Quiet Island

Took yesterday completely off social media, and it was so nice I may simply crawl back into the cave today as well. I lack any desire to look at the news.

The weekend involved a lot of yard work. The grapes are trimmed, so is the Japanese maple. A whack was taken at the pampas, but that’s going to be an ongoing campaign, not a single battle. Some dahlias have proved they were not, in fact, murdered by squirrels, so there’s that. I’m moving laurel and lilac volunteers to along the back fence, for reasons best left unspoken, and I suppose today is the day I get back to actual work instead of floundering and almost-procrastination.

There was also a great deal of housecleaning going on. Entirely necessary, because I’ve let a few thing slip between the weight of grief, the line edits, and recovery from both. (Not to mention the bloody news cycle.)

Fireworks were outlawed within city limits a few years ago, and with the pandemic there were few places to buy them locally this year. As a result, our street was somewhat of an island of quiet surrounded by artillery last night. Boxnoggin huddled against me shaking for most of it; we fell asleep, both trembling with stress despite sedation. The Mad Tortie went into hiding at the first mid-afternoon boom, as is her usual practice on the Fourth and New Year’s.

I hate this time of year for pets; they get so scared. This morning’s ramble with Boxnoggin will be a matter of patiently coaxing him into the open, and probably being knocked down and dragged if some asshole lets off a morning M80. I don’t quite wish maiming on everyone who wants to blow up a piece of native soil to “prove” their “patriotism” or some bullshit…but it’s close.

In short, I am locked in a great glassy ball of calm that might simply be emotional exhaustion. Whatever it is, it’s a relief, and I would very much like it to stick around for a few days so I can get some work done. Line edits for Duty just landed, so I have to stick those on the schedule along with work on Hell’s Acre, the second Tolkien Viking Werewolves book, and Ymre #2, which has been languishing somewhere around 40k for a while. The heroine and her stray beast really do need to get to the Temple and start unraveling the big mystery.

Someone’s running a leaf blower; at least it’s not fireworks. I’ll take it. And I suppose I really should run my own weary corpse today as well. I’ll feel better after a few kilometers’ worth of sweat.

Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Survival is a gat-damn victory right now, so if you’re reading this, good job! Proud of you! Don’t let the barstids grind you down, and all that.

See you around.

Promised Better

Chop wood, carry water.

Yesterday was awful, from the meta (news cycle) to the micro (personal). Even space werewolves didn’t help; I finally threw up my hands and retreated to bed and unconsciousness.

It did me a load of good, even if I did wake up with a Sheryl Crow song playing at top volume inside my head. I made the mistake of looking at the news again, and now I’m at my desk, with coffee, and despairing. Pretty sure the space werewolves aren’t going to be able to help today, either. Crawling back between the covers and attempting some kind of escape sounds amazing, but I don’t have the luxury of stopping. There are things to do today, and work has to go on despite how I feel.

I wouldn’t be so upset if I hadn’t spent literal decades warning everyone I could, but you know that. I feel like a broken record, even more than usual.

So I’ve fed the dog, made coffee, cued up Tuesday Night Music Club, and thanked the stars we’re not suffering a heat wave at the moment. When I’m done with this post I’ll try to eat something, then walk Boxnoggin–he’s not yet attempting to nose me out the door, probably because I’m not even halfway through my caffeine yet and he knows better than to try any bullshit until I’ve at least gotten a few more molecules of go-juice into my bloodstream–and run, then clean up and start the day’s work.

Chop wood, carry water. It could be worse, Sheryl Crow sings. I could have missed my calling. At least there’s the writing. July is right around the corner, and that means I’ll have to shelve the silly space werewolves in favor of the second Tolkien Werewolves book, and use any leftover time to keep chipping at the second Sons of Ymre. I’m sure as soon as I get a good head of steam on any project some kind of edits will land, and then I’ll have to deal with that. Publishing is a giant frustrating merry-go-round of festina lente at the best of times, and this is certainly nowhere near the best.

I was promised a better apocalypse, dammit. I was promised a meteor, winged battle, a giant dragon and a Whore of Babylon. I was promised something more dramatic and satisfying than a bunch of rich, petty, hate-filled bigots killing the rest of us despite decades’ worth of warning, with a still-raging pandemic on top. I’d demand a refund, but of whom? I did everything I could, we’re still fucked, story of my life.

