who am I to deny it?

My mood has lifted considerably now that I’ve talked my way into defenestration. I suppose that’s the Thursday mood.

Over and out.

Tuesday Tuckerizations

They’re saying 95F today. I’ve already closed the house and turned the AC on. The ceiling fan in the stairwell is going too. Such as it is, we’ve got some remedy against the heat.

In plenty of the country, it wouldn’t be considered bad weather. But here, we are pale temperate mushrooms, and this dries us out. Even the moss in our crevices is cracking. (Hyperbole? Yes, but only a little.)

Of course it means I’ll be able to crouch in my darkened office and work today, since the holiday weekend is over. I managed double wordcount on Cold North yesterday, but only a pittance on Hell’s Acre. Which isn’t bad (just a reminder, you can read the first few chapters of the serial for free) and today I get to write a chapter where I Tuckerize some of my beloved subscribers. It will probably end in their eponymous characters’ gruesome deaths (Avery has a temper, and quite a bit of training in mayhem). I was kind of unprepared for how many people wanted to, erm, risk a violent end in the serial.

Sometimes the deaths are pretty neat–a certain character in Roadtrip Z got to be an end-of-movie hero, bit by a zombie and saving one last bullet in the chamber for himself. (Hullo, MM!) And since I’m writing a combat scene today I have a list of names to use now, and I think at least one is going to switch allegiances mid-fight.

In other news, I got a very nice letter from Reader B. L., who liked Steelflower very much and entreated me to continue the series. I do go back and look at The Highlands War from time to time. If I can open the file without stress nausea burning a hole in my gut I’ll put it on the writing docket.

Unfortunately, it remains one of my most-pirated series. The level of theft means I literally can’t afford to work on it, and the emotional cost is super high too.

But again, if I can get to the point where I can open the Highlands file without the stress nausea, I’ll consider it, because I really do need that arc finished. Originally it was to be a trilogy–the first book where everyone meets, the Skaialan book, and then Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan–incidentally, that last book was to explain D’ri’s scar, and tie a bunch of other narrative threads pretty neatly.

Best-laid plans and all.

In any case, I’ve got to get the dogs walked and my own corpse through a run before the heat mounts to an unlivable degree, so I’m out the door as soon as the last bit of coffee is swilled. Happy Pride Month, everyone, and I hope your Tuesday goes smooth as silk.

If it doesn’t, we can get out the machetes and the RPGs, and teach it not to mess with us.

Over and out…

HELL’S ACRE, In June


It’s June, and you know what that means–Hell’s Acre is now underway! An all-new serial adventure, delivered weekly, and full of stuff Bannon & Clare fans might like–carriages, dresses, a London where the Roman Empire never fell, rooftop battles, assassinations, and the like. There won’t be any magic, per se, but a great deal of semi-combat sorcery Mikal might approve of.

If you’re interested, you can get the first three chapters for free here.

It’s a holiday Monday, so I’m off to walk the dogs before it gets too warm. They’re saying 90F or near it for the next couple days, and I am a pale Pacific Northwest mushroom who shrivels in such temperatures. I plan to work only a half-day today and then retire to the couch to knock off the rest of a book on the Ancient Rome and the silk trade. (It’s all Rome, all the time in here lately.)

I wish you a blessed Memorial Day, my friends. I woke up with Dolly Parton playing inside my head, so I’m hopeful for a good day.

Over and out!

Not Quite Vacay

It’s raining, and I woke up with Rain’s Sad Tango playing in my head. Which isn’t bad on either count. I get to run while water is falling from the sky, and there’s also a catchy groove to do it to.

I meant to take this week as a vacation, at least from serial writing. Unfortunately life has other ideas. Cold North is still going great guns; the elementalist has left that world’s variation on Nargothrond and is heading for a hill topped with red foliage. (Turin Turambar fans are going to get a kick out of this part of the tale.) I’m also getting plenty of progress in on Hell’s Acre, which has a scaffolding somewhat resembling an outline–though anything approaching an outline gets thrown out about two-thirds of the way through any work.

