Daytime Animal

The first fog of autumn has found us, creeping on large padded feet. The east is slowly turning grey and a pine flicker is calling, lonely clicks and mellow flutelike moans. There was a jay screeching a few moments ago too, but oddly hushed as if even Ed and Stede hesitate to break the vaporbound quiet.

It smells like autumn, but a very specific period before the rains have moved in. Crisp with an undertone of spice, dry straw soaking up all the moisture it can find after summer’s dust and crackglaze drought. With warm days and cool nights we’ll probably get some lovely leaf color, if the trees have anything left after all the heat stress. The robins are starting to call now, and the jays are gaining volume and tetchiness.

As for the house, it’s very quiet. Even Boxnoggin would like a wee bit more of a nap, thank you. I’d be happier if this were the end of my working day and I could slither into bed as dawn rises, but the world isn’t built for me. Shifting the dog’s schedule to nocturnal is more trouble than it’s worth, so I guess I’m still a daytime animal for a few more years.

There are worse things.

I also got to spend an entire day this weekend with a pair of Auggie puppies. Apparently that’s what Australian shepherd / corgi mixes are called, and they are 110% adorable. Needle-sharp puppy claws, needle-sharp puppy teeth, romping, slobber, belly rubs, coursing and herding behaviors in play, and bumbling cuteness all added up to a great deal of relaxation for me, and they were perfectly happy to cavort all over me as I kept one foot elevated. It was probably the only thing that could have made me sit still that long without writing, and there were tea and scones too. I felt moderately guilty about not working entirely through said weekend, but the puppies alleviated all stress pursuant to said guilt. Boxnoggin was very interested in every whiff he could find on my clothes when I returned to the chez, and was only a little miffed that I hadn’t taken him along–he got to stay and supervise at least one human, so the day wasn’t a loss for him.

We’re back at Monday, and that means an important scene in Hell’s Acre, as well as more revisions on Cold North. The former needs a ratcheting up of tension before I start letting dominos fall, and I’m coming up on the first major problem that needs to be addressed in the latter. How do I describe a battle for almost-Nargothrond when the protagonist is deliberately kept away from it? I have ideas, naturally, and they’ll all work within the structure of what I’m trying to accomplish. But walkies today will be spent thinking of which particular idea I want to deploy–there’s not quite an embarrassment of riches, but it’s close.

Last week’s Reading with Lili was Dracula, Ho! and is up on YouTube. The algorithm seems to have found it, though, and I’m waiting to see if exactly what I wanted to avoid is going to go down, which is nerve-wracking. I enjoy nerding out about literature so much, I hope nobody does anything shitty to break that.

Dawn has continued to rise as I type. The birds seem confused; there’s not much of a morning chorus. It’s nothing like the Silent Hill pea-soupers we’ll get later in the season, and I’d kind of like to get out with Boxnoggin before it fades. My ankle bears a bracelet of colorful bruising, but I can hobble at a reasonable speed with enough ibuprofen. The dog needs his exercise, after all, and I suppose at a certain point healing requires gentle activity. Not sure how gentle it’ll be if he gets it into his fool rectangular head to chase something, but I suppose even if I’m knocked off my feet my sheer mass will render him incapable of getting into too much trouble–especially since the leash is attached to my waist.

I’m down to the last swallow of coffee and there’s a lot to get done today. Heading out for a ramble before the clouds burn off is the name of the game, so I’d best get to it. Maybe the fog will keep the squirrels from being taunting poor Boxnoggin.

…yeah, that’s probably a vain hope, but better than none. See you around, beloveds.

Autumn Shift

Slowly swam into consciousness this morning; my sleep was heavy as it has not been for weeks. I knew why when I lay still and listened.

Rain! Tapping at the roof, but not hissing through the leaves–they were already too wet. A good soaking has descended from heaven, trickling through the gutters, beading up on the freshly sealed deck, replacing some turgor pressure in tree limbs, cleaning the air, and blanketing tired dust. Now all yesterday’s activity makes sense–there were at least seven male stellar jays in the backyard most of the afternoon, screeching and carrying on amid several robins and a whole host of smaller birds. The corvids periodically came through as well, moving almost in a picket line while digging through grass and shrubbery; the squirrels were in a fury of burying anything nutlike and chasing each other away from hidden caches. Stink bugs were climbing any surface they could, a great risk while the birds were out, and it was just generally a busy rumble.

Boxnoggin is nonplussed. It took a bit of coaxing to get him out of bed, since the window is still dark. Dawn is obstructed by a pall of heavy grey–just the way I like it, in fact, the only proper way to greet that rosy-fingered goddess–and he was very nice and cozy. I rousted him for a trip to the backyard, following our usual morning protocol, and while he is very fond of habit and routine, the fact remains that he immensely dislikes rain since it is cold on his delicate paws. He gave me a startled look when the first drop hit his shoulder, then proceeded with a long-suffering sigh to attend his business before hurrying back inside. Now he’s in the living room, resentfully tongue-cleaning whatever fragments of moisture managed to reach him.