So here we are on the last day of June. I keep working while the ship sinks, waiting for the inevitable. I don’t know what else to say, my beloveds. It’s all I can do to keep breathing.

Chop wood. Carry water.

Keep writing.

Back Into the Cave

The heat finally broke late last night; I was up at 2am to open some windows and staggered back to bed. It will take time to shake off the lethargy from broken sleep and overheating, but at least I might be able to get a decent night’s rest soon.

It’s the little things.

Yesterday was the first time in what felt like ages I could actually get some real work done, and it was lovely. I suppose it helped that I shut the house early and it became a dark, relatively cooler cave, and further helped that I turned on the social-media blocker. (I use Freedom at the moment.) I simply can’t handle the firehose of the world’s pain right now, and especially not after screaming my head off warning people for years and…being ignored.

I know there are some people who did not ignore, and am very grateful for them. I suspect they’re feeling much the same way I am at the moment; I’m hearing a lot of exhaustion. There’s only so many times one can be proven absolutely correct about the oncoming rocks before one lowers one’s expectations to personally and quietly preparing the life boat and saving whatever one can grab. I learned this lesson in my second marriage, which culminated in my second divorce, and you’d think by now I’d simply shrug and move on when my warnings are dismissed.

Largely, I do! But when I see a disaster coming for millions of people, I (perhaps stupidly) think I have some kind of duty to alert those at risk. And I end up getting ignored at best, or kicked in the teeth at worst. It’s profoundly disheartening, and leaves me wondering why the fuck one should bother.

Maybe it’s only temporary weariness, and once I administer some self-care I’ll be ready to re-enter the fray. But…I’m so tired, so drained, and my contributions appear to be regarded as valueless.

Anyway. I have deadlines. Hell’s Acre is going along, the second season is planned out, and come July I’ll be getting That Damn Werelion Book proofed, not to mention starting the second Tolkien Werewolves Book. I begin to sense that last will have a difficult birth, for various reasons, and now I’m behind on Sons of Ymre #2. So the pro-wrestling space werewolves, as healing as I find them, may have to go on the back burner, and I might have to simply shut off all social media and leave the world to its own devices for a while.

It feels like abrogating responsibility. Yet extreme responsibility without corresponding power to fix problems is a recipe for burnout at best. I did everything I could, I wrote a whole-ass book and screamed my head off for literal decades, and…crickets. Now the bitter fruit of that rancid tree is ripe and stinking, and a great many people have the temerity to act shocked, shocked that the whole thing reeks. The deliberate disingenuousness is maddening.

…I’m not saying anything I haven’t said before, but I suppose I’ll let the above paragraph stand. At least there’s a reasonably cool breeze through my office window, the coffee is warm and good, and Boxnoggin cares not a whit for any of this. His Majesty van der Sploot is focused on the upcoming ritual of toast crust in his bowl before setting out on walkies. And then he’ll snore on my bed while I am forced to drag my corpse through a run. No doubt I’ll feel better after exercise, now that the weather’s finally cooperating again.

Are you as tired as I am, my beloveds? I think it’s quite possible. Take a break if you need it and it’s at all possible; nothing will be served by us working ourselves to death. Survival, no matter how bare, is an unqualified victory under these circumstances. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Time to get the toast made and the dog walked. See you around.

Up to Us, Drop by Drop

Well, it’s Monday again. My nerves are somewhat re-wrapped, due to a weekend’s worth of reading Anaïs Nin and just generally being a bump on a log otherwise. I have rarely in my life been this low-energy; normally, while I’m awake I’m working, and that’s that.

But several years of ongoing, relentless crisis will wear on anyone, I think. I keep saying “I am full of the world’s pain”; my empathy is battered daily, even when I don’t doomscroll. It’s at the point where I’m numb, which is a great relief from the tearing pain of loss but interferes with work. Having to press through the layers of emotional scar tissue keeping me sane at this point is…suboptimal.

Consequently I’ve retracted, a bruised anemone. I am, after all, only human, possessed of finite time and energy.

I’m on Volume 6 of Nin’s Diary, and while it’s been an awesome ride, I’m glad there’s only about a volume and a half left. (It was surprisingly hard to get my hot little hands on #7, but I triumphed.) Some of her homophobia is jarring, and the terminology of anti-bigotry has changed out of all recognition since her time as well. Her constant willingness to let others, like Henry Miller, take advantage of her also jolts me. I already didn’t like him (despite reading Henry & June several times since my early 20s and still enjoying it thoroughly) but now my distaste for him (not to mention some others) is at white-hot intensity. Naturally my dislike is a matter of seeing myself revealed; I am somewhat known for being a bit of a doormat if I like someone. For me, it’s a holdover from mu boundaries being repeatedly and regularly violated as a child; I had to learn, painstakingly and in therapy, how to enforce them and how to let toxic, abusive people go.

