Storm, Season

I spent the weekend getting Jozzie & Sugar Belle–that infamous “nutless kangaroo shifter novella”–up for preorder. I didn’t mean to, mind you, I thought I’d bring it out in October, but it was so fun once I started the prep I decided a July release would be fine. I’m pretty sure nobody will buy it, but it made me laugh until my belly hurt, so I’m going to release it into the wild and see what happens.

There were also plenty of housecleaning chores, and the Little Prince is out of school for the summer. He attended a friend’s birthday party, and came home exhausted. I gather there were at least six teen males stuffed into one house, and the gaming was particularly fierce. (Those parents must be saints. Good heavens.)

So…it was a busy weekend, and finished off with thunderstorms Sunday evening. Miss B came slightly unhinged–she does not like thunder–and had to have half an anti-anxiety tab. Of course Odd Trundles was oblivious, until a strike less than three miles away gave forth a peal of thunder that came in my office window and startled him a bit. I closed my window, but he was already locked on BORK BORK BORK, so it took a little while to get him calmed down. By the time he did, the tab was working for B, and they both slept peacefully while the sky-gods battled.

I love storms; we don’t often get them here. Yesterday was strange because the thunder didn’t stop after one or two halfhearted rumbles. It was a proper, honest-to-goodness summer storm front, and the flashes and rumbling were almost constant whenever a cell moved overhead. It was glorious, but I’m kind of glad it’s over. This morning’s run, as a result, was somewhat steamy and sticky. I don’t mind the bees catching a ride in my hair, or the metallic-looking ones who want to drink my sweat–I mean, I’m producing it, they might as well get it while it’s there–but my eyes were watering, which happens on some runs, and the sweat bees decided that was MANNA FROM HEAVEN. Crawl on my arms, hang out in my hair, that’s fine, but they were going for the eyes and that was not fine by any stretch of the imagination.

In any case, I returned home sopping wet, and there were (miraculously) no casualties. B, glad to work off her fidgets, was a right little snot all the way through, busily trying to herd me in every direction except the one I wanted to go. She keeps thinking she has a vote in our route.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Anyway, she’s sacked out in the hall, napping the nap of the fully justified, and in a little while I’ll roust both her and Trundles for his afternoon constitutional. He also gets an epsom-salt paw soak and I am kicking around the idea of bandaging said paw with a clean white sock and tons of antibiotic cream.

I’m sure that will go over well.

In any case, now that preorders are well underway, I can turn my attention back to HOOD and Harmony. And oh look–are those edits in my inbox? No rest for the weary or the wicked, and the birds are storm-flittering outside as if the weather’s going to give us another round. Plus, a couple squirrels seem to have taken up residence in the apple tree outside the dining room window.

I’m sure that will end well…

On to the Next

I began poking at HOOD–that’s the Robin Hood in Space story–yesterday. Frankly it was a relief to work on something that wasn’t Maiden’s Blade or Atlanta Bound, not because I dislike them, but because a new obsession is a good way to get rid of old ones and I need time off from both stories if I’m going to be able to revise them properly later.

At the same time, shifting my engines from one story to the next is always difficult. I have to slow (or speed) the flywheel inside my head to the proper speed for the new story, and make the teeth fit so it will pull with the minimum of grinding. It’s a matter, as always, of sitting and picking, picking, picking, until an internal click happens and the story starts to slide out through my fingertips in fits and starts. Yesterday, it was the name of Maid Marian’s spaceship that triggered the click. I hadn’t even realized it was a necessary component.

A funny thing about writing stories, at least for me, is that the way is hardly ever straight and broad. Everything happens in ellipses. So, I spent my run yesterday thinking about a particular scene that involves a sort of speeder race (Maid Marian is a woman of many talents, indeed) and the question of her spaceship’s name wasn’t even on the horizon. But it was a long chain of thought from the speeder-race scene, which may or may not make it into the book, to Marah Madán’s introductory scene, where she’s skinning her knuckles in her ship’s engine room and contemplating a frozen death in the wide reaches of space if she can’t get things working again, involving (among other things) how to get into and out of a gravity well, faster-than-light messaging, whether the book’s main setting should be a space station rather than a planetary system, how wartime rationing loosens after victory or defeat, and on and on until suddenly, staring into the distance, it occurred to me that the ship’s name was Ivanhoe and the click sounded.

