Round and Round We Go

The Princess found out earlier this week that her favorite streamer–the one she’s been watching ever since she and her bestie were playing JRPGs in middle school–preys on underage girls. She’s watching the stories come out in realtime, and struggling with the games she loved because she watched this fellow play them. “Baby’s first internet rumble,” I remarked during brekkie this morning.

She made a face like she used to when she was nine and had just discovered sarcasm. “So what’s going on in your part of the internet?”

I was forced to admit, “Pretty much the same thing.” There’s another of the periodic reckonings in SFF authordom, where the stories about predatory douchebags have circulated for years and then, once they reach a certain mass or a victim decides to risk going public, a lot of other men show their asses and how little they value half of humanity by going to bat for said douchebags. Or, worse, attempting a finger-wagging “I’m an ALLY! I would NEVER do that!” and being called on behaving just as badly, for just as long.

“They all work off the same playbook,” I told her. “And this happens cyclically. Over and over.” Because it does. The dustups happen with depressing frequency, and they’re rarely a surprise–the whisper networks are pretty robust. At least mine are, for which I’m grateful.

The only new-ish thing is that I seem to have moved out of the victim pool and into the “useful for cover if I can just mislead her enough” pool. Part of that is the fact that I’m older and not seen as sexually available or attractive, part of it is that I have some tiny perceived power in the vast heterogenous ecosystem of publishing. I’m sure a wide lateral network of female peers who tend to warn me early and thoroughly is part of it, and makes me a less attractive target for cultivation, lovebombing, or negging.

I’m lucky.

Because I’m regarded as old, fat, and unattractive, not only do I escape some of the creepers but I also miss out on a lot of opportunities, since the biggest plums douchebags are empowered to hand out once they’ve reached a certain amount of success (lower difficulty settings, let’s not forget) tend to be reserved for the victims they want something from instead of the hags they cultivate for cover.

I stopped going to conventions partly because I couldn’t afford travel and childcare costs, which is one way society punishes women who dare to have actual careers. But mostly, I was tired of being creeped on, harassed, assaulted in elevators, cornered after panels, pinched, groped, negged by male small-press publishers, followed into parking garages, followed to my hotel room, propositioned in the dealer’s room, and the instances of having to defuse a (possibly inebriated) man who insisted I should drink from the glass he brought me so hard I suspected–no, I knew–it was adulterated somehow.

Instances. Plural. And there’s still the online stalkers/harassers, who I’m sure will mistake this post for blood in the water, but at least I can block their sock puppets over and over.

The first few times I saw these fandom or SFF publishing reckonings, I was naive enough to think maybe they would change something. But they happen with such regularity, and the douchebag harassing rape-y behavior reported each damn time never really changes. It’s never a reckoning, it’s more like the periodic release of tension so the system can continue as usual.

On my pessimistic days, I’m pretty sure racism and misogyny have humanity by the throat and won’t ever be pried free. On my optimistic ones, I’m pretty sure humanity will find a solution–once we’ve tried literally every other damn possibility twice or thrice. The simplest solution, of course, is stop being a fucking douchebag, but that seems beyond the power of a significant chunk of white males, or even males in general.

I’m sure someone will bleat “both sides!” and “women can be abusive too!” in the comments, but I don’t fucking care. I’ll start caring when we reach gender parity; until then, the problem is overwhelmingly on one side and that side needs to clean its fucking house, come get its people, and adult up.

“So it looks like X has finally been outed,” a friend said yesterday, mentioning a douchebag who had been shitty to one of our mutual friends many, many moons ago. “At this point the only man I like is Y, unless you’ve heard something about him?”

I’m sure the heaviness of my sigh reached through both our phones. “…well, yes. Y does A, B, and C. I have two reports from two separate women.”

“GODDAMMIT,” was the reply. “So that’s why he’s such an ‘ally’.”

Which is another blog post entirely, isn’t it.

Over and over it happens. Round and round we go. Where does it stop? I certainly don’t know, unless it’s when society changes to the point that the fear of being outed and consequent disapprobation reaches a certain level. But then the douchebags will probably just find another way to be creepy and shitty.

“They don’t really know how NOT to be creepy,” a male friend, someone I rather like and hope is trustworthy, said yesterday.

“They know,” I had to say. “They just don’t care. I’ll tell you how I know: because they manage to refrain from being creepy around people not in their victim pool.” If they can weigh the consequences and refrain in some situations, it absolutely means they know better, and have deemed it an acceptable risk in other situations.

I understand some men not wanting to think their fellow men just… don’t care. I understand they don’t want to think about what it might say about them personally, as men. Just as I don’t want to think my fellow white women can be racist-ass Karens or TERFs because I want to believe I’m personally better than that, I understand men don’t want to think they have the capacity to be a misogynist predator.

We all have to face uncomfortable things about ourselves, and doubly uncomfortable things about whatever privilege we possess. The solution is simple: Just don’t be a douchebag.

Just fucking refrain.

Individually we might manage it. Collectively? I’m pessimistic today, so the best I can say is “we’re doomed.” Tomorrow I might feel differently.

But I’m not betting on it. I have no grand ending for this post, I have no solution other than don’t be a fucking douchebag and don’t cover for douchebags. I don’t even have the strength to be optimistic today. The merry-go-round has just swirled too many times, and I’m queasy on a spiritual level.