He’s not going to enjoy walkies as much as usual, but them’s the breaks.

My soul is expanding. I needed rain. And while I was rising through layers of consciousness, the solution to a particularly knotty plot problem in Cold North appeared, laid in my brain like a gift. I knew the Muse would drop it on me while I was occupied with something else; it was only a matter of time. The solution will mean a little more work, but at least I have it now.

The shift has happened. The world has tilted, and things are as they should be. The cedars are murmuring with joy, and the Venerable Fir’s boughs have started to lift again. There is even a bluejay on a handy branch along the back fence; I think it’s Ed, though he’s not screaming. He’s merely surveying his domain with a satisfied air, and probably waiting for Stede to arrive so the two of them can get into trouble with their gentleman crew.

Today holds a mountain of work. Now that I know the next solution in the revisions, it remains only to reach the particular point where it needs to be inserted. If I keep my head down and go straight through there might even be time for some narration after dinner. (The “narrate Victorian erotica with a straight face” project proceeds apace, too.) There was a Twitch outage yesterday so I couldn’t do the planned Reading with Lili, but I think I’ll do it this Friday instead of a tea.

Adaptation is the name of the game. And the title will be “Dracula, HO” because I am twelve inside.

There’s even homemade banana bread with plenty of walnuts for breakfast, once I finish coffee. I keep stopping to gaze out my office window at the inky-wet cedars, and each time I do my soul heaves another small sigh of relief and expands just that fraction more. Rain. Rain, rain, rain. Thank the gods.

Summer is over; I can begin to live–and work–again.

The Morning, With Gentlemen Jays

One of the Gentlemen Bluejays is screaming from the back fence. I’m not sure if it’s Ed or Stede, because they both produce an amazing amount of noise. There’s also a strange ratcheting cry from some bird I haven’t identified–the Merlin app wanted all sorts of personal information, and I’d rather wait for a glimpse on my own. Dawn is well underway, the smaller birds are weighing in, and I’m sure some of what I’m hearing is an early squirrel out to make a name for themselves.

By screaming. I mean, I don’t blame them.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be decent enough weather today, I’m prepping for the next Reading with Lili (I think we’re going to go straight into Dracula, since you guys like Varney well enough but are eager to move on) and this evening another story from The Pearl goes live on Reading Before Bed. I can’t believe I’m actually narrating Victorian erotica for funsies, but here we are.

Most of today will be taken up with revisions on Cold North. I want to get to the underground elven city at least, especially since I have to rework the battle there. I don’t know if I want the protagonist to see said battle, so today during walkies and the morning run I’ll have to think about the underlying structure a bit. I know exactly what I want to do, but not precisely how I want to do it. Physical movement will jar all of that free; it always does.

It will be nice to run again. I’m antsy and cranky, since the weekend was full of work and yesterday was taken up with sealing the deck and some Hell’s Acre. I don’t mind either, and the deck sorely needed attention. Of course if I hadn’t pushed to get it done we’d be having buckets of rain right now, but since I did push, I’m sure the autumn deluges will hold off for some time. Because that’s just how things work.

Boxnoggin has trotted down the hall once already to nose at my ankle and get some skritches. He is fully aware that brekkie is next on the morning docket, then it’s time for a long-ish ramble. He’s taken over Bailey’s herding and supervisory responsibilities to a certain extent, and as I’ve been typing this the morning chorus has faded. The sun has cleared the horizon by now–in between sentences I’ve been taking care of administrivia and other early morning tasks, getting my fingers ready for another day full of typing.

Though I can still hear one of the Gentlemen Jays screaming from a neighbor’s yard, and the twittering of smaller birds in the cedar. “Quiet” is only a relative term in the Kingdom of Backyard.

Happy Tuesday, my beloveds. We’ve got a long way to go, and short time to get there–a little Jerry Reed for you, since I’m trying to get a couple other earworms out of my skull–so I suppose I’d best slither off my office chair and get started.

Sealant, Dawn

It’s that lovely time of year when the axial tilt pushes sunrise later and later. There’s a line of rosy cloud in the east, and the cedars are black shadows against strengthening light. The coffee is hot and tastes marvelous, and though I’ve never been a morning person I’ve never minded the dawn.

I just usually like to be heading to bed as it rises. Shift-change, you could call it.

I ran a pressure washer for the first time yesterday, cleaning off the deck. It was incredibly satisfying to see the grunge and bits of moss lift away. Today I’ll slop some sealant on the whole thing, possibly with the help of a child or two, and then I can wait for the rains with something approaching sanguinity. It will be satisfying to see the first downpour of the season bead up on freshly sealed decking, and that will extend its life a little longer. Or at least, so I hope–replacing that sort of thing is a bitch, and we just did the roof.