Consequently, I fell into the book and almost missed dinner; thankfully, it was the Princess’s night to deal with that problem. The dogs were dancing with impatience, thinking that perhaps their servant-goddess had forgotten the Magic Foodtime. Which means I surfaced from writing Guy of Gisbourne’s intro to find Odd Trundles’s long, very disconcertingly warm tongue curling around my ankle. I’m not sure whether he was asking for my attention, or just obeying his usual habit of licking any patch of bare skin he finds, or realizing I’m made of meat. Consequently, I hurried to fill the bowls with kibble, and was a little miffed that I couldn’t jump right back into the book.

Today is going to be all about Hood. And Harmony‘s revisions. I have a couple comic-book scripts I should start outlining, too. And I’m sure edits for Rattlesnake Wind are going to drop anytime now. Recovery is over, it’s on to the next.

It pleases me. There are always more stories, they line up around the block, some standing patiently, others elbowing. What’s in short supply is the time and effort needed to sit and let them come through. That time and effort needs to be guarded like a dragon hoard. Protect your writing time, chickadees, your stories need it.

I’d better get some more coffee and get back to work.

Hood and Harmony

It’s only 9am as I start this post, but dear gods above, my daily teaspoon of patience is quickly being licked dry. It’s only uncaffeinated fumbling, and if I just wait a little bit for the stimulant to finish hitting my bloodstream I suppose I’ll be fine. Right now, though, I am in a somewhat savage mood. So are the canines; Miss B got shirty with Odd over breakfast (she keeps trying to get into his bowl, for God’s sake, even though they both get the same damn thing) and poor Odd, while extremely mellow, does not like that. So I had to stand between them and encourage both to eat from their own damn bowl, but then Odd got stubborn, as he is wont to do sometimes, and decided FINE, he would simply GO DOWN THE HALL and SLEEP IN THE OFFICE and when his tummy gets upset later, THAT WILL SHOW EVERYONE.

Really, the only person it will show is me. Yep, I’m going to be looking at dog vomit later, unless I coax him to eat a bit of kibble directly from my palm to take the edge off. It’s a good thing I love both of these damn creatures.

The weekend was nice, though. I planned to keep away from work the entire time, and largely succeeded. Unfortunately that makes my mood a whit savage, since the discomfort of not writing for two days is cresting under my skin, itching and uncomfortable. I get to go back to HOOD today, and also start Harmony revisions. The latter needs its last third expanded, and it will probably be a monster book after it’s done. Today I get to write Maid Marian’s fixing of a starship engine and her copilot arguing with an android about all sorts of things, but mostly the music the android plays to “up Terran efficiency by a few percentage points.” Heh. I’m getting to like the android; I can’t decide if he has a great sense of humor or none at all.

Then again, I’m the same woman who has long conversations with china squirrel figurines. We’ll anthropomorphize anything around here. (It reminds me of #8 here, which is honestly what I consider really close to what an android would actually think of humans.)

So that’s going to be fun. I need to spend some more time thinking about interplanetary travel and other aspects so the Robin Hood story is a valid response to the world’s constraints. And of course I’m going to name Hood’s home system “Sagittarius,” because it amuses me to no end. I could do a whole zodiac-themed series with different star systems…but that’s a thought for another time.

Today’s run will be all about putting those pieces in place while I sweat and curse. At least it’ll get rid of some of my fidgets, and probably B’s as well. Maybe she’ll come home and be less of an asshole to Odd Trundles. If not, I’m going to have to referee dinner too.

Running will also refill my teaspoon of patience, so I’m going to get to it. Happy Monday, dear Readers, and I hope your teaspoon is full.

Re-Tuning Rituals

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I haven’t been able to drink alcohol since the stomach flu, and good gods above, do I ever miss it. It’s not that I can’t function without, it’s just…man, getting to cocktail hour and pouring myself a measure to celebrate getting through the day and take the edge off my nerves was a welcome ritual. Now I’m doing things like stretching and drinking ice water, and it’s just not the same. Sure, I’m healthier and all that but I would love a little fuzzy soft-focus come 5PM.

I hadn’t realized how much that small ritual was a signal for me to relax and let the end of the day proceed, to look over the day’s work and fix egregious typos. It’s also nice to just let the story sink into the bottom of your brain and turn the entire problem of what comes next over to your subconscious. Those giant engines below the floorboards need something to do while I’m sleeping. Left to themselves they just come up with nightmares, and while those are sometimes instructive, they’re not terribly useful.

Sometimes I think one’s entire life is seeing how fast a primate can come up with new rituals in changing conditions.