If there was anything else I was fit to earn my living as, I’d probably leave publishing. I would keep writing, of course, just not for public consumption. If even I am tempted to burn it all down and walk, think of how many great books we’re missing out on because a douchebag has hounded other women out. Because those women were exhausted and brutalized–emotionally or physically–into leaving. If these men could just fucking stop being douchebags, think of all the great stuff we could have in games, movies, books, you name it.

We could have a better world. But some douchenozzles just don’t want it. And they happen to be placed in positions of power.

It’s almost like that’s what the system is designed to do overall, isn’t it.

Isn’t it just.

Shoes Tied, Dog Waiting

I managed to get my shoes tied this morning without Boxnoggin’s “help,” for which I am eternally grateful. He absolutely loves being useful, and longs to mouth at my shoelaces in order to taste where I’ve been and get himself under my hands, which means the prospect of a chest-rub or two.

I can’t really help myself. If a dog’s throwing themselves at my feet wanting to be petted, who on earth am I to say no?

Yesterday was a Monday in all senses of the word. It wasn’t bad, it was just… there were so many things I had to get done, and none of them were pleasant. None were actively bad, either, just time-consuming, stealing minutes away from the writing I’d rather be doing.

I would absolutely love to get back to zany squirrel stories and typing tales of gore, heartache, and redemption. Unfortunately, the world has other ideas, both in pandemic and fascist coup.


Because oh yeah, that’s still going on. That orange blivet and his criminal cabal are still squatting in the White House, still ramming through federal judgeships, still doing their best to maim, destroy, kill, and line their own pockets to the max. Even massive protests aren’t slipping their bony fingers from our throats.

I’m just so tired.


Despite all that, the dogs need walking, and I need a run. I’m slightly sunburnt from yesterday’s run, and glad that I didn’t actually get heatsick. I suppose the time spent inside air-conditioning while catching up with correspondence and other admininstrivia was actually a good thing. Go figure.

Days when I don’t run, the sharp annoyance cresting under my skin is ever so much worse. It’s not exercise anymore, it’s a bare necessity for keeping me from exploding with frustration. Today is going to require a virtual bath of sunscreen; the marine layer that normally keeps me safe is burning off earlier and earlier.

Summer is definitely not my most productive time–not enough rain–but it’ll do. There is a squirrel very upset about something in the backyard, and since Boxnoggin has been denied the pleasure of chewing my shoelaces while I try desperately to tie them, he is now in the kitchen, supervising whoever’s making their breakfast out there and hoping, I suspect, for a snack. Someone is cooing, telling him what a good boy he is. Every room he enters now, if it has a human in it, is full of pats and praise, and occasionally a treat or two, and he utterly glories in it.

As well he should, being a Very Good Boy. Miss B accepts the pets and praise as her absolute due, befitting the fuzzy little queen of our hearts, but Boxnoggin is constantly amazed. You mean it’s ME? You mean I am the prophesied Good Boy? Why, that’s GREAT! And he wriggles with the deepest possible glee each time, throwing himself on his back and combing the air with paws no longer too huge for his limbs.

He’s grown, the little weirdo. I can’t help but laugh, which pushes the frustration down and away like nothing else. I suppose I should finish the last of this rapidly cooling coffee and get out the door. They won’t wait for walkies forever.

At least swallowing several toads yesterday means there’s far fewer croaking at me today. I might even get some work done despite the load of pain and terror swirling in every corner. There’s the copyedits on Finder (which long-time Readers will know as Finder’s Watcher, inching its way towards publication) and wordcount waiting to be done, as well as paperwork from the accountant to sort and prep for its final destination.

Aye, no rest for the weary or wicked, as my writing partner would intone with a twinkle in her eye. As long as I’m breathing there’s work to be done.

Best to get started.

First, Pleasant Coffee

That first mouthful of coffee, first thing in the morning. I can feel the caffeine soaking in the moment I raise the cup to my lips, though I’m sure it’s merely psychological. Very little is as pleasant, even the fact that I got a great deal of the proofs out of the way yesterday and consequently have somewhat less to do today.

Somewhat. Not a whole lot, but somewhat.

I also have a new monstera plant. It was left over, looking sad and lonely and shaggy amid racks of brighter, better-trimmed, much smaller species, and my heart just cracked. Now he’s in my office, basking in a bigger pot under bright indirect light.

Yeah, I know. I can’t do much about the state of the world at large, but I can get a plant and nurse it back to health. It keeps me busy, I suppose. Attempting not to look at the news in the morning is good for me, I know it’s good for me, but I suppose I’m afraid the world will end and I’ll be the last to know.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, once I think about it, but the fear doesn’t think so. In fact, the fear, irrational as it is, tends to intensify if I don’t distract myself with work or… well, more work. If–and it’s a huge if–I can just drag myself out of bed in the mornings. Thank goodness for the dogs; they don’t give a damn about the state of the world. Their concerns are more immediate: breakfast, a good wee in the yard, walkies at the accepted time and along the accepted habitual route.

Heaven forbid brekkie or walkies change in even the slightest; the dogs, especially Boxnoggin, are creatures of strong habits and dislike any tiny deviation. He even gets miffed when the squirrels don’t show up at the same places he’s seen them before. I imagine him very much as a stage director tearing out his hair over some particularly enthusiastic and experimental actors.


I’d talk about the state of the world at large, but you probably already know and in any case, I’ve said what I’ve said and I stand by it. I am extremely disappointed that