Thankfully, in my mid-forties, I have learned to take a little more care of myself, and have scrawled many an “ANAÏS HONEY NO” in the margins. Getting to this age as a woman is wonderful; learning to give zero fucks and protect one’s space is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s also why our society prizes malleable teenage girls so much and works so hard to make older women feel invisible and unwanted.

But there’s power in invisibility, my friends. Superpower.

One of the interesting things about reading Nin’s diaries is seeing how little publishing has changed. The things she bemoans in dealing with publishers are the things we’re struggling with now, just with jet fuel poured on the bonfire. Even some of the names are the same. They still treat writers as disposable serfs; I think Nin would have bemoaned several parts of the internet but absolutely loved the explosion of self-publishing made possible by its technological advance.

…I could write a whole article about that, but who has the time?

I was also able to settle and watch a movie or two, including 1956’s Forbidden Planet. Seeing a very young Leslie Nielsen was a trip and a half, and the misogyny in the movie was…not a treat, let’s put it that way. It is fully an heir to Shakespeare in woman-hating, especially as a retelling of The Tempest. On the bright side, it makes me want to rewrite the whole thing and do it right, which is a sign that I’m taking in creative nourishment. Filling the well, drop by drop.

Which is good, because I’m parched.

In any case, I should get my brekkie–so Boxnoggin will consume his; he is a very social eater–and take said Boxnoggin on his walkies so I can run. The rest of the day is for a top to bottom reread of Hell’s Acre; that has moved to first on my docket. I’m in the second season now, and as usual, by this point I have an idea of what the next serial will be but have to get this one sorted beforehand. I had such dreams for this serial, but the pandemic really made working on it into acid-test conditions. It’s sad; I wanted to do so much more.

In any case, there’s my marching orders. Oh, and happy Juneteenth Observed! It’s high time for this holiday to be given attention; it should be even bigger than Fourth of July. (And if you have a problem with me saying that, tough. It’s still true.)

Happy First Weekday, my beloveds; be gentle with yourselves and each other. The rest of the world will not, so it’s up to us.

Worlds and Vessels

Woke up with a great silence inside my chest instead of pain. I think it’s emotional exhaustion; I would worry over it, but I can’t scrape up the wherewithal.

Boxnoggin is adjusting to becoming the only canine in the house. He seems to like it more than Bailey ever did. I’m watching carefully, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong. Certainly it’s a rather large change and he’s no longer being directed by a bossy Aussie with far more mental horsepower than he could ever dream of–Box is very loving, and sometimes cunning when chasing a squirrel, but otherwise his brain is two wet sticks, occasionally finding each other long enough to rub together and produce a thin curl of smoke. It’s not a bad thing, he certainly doesn’t seem to feel any lack.

It’s just…different. He likes the longer walks, he eats with gusto, he does his best to remind his humans of the more important things in life, like chest-rubs and toy games. He cuddles up to me at night and won’t let me out of bed in the morning without some solid cuddle-time, either. It helps both of us, I think.

I’ve got to get back to work. A skeleton-scene in Hell’s Acre was done yesterday, but it needs something, I’m just not quite sure what. I know what the point of the scene is–the overt antagonist is both fishing for information on the heroine and also looking to rub another character’s nose in some rather ugly personal history, while said other character’s aim is to unsettle and irritate the overt antagonist enough that he doesn’t clue into the fact that the heroine is, in fact, not merely a penniless schoolteacher from Gaul with an uncanny resemblance to a certain long-dead lady. So there are competing agendas here, and the scene needs another whack to get the dialogue settled, the exposition trimmed, and the bloody plot advanced.