One can be fully aware of being lucky to have a house, and also mildly frustrated with the constant rounds of maintenance. Circle of life, and all that.

In between, there’s a conversation that needs to happen in Hell’s Acre. Gemma needs to figure out what to do with her almost-father and wounded “uncle”; the former will not make it easy and the latter is having a full-blown religious crisis, so that’ll be fun. Fortunately, I think Avery’s going to start taking what he considers his responsibilities seriously indeed. If I can get that and the deck sorted, I’ll consider today a win.

Might even record another narration for the saucy channel. I can’t believe I’m doing this with my life, but it pleases me so I’m going to continue. I think I’ll finish the “stories” in The Pearl first, then do a few episodes where I narrate the poetry–some of which is actually quite hilarious, if one likes dick jokes. I mean, I’m neutral on dick limericks myself, despite my love for Galadriel (who learned the art of old from Varda) but I admire the sheer amount of “commit to the bit”. It’s surprisingly fun to keep a straight face while reading antique erotica.

Tomorrow it’s back to the regular schedule, especially a morning run. Giving my body some time off shouldn’t mean I use it in other ways which make it just as sore, right? My forearms are a bit unhappy from the pressure washer’s reverb, and my neck could really use some stretching and a little rest. Maybe I should shoehorn some yoga in later.

I’d say “getting old sucks” but it’s actually kind of awesome. Even if I suspect I’ll need a handful of ibuprofen by dusk.

The birds have noticed the accelerating dawn, and there’s a Boxnoggin to walk before I can start splashing sealant everywhere. I’m down to the last few swallows of coffee and the neighbors’ sprinklers are going off. The day is officially underway.

See you around.

Rain, Immanent

The Demon's Librarian

I spent a great deal of time yesterday catching up with a few things like reading Varney the Vampyre to you madcaps (which will be up on YouTube later today) and narrating the first episode of The Pearl. Then I was playing with Filmora to get the video component all arranged, and things just mushroomed.

It was all necessary catch-up, but now I feel behind. Or even more behind than I did, which is saying something. I may even (gasp!) have to telescope down some of the projects I’m juggling, or stop doing the weekly teas, or…I dunno. I like the mix of stuff I have going on right now, but I also feel a tiny bit overwhelmed.

Waiting until the caffeine soaks in is a good idea. Rolling out of bed and popping back into video editing “just for a few minutes” has done me no favors at all. But at least the day’s work is cut out for me–loading subscription stuff since I’ve lost all the work-ahead cushion I had there, figuring out the conversation between Gemma, Avery, Sampson, the Greatfather, and possibly Brother Jacob, continuing revisions on Cold North, and various other tasks. I might be able to squeeze in some more recording time near the end of the day, or after dinner.

I can’t believe my life now includes “narrating Victorian spankings”, but here we are.

At least it’s a lovely grey morning. Boxnoggin is napping, since he hasn’t heard the sigh that means I have lifted my coffee mug and found it empty. Once I make that habitual, unconscious noise he’ll haul himself up, stretch, and trot down the hall to nose me in the direction of brekkie. He’s been eager for walkies all week, and very tired when we get home afterwards.

The birds have been acting like rain is imminent–short flutters from one branch to the next, singing particular twittering arias, and just generally being excitable. The cedars are dancing in a way that means rain soon too, and the squirrels are busily burying everything resembling food they can lay their tiny claws on. There have been bursts of petrichor, too…

…but no actual precipitation yet. The clouds simply don’t have the oomph for it. We’re so close, it’s maddening. And yet I need to get the deck sorted before it gets too damp and we’re not having bloody hot days anymore, so I should be grateful for those (rather large) mercies.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print, I suppose. There is one lone swallow of coffee left in the mug and I can almost sense Boxnoggin’s ears pricking, ready to catch that involuntary sigh. I suppose getting started on the day is in order.

Courage, my friends. It’s only a Tuesday, and we outnumber it…

Tilting and Horrifying

It’s Tuesday. The earth is tilting toward equinox so the sun has moved to a different portion of the cedars for its morning path upward. Two more days until summer is officially over–I also saw the first Canadian geese of the season yesterday, winging south in two sharp V’s over a nearby park. Boxnoggin was oblivious, snoot-down in wet grass, but I watched the birds and felt a sharp swell of relief. No more 90F days until next year, thank you.

Lately, a particular line from a Batman movie has been stuck in my head–Heath Ledger’s Joker, calm and reasonable. “Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if that plan is horrifying.” It’s lived in my head rent-free for a while now, and lately it occurs to me at least twice per day, mostly while reading the news. Normally when a line gets stuck like this it means a story’s about to hatch from it and attach to my face before eventually bursting out of my chest with a splattering vengeance, but I hope that’s not the case this time.