Anyway, I took most of yesterday off since Tuesday ended with finishing the first revision of Atlanta Bound. That was a monster of a revision because I’d written the zero so lean and at such a furious pace, moving from handhold to handhold. Crossing that particular task off my list was extremely satisfying. Trying to unplug and chill Wednesday was…not as satisfying. The flywheel inside my head, still spinning from the Afterwar release and the revision of The Maiden’s Blade under a severe time crunch, ramped up again to get through another revise, and didn’t want to slow down or stop. The knowledge that I’m courting burnout if I don’t schedule in and force myself to take recovery time is a very thin rail to keep me plunging off the cliff, indeed. I itch under my skin if I don’t write, and I have about twenty-four hours before the discomfort becomes acute and I must write or begin scratching, snapping, and sparking.

So today I took my sweet time getting out the door for a run, and dawdled on the way back with Miss B, who was ecstatic to be rambling New Places. I have subscription stuff to send out, that will eat up about an hour.1 I’m allowed only a little bit of work today, but it’s going to be on Robin Hood in Space, which I’m tentatively titling HOOD.

Man, I can’t wait to start playing with the genre conventions of that particular tale.

There’s also a podcast interview scheduled for this evening2, so I wouldn’t be able to imbibe anyway. I miss the habit of relaxation and I joke a lot about writers having to fucking drink to put up with all the bullshit in publishing; maybe I should look into edibles instead because they’re legal in my state.3 Christ knows the bullshit isn’t going away anytime soon. Only the coping mechanisms change.

And now, having thoroughly depressed myself with that last observation, I’m off to do some formatting. Catch you later, alligators.

If I Can Just…

Woke up this morning with Thomas Newman’s To the Shock of Miss Louise playing at high volume inside my head. Promptly tripped twice making the bed, had to almost drag Odd Trundles out for his morning eliminatory round, barely got the dogs’ food bowls filled without spilling, accidentally stepped on Trundles while trying to make coffee–the dog will be underfoot, it is a bloody constant–and apologized profusely, got scorched by the coffee maker, dropped bits of hot breakfast in my décolletage, there’s not enough coffee in the WORLD, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

Tuesday is, in short, a fucking Monday. I’m pretty sure getting out the door for my run is going to be an odyssey and a half. If I get through today’s spadework without breaking an ankle I’ll call it a win. Especially since Miss B, a morning dog if ever there was one, is extremely bouncy today.

I only managed a few chapters in revision yesterday. Book launch plus finishing a first draft under a severe time crunch has scraped me dry and left me reeling. I thought taking the weekend completely off might help, but apparently that wasn’t enough. I itch to be back at work, and at the same time, find myself dry-firing. Which, you know, is great for aiming and teaching purposes, but it doesn’t get stuff crossed off my to-do list. If I can just get through this first revise on Atlanta Bound

Wait. Wait a second. Wasn’t I just saying “if I can just get this first draft of The Maiden’s Blade out the door, I can relax”?

I was, wasn’t I.

*headdesk*

Anyway, it’s 9am, time to get out for a run while it’s still relatively cool outside. Let’s all hope for no broken ankles, and maybe when I come home I’ll have a better idea for the day, one that doesn’t involve me driving myself past threadbare and into full-blown burnout. Maybe. Except it’s June, which means edits for Rattlesnake Wind are going to land and I’ve got those comic book scripts to get off the ground, too.

No rest for the weary wicked. Let’s kick Tuesday in the pants, my friends.

Over and out.

Housecleaning, Steelflower, Monday

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Late Friday evening, I compiled the first draft of The Maiden’s Blade into a Word doc, eyeballed it for formatting…and sent it off to editor and agent. Consequently, I spent the weekend twitching, desperate for something to slow down the flywheel inside my skull. The kids flat-out told me I wasn’t allowed to do anything resembling work; I gather I looked a wee bit haggard.

Well, you know, more haggard than usual.

So there was a lot of cleaning, especially in the kitchen. Since the dishwasher seems to be settling in all right (thank the gods) I decided it was time to do the regular spring cleaning. Even the kids got in on the act, mopping, shaking rugs, finding things to tidy all over the house. Come Sunday afternoon, we could all achieve our liquid forms in various parts of the house and settle to reading or video-gaming, which was quite pleasant. The tidiness won’t last, of course, daily living (not to mention dogs) takes care of that.

But it’s nice while it endures, and the fact that I didn’t have to do it all myself is golden.

The Little Prince is attempting a Narnia read-through. So far, he’s in the wilds of The Magician’s Nephew, and he can’t get over how creepy Uncle Andrew is. “All I want to know is where’s Polly, and this guy has cocoa powder in a box and won’t tell me!” he fumed at the dinner table last night, and I just kept telling him, wait until you get to the White Witch, my son.