I just can’t stick to directions when it comes to a story. It has to take its own organic shape, and though I can often predict said shape, the execution is always much different than the projection.

…I just took the first gulp of today’s coffee, and my gods is it ever welcome.

I’m having to switch back to tea in the afternoons, since sleeping is becoming difficult again. On the one hand, I could just get up and work when insomnia strikes. On the other, I’m getting older (surprise, surprise) and the very thought of pulling all-nighters the way I used to makes me even more tired. I might as well give my body all the help I can. Besides, tea is stuffed full of anti-depressive chemicals, and that’s always a bonus.

I’m also ready to open up my Discord server for a new round of members, so come on in, the water’s fine! The invite link will last for a week, unless we get an influx of bad actors. (Which sometimes happens, this being the internet and all.) Patreon and Gumroad folks get special access on the server, and I’m kicking around the idea of doing some voice chats with subscribers–an AMA or two sounds like a good time, especially with a cuppa. The server has a living room, a place to discuss the books of Yours Truly, a place to discuss other authors’ books, a hellhole where politics are discussed, and more.

I’m slowly working my way through coffee. It’s a nice quiet grey morning, and after listening to Sad Tango on repeat I figure I’ll shift to the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack, look over the day’s work, and finish said java before taking the dogs on walkies. Boxnoggin will be extremely put out that it’s damp, but B will be just the same–she’s all-weather, all the time.

OH! I almost forgot. The Princess informed me yesterday that the Yankee Squirrel Flipper is doing its duty, and a squirrel has been flung at least once into the Venerable Fir. Sadly, I did not get to witness the occasion, but I have to admit to a bit of evil laughter, especially since the damn arboreal rodents have been digging up my seedling trays to bury their bloody peanuts.

Yes, someone in the neighborhood is still feeding them. I don’t even know.

That’s the news that’s fit to print, I suppose. There are rumbles in the distance, both concerning Cold North and Moon’s Knight, but nothing definitive yet. And come June 1, not only will Hell’s Acre be live, but I’ll have to shift engines to do revisions on Sons of Ymre, which should be out later this year (but will probably be retitled, so stay tuned).

My goodness, that’s a lot. I started this post thinking there was very little if any news, but apparently I was wrong. It’s a good thing I don’t mind being wrong. I even enjoy it, in some cases.

This vacation is turning out busier than many regular work weeks, but that’s my own fault…

…as usual. Onwards, upwards, and inwards to Thursday, beloveds.

Just Breathing, Blessing

It’s finally raining again, and I can run again. Between recovery from the massive, crashing relief of getting our second vaccine shot and certain other personal events, the weekend was a lost cause and Monday just about the same.

Fortunately, this morning I could run in the rain, always guaranteed to lift my spirits. The burst of endorphins and burning off of stress chemicals means some of my equilibrium has returned.

It’s a big week; subscribers get the unedited ebook of HOOD‘s Season Three (the edited one is still being proofread) and also a special surprise involving Hell’s Acre. When June begins, so will that new serial, and frankly I’m looking forward to it.

Other things are hanging fire. Publishing is always festina lente and everyone is congenitally behind and overworked. This could be solved by paying a reasonable number of people a living wage, including creators, but…well, there seems to be a great deal of resistance to that strategy in every industry, not just the one I work in.

I’ve also had a burst of frantic activity in non-work-related areas. For a very long while, I’ve been convinced I wouldn’t survive, and consequently some things have been of less importance than others. (Like, for example, weeding.) Now that competent adults are somewhat in charge and vaccination is available, I’m having to face my own continued existence in a different manner.

I’m technically on vacation this week–which only means I’m only writing what I care to, and I am unavailable for certain business inquiries–so I’ll probably be running a lot, weeding even more, and complaining about the Muse. Not to mention bitching that my recovery process seems to involve writing a lot of werewolf erotica I’ll never be able to publish.

Such are the drawbacks of this career, but they’re faint and fading indeed next to the satisfaction of being able to set my own schedule and behave largely as I please in my own office. Lying on the floor talking to myself and waving my arms while I arrange a combat scene inside my head might be frowned upon in other work environments, after all.