I don’t want the book that would result from such a realization. I suppose I already wrote versions of it (Cormorant Run, Afterwar) and…been ignored, so why bother? The world is under no obligation to listen to me, but that works both ways. I’m under no obligation to keep setting myself on fire keeping the selfish or oblivious warm. Of course my therapist was always saying that–and so were my better friends–but it didn’t sink in for most of my life (so far). Probably because of the caretaking I was raised to do.

It’s not that I’m glorifying the Joker. The character is terrifying, especially in Ledger’s interpretation. I’ve been in the room with bugfuck crazy before, and he nailed it right down to the strange flat shine in the eyes, not to mention the physical movements. I can’t watch that performance without an atavistic shiver, because I remember being in close proximity with someone in that state (however temporary or permanent) and how it felt.

But that line…that line sticks with me, especially the quaver in Ledger’s voice when he says “horrifying”, all but smacking his lips while shuddering with mixed revulsion, excitement, and the burning knowledge that he’s using truth for his own purposes. I don’t deny there’s a certain seduction in that form of chaotic nihilism, a relief from the pain of caring. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take that path wholesale instead of just peering down it a little bit for a book or character, or vicariously by watching a movie.

I suppose enduring a pandemic in a failing state during the dissolution of an empire amid rising fascism will make anyone philosophical. And naturally, my optimism tells me that eventually humanity will figure it out, will collectively make a right choice or two. It’s just that immediately afterward my realism replies, “Sure, after exhausting every other possible strategy and tactic. And what will the body count be in the meantime?”

So I wait, I watch, I write, I take care of those I can. I think a lot about the assumptions we’re all operating under and how those assumptions might be changing. I think a lot about how humanity behaves when we think there’s some semblance of a plan, no matter how horrifying it turns out to be. I suppose that’s the downside of our cooperative nature as a species–it is the thing that could save us if we could just get our fucking acts together, but it’s also the thing that keeps us quietly queueing up for our own destruction.

And now that I’ve said this, it’s time to get some toast and walk Boxnoggin, who is gloriously unburdened by both intelligence and planning.

It must be nice.

Dodgy Monday

Got up this morning to find Amazon is being dodgy about a particular book of mine (though not That Damn Werelion Book yet, it seems), so that’s irritating to deal with before coffee. However, the dog days are over, so the Demon’s Librarian sale is going ahead. Yes, there were technical difficulties last month–all mine, I am sad to report–but it’s all fixed now and the sale is proceeding apace.

It was a long weekend, mostly full of fatigue. I did get the proof pages for Duty (Ghost Squad #2) turned around and in, though I was struggling with a mild reaction to the latest bivalent vaccine. Nothing much–a slight fever, arm soreness, muscle aches, fatigue. Certainly it’s better than getting the plague proper, and my body tends to cook itself at the drop of a hat so a fever is nothing new. Still, it was unpleasant, and I didn’t get to recording the first story from The Pearl for my upcoming Victorian-erotica reading.

Ah well. I suppose I’ll get around to it later, in all my copious spare time.

This morning while I walk Boxnoggin I’ll have to plan out a certain scene in Hell’s Acre. I need to know how exactly Brother Jacob manages to convince the Widow Rudrill that he’s not a scoundrel intent upon compromising poor dear Miss Dove. (Who will be mightily amused by the whole thing, at least when she’s not worried about her “uncle.”) Then, this afternoon, it will be time for Cold North revisions. I’m excited to be finally working on this book again–everything in the last few months has conspired to keep me away from this series, but now I can finally devote most of my time to it. Which is good, because right after Boon 1 is revised I need to get Book 2 written, which will probably happen during NaNoWriMo.

So, Duty should be out in October–that was the hurry to get the proof pages turned around–and after that I’ll have a bit of a rest, working on new stuff while the release schedule calms down. There have been a lot of video meetings in the past few weeks while everything gets sorted, and I’d really like to just retreat into my cave and work for a while.

Oh, and I need to get another fraction of Varney the Vampyre reread, so I’m ready for the Reading with Lili session on Wednesday. We’ll be talking about why Varney is important in the Western vampire canon, how it set the tone for much of what came afterward, and just how gloriously purple the prose is.

I love throbbing purple prose. But then, you knew that about me.

Before all that, Boxnoggin needs his walk while I ponder the problems of Brother Jacob, and then my weary corpse needs a somewhat gentle run to shake the last of the vaccine reaction out. And I hope Amazon isn’t going to keep being silly, though I’m sure my vocal criticism of their business practices means they are simply aching for a chance to do so. Ah well.

It’s a Monday, and my arm still hurts a bit. Which will add all sorts of fun to the daily shamble, I’m sure. I hope your beginning-of-the-week is peaceful, my friends–or that together, we can wallop it into being so.

Once more into the weekly breach…