Not only that, but a hundred pages of line edits were merrily taken care of. Startlingly, the books undergoing this last pass before CEs are…not terrible? The last time I sent them in to the editor I devoutly hoped never to see them again, but they’re not so bad as all that. In fact, one could say they’re rather…well, they seem good, which is a distinct relief. This is part of the process when bringing a book to publication. It’s a relief on the one hand–feeling that one’s work is stupid, useless, and janky after one’s gone through several editing passes is awful even though I know it always happens, it’s just a phase–but also sad, because it means the book is moving away from being one of my own private worlds, going out to become part of others’. There’s almost a mourning in it, though I know that in the end, when the book is out and I pick it up years later in order to refresh my memory or chase down a particular reference, I will find out that plenty of it remains entirely private and personal. There’s so, so much Readers never see–they only get the part of the iceberg that shows above the waterline. The rest, the vast mass underneath, is all mine, always.

So while I’m numb I can get some work done, though I have to push relatively hard to get through the internal static. Everything takes thrice as long when I’m in this state, because I have to be very careful I don’t just throw up my hands and say, “Fuck it, good enough.” That would be a disservice to Readers, let alone to the work itself. At least while I’m in another world I’m not thinking about the pain and mess in this one. Certainly it echoes, and those other worlds are crucial vessels for transmuting said mess and pain into other things, but I get a break from the suffering. A momentary escape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Tolkien’s assertion that it’s our duty to escape reality sometimes, and to take others with us. As a writer I’m unable to look away, and I’m also unable to stop transforming the world I see, at least in fiction. Between those two paradoxical poles is the balance any creative has to keep.

Like riding a bike. The knowledge never goes away, echoing in the body, but it’s also a gate to memory. A gate one is shoved ruthlessly through when one climbs aboard, naturally.

In any case the coffee is finished, brekkie needs to be scorched and consumed, and there’s walkies as well as a run to drag myself through. Then I can slither into the work for a while and find some relief. That will be nice.

Let’s hope Tuesday behaves rather as Monday did, for once. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but…here we are.

Onward and inward, I suppose. Excelsior, and all that.

From Cold Blood to Hope

Monday again? I would demand a recount, but I know it’s useless. One can’t argue with time. Well, I suppose one could, but being incarnated in flesh makes it a losing proposition, and I already have enough of those.

I spent a quiet, rainy weekend cleaning the house, taking walks with Boxnoggin, and generally just trying to adjust. And writing space werewolves, for some reason.

Intellectually I know I’m distracting myself from grief. It might be a mistake to use the werewolves to do it, since when the pain fades I might not be able to open up the story’s file again without being reminded of the hurt. On the other hand, pouring the agony of missing my shadow, the fuzzy little queen of my heart–because that’s what she was–into a meant-to-be-fluffy story is far from the worst way to handle something like this. At least it’s a manner of creation, and if the story distracts me, it might distract a Reader or two from the current trashfire in the news or even a more personal tragedy. Who knows?

It’s the little things that hurt most. Cleaning off her brushes–she was a long-haired pooch with a lovely undercoat–for the last time. Getting two bedtime treats out of the bag, and having to return one because there’s only a single dog waiting for the usual nighttime snack. Tucking my feet under my chair at the table, since she liked to lie right in front, both for closeness and for the occasional scrap. I’m unable to move the pillows on the couch because she never liked them on “her” end, and would toss fat decorative things onto the floor with a sideways glance if we dared to rest any there. Getting down two dog bowls in the morning, and having to put one back while my throat closes up and my eyes prickle.

I do want to thank you–all of you–for your kind words and condolences. Thankfully, not a single person has said, “but it’s just a dog.” They are never just dogs, or cats, or fish, or birds. To have a pet is to share the most intimate moments of one’s life with another creature, to be responsible for them in all ways, to have a companion in every sense. We share our hearts, our homes, and the deepest bits of ourselves, and when they’re gone it hurts dreadfully.

And that’s all I want to say about that right now.


I finished reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood this weekend. I thought I’d read it before, but apparently I haven’t–at least, not since I started keeping a reading log. (I actually keep two, one in Airtable and one in my book cataloguing software, since the latter doesn’t list ebooks.) It’s a fascinating time capsule, and also interesting to see how he took the conventions of true-detective magazines and married them to a few journalistic ones, plus a literary device or two, creating standards for an essentially new genre. I’ve read a lot of true crime, and it’s fascinating to see one of the seminal works. Capote also took the chance to write about aspects of the crime that, while sensational, are also important–both Smith and Hickcock showed signs of sociopathy; Capote almost instinctively zeroed in on them–while he pushed the boundaries of “acceptable” language at the time.

I can see why Capote was famous, and can also see how he could have been bloody insufferable. I wonder about the effect Harper Lee had on his work, and indeed if she wrote some things for him, content to shy away from the spotlight but still keep producing work. I freely admit that last bit could just be projection on my part; I can’t imagine not writing once one has gotten into the habit.