We are also the (proud?) owners of a Cards Against Humanity set, and I’m contemplating inviting a few people over to play. I’m not social even at the best of times, and I hate competitive games1 but getting a bit tiddly2 and putting together several filthy MadLibs with people whose verbal agility and sense of humor are just as hyperactive as mine sounds like a great time.

And now that I’m not pushing to heave this bloody epic fantasy out of my head posthaste, I might even have some energy left over. (Maybe.)

The big project this week is finishing the top-to-bottom first revise of Atlanta Bound; then it’s on to revising a YA I wrote about getting enfolded by a cult. The latter needs its crisis to be drawn out a little more; it chose to come out in a tight first-person POV and by the end of it (120K words, I think?) I was tired, tired, tired. I’m pretty sure nobody will buy it, since my YAs feature kids who cuss and suffer things I did growing up, but eventually it might see the light of day elsewhere. The thing after that on my big to-do list is a revise of Steelflower in Snow, which is tentatively planned for an October release. There is one more Steelflower book after that, if the current ones do well. I don’t think I’ll write her eventual return to her homeland, I think maybe I’ll just let her adventures in the Highlands reach their natural conclusion and bid farewell to the series. Mostly because I’m tired of people yelling at me over them.

Odd Trundles is Extremely Put Out this morning, since he refused to leave the Fancy Office Dog Bed and as a result got splattered with saline. (Don’t ask. Just…don’t ask.) To add to his discomfiture, the Mad Tortie has decided she wants to play, but only wants to play according to her rules, which shift so quickly Odd can’t keep up. He keeps getting smacked on the nose–with no claws, the Mad Tortie is velvet-pawing him–and looking at me with this long-suffering but I’m doing what she wants, Mum, make her staaaaaaaaaaahp look.

In short, it’s Monday all over, for the bulldog as well as yours truly. When I head out for a run he’ll moan, groan, eventually settle for his morning nap, and be snoring gustily by the time I return.

Would that we were all so lucky.

Peace, Process

Maybe I’ve recovered from the zero draft of Maiden’s Blade, because I’m looking at the sheer amount of revision that book will need and feeling the need to wail and gnash my teeth. It won’t help, and a lot of the work is supplementary materials–character sheets, footnotes, etc.–because if I’m going to do a doorstop epic fantasy trilogy, I need to keep names and character arcs somewhere other than my aching skull. It used to be I’d simply stuff it in my cranial corners, but with going back to piano and all I need all the extra bandwidth I can get.

I also have a book on “the poetics of The Tale of Genji” that I want to dive into, dammit, and I can’t until I bloody well get the zero draft in at least reasonable first-draft shape and sent off to yon patient editor. I’m dangling litcrit in front of my face like a carrot before a donkey, which means I’m much more tired than I thought.

I’ve had a few moments lately where I simply stop and look at things in my house. When I catch myself thinking about old hurts, often my eye will light upon a framed print, a plant, a tchotchke I remember placing with care. The idea that I’m forty-two this year, I’d a dul-gurned adult, and that I have arranged my life mostly to suit myself is still shatteringly exotic. I am hideously, unabashedly lucky. From the Nighthawks over the piano to Rembrandt’s Athena in my office, from the glass apples to the half-burned candles on the mantel, from the glass fishing floats to the statues of goddesses watching over the domicile, from the bookshelves arranged exactly as I prefer them to the books gathered wherever I happened to be reading them, from the knitting on my desk to the Princess’s knitting on the coffee table, from the Little Prince’s playing cards (he practices throwing them, I don’t know) in random places to the rehabilitated plants everywhere there’s enough sunlight to fuel them, my refuge is beautiful.

I suppose every May I think about the price of surviving and the measure of success. I worry that having a place to rest will dull my edge, which is just the hypervigilance talking. I’ve gone from considering just-plain-enduring a single day a success to having larger goals than sheer brute survival. Having those larger goals feels like asking for too much. Don’t push it, all this could vanish.

I wonder what I could want, if I’d been raised by better-adjusted people who actually wanted me. I wonder what I’d consider natural and reasonable to ask for. I wonder who I’d be without the scar tissue. I suppose every survivor does.

Right now I am trying to teach myself that I am allowed some peace, that it is a good thing to have, that my sense of peace is a process so if it breaks I can figure out how to fix it, and that lasagna is not necessarily a hideous miscarriage of perfectly good pasta. (That last one is more of a personal preference than a Grand Life Goal, but I might as well tack it on.)

And Athena, hanging in my office, is neither smiling nor frowning, simply gazing pointedly at my desk. That’s all very well, the Maiden says. But get back to work.

Aye-aye, Captain. Back to work it is.