I don’t know how to even begin processing the last year and a half, let alone the complex bubbling stew of feelings swirling against my mental dams and canals once the second dose of vaccine was thrust into my willing flesh. Right now I’m just grateful my head isn’t being constantly shoved under the surface by the daily news cycle. Just breathing is a blessing at the moment.

It might irritate some people to hear me working through these feelings in public, but…well, this is my site, I say what I please here, and if being honest about the effects of truly historical events upon one’s mental health can help even one other person feel less lonely, I’ll consider it time well spent.

In other news, I’ve hung up the Yankee Squirrel Flipper once more, full of sunflower seeds. Boxnoggin has chased not one, not two, but three squirrels (or the same squirrel thrice) in the past few days, and I get the idea they’ve discovered how easy it is to taunt him. I get the further idea that to a squirrel, it’s a lot of fun.

This, I suspect, will not end well. But it’ll be hilarious, I’m sure, and I’m doubly sure it will involve me being shoeless and screaming.

The world could use a little more hilarity right now. I’d say “nature is healing” but I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m just going to await developments…

…and make sure I’m wearing shoes.

Rest Aggressively

There’s so much to do, and yet the power to do any of it seems beyond me today.

This particular fatigue is definitely not from the vaccine, but it’s still deep and wide. The relief is so huge I think I need another twenty-four hours or so for things to settle. I’ll be doing as much work as I can today, but…that’s not going to be much at all.

I’ve been reduced to Barba Streisand’s Broadway album. That’s how ragged my nerves are, unreeling in sheer relief. I’m trying to aggressively rest, if there is such a thing–there are seedlings to start, and laurel volunteers to put along the back fence in case the fellow living over it gets another wild hare and tries to take out the rest of the cedars.

The dogs need walking, though Boxnoggin’s tummy is a little unsettled this fine morn. I suspect the weather change, as well as humans leaving the house not once but twice on Saturday, has made him briefly nervous. I thought he was excited to get out the door and see a squirrel or two this morning, but he was on a beeline to a particular place near the fence to vomit.

Get your excitement where you can, I guess. He’s absolutely fine, sometimes he just has a day where his tummy decides not to go with the program. By dinner he’ll be right as rain.

We were supposed to get rain, as a matter of fact, but everything is suspiciously dry. It may be time to turn the sprinklers on, but I know as soon as I do there will be a deluge. Fool me twice, and all that.

I’ll be starting mugwort and comfrey and moonflower datura seedlings, and probably a few other things. There’s a whole tray of nasturtiums, just waiting for the seeds to crack their tiny brown heads and release broad peppery green fans. The eensy grow light I bought is going to do so much work this summer; I might even get a second one for the violets proper.

I’m also looking at the next few years’ worth of work and feeling vaguely hopeful. Having to face the fact of my own survival is…odd. There’s been a few times in my life I’ve been genuinely surprised to find myself alive, and this year seems to be one of them. I was absolutely convinced the last administration’s malignant, aggressive incompetence was going to somehow snatch away the vaccine at the last minute. Now, home and safe, I’m looking at the damage and groaning slightly.

Cleanup is the worst part of any disaster. At least, for survivors.

It bothers me that we–the whole country, natch–haven’t had a reckoning, and probably won’t for a long while since *waves hands* all this is ongoing. The grief is going to be a real lulu, and that’s only the first step.

There are seeds to plant, dogs to walk (gently, at more of an amble than our usual brisk pace) and books to schedule. I’m hopeful to hear about Moon’s Knight soon, and if the answer is good, great! If the answer is not so good, well, I’ll need to pull together a cover from somewhere.

That won’t be bad. I’m surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing.

We’ve gone from bright sunshine to dark clouds while I’ve typed this; volatile spring weather, except it’s not dropping any real rain. Maybe I’ll just think really hard about the sprinklers, and that will fool the meteorological gods.

It’s worth a shot. Let’s see if it works…