With that finished, I turned back to Anaïs Nin’s diaries. I might as well finish the stack, and there’s a great deal in there that speaks to my current situation, both on a meta and a micro-level. She felt it was her job to love, to bring life back into the world, to resurrect what was murdered. She certainly lived in the right timeframe for it, and her unquestioning faith that such things are possible both pains me and fills me with longing. I wish I could believe half as hard as she did.


All that aside, though, it’s the drop-dead date for starting the line edits on The Dead God’s Heart. Long-time Readers will recognize the story–I’ve talked about the two books as “American Gods meets John Wick“, and subscribers have seen bits and pieces of them. They’ll be out next year, I think? When I have preorder links, believe me, I’ll let you guys know.

Work goes on, even through heartbreak. My first quad-shot of the day is almost absorbed, then it will be time for toast and maybe a few paragraphs of Nin before walkies. Boxnoggin likes the longer rambles, and we’re slowly working up to a different route, about twice the distance Bailey could comfortably handle near the end. He’s a sensitive fellow, and I don’t want to overwork him. So it’s slight changes, one by one, with a lot of rests in-between. Then I run my own tired corpse, putting together the day’s work inside my head while I do so. I might be able to sneak away a bit, perhaps after dinner, and work on space werewolves.

That’s the thing I’m looking forward to most, other than bedtime. Crawling back into bed and never coming out is a seductive thought, but as always there’s work to be done. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and today I’m both.

May our Monday be as pleasant as possible, my beloveds. Even though it’s, well, a Monday, we can view it as a fresh start to some extent. And there’s a bit of hope in that. Not much–I do not have the capacity for much at the moment–but a little.

Which will have to suffice, and gods grant it’s enough.

Over and out.

Blues and Fuzzy Toddlers

It’s a bright morning, though “sunny” might be a bit of a misnomer, what with the marine layer and assorted haze. I woke up with Robert Johnson playing inside my head, so of course it’s a day for Delta blues. Later today I’ll probably shift to some Mississippi John Hurt–Chicago instead of Delta–because I always seem to end up with him on some warm sunny afternoons with a certain amount of dust in the air.

But we’ll see. Guessing the music is always harder than guessing the weather.

I did a lot of gardening this weekend–and even escaped sunstroke, a pleasant victory. Today is for catching up on some correspondence and giving Ghost Squad #2 a last bit of varnish before it’s scheduled to go out the door. That should occupy all my working time nicely, especially since I’m continuing a sort-of social media fast. I just can’t handle the firehose of bad news, so in the mornings I’ll have most of it blocked. Which should be great for my productivity even if I do miss eyeing a few group chats while I’m sipping coffee.

I might even get a bit of the space werewolves written today, if I have any energy left beyond prettifying the revisions and getting them scheduled to go out on the deadline.

…this has taken an unexpectedly long time to type, because Miss B is in one of her queenly moods and demanding a great deal of attention, not to mention a great many trips out into the backyard. Some mornings she simply wants to be sure I’m paying attention, like any fuzzy toddler. She would very much like me to get my toast so she may have a toast scrap, and of course after that it’s time for her real goal, walkies.

I haven’t had to carry her up the hill again, so that’s a hopeful sign. Regardless, we are in the sunset of her time with us, and it pains me. So if she wants praise and petting and trips out to the yard, she’s going to get them. She’s earned that, and far more.

I’m on the very dregs of my coffee. The bird-identification app my writing partner enthused over is pretty cool; I use it on the deck in the mornings and on quiet evenings. Dark-eyed juncos, robins, song sparrows, house finches, some goldfinches, flickers–it’s pretty wizard that the app can distinguish between the songs, grab a picture of the likely bird in question, and show it to me all at once. We live in the future, of course, and any sufficiently advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic and all that, but still. The wonder of seeing such things are possible is a pleasant sensation indeed, and one I hope I never lose.

While I might decide hope is useless, wonder never is. And with that (cheery?) thought I’m off to the races. A certain fuzzy toddler needs her toast, after all, even though she’s temporarily turned her nose up at the bacon grease in her bowl. “What? No human carbs? For shame, Mother. For shame.”

I hope your Monday is as peaceful as my morning has been, my dears. It’s a pleasant way to begin the week, and we haven’t had too many of those lately, now have we.

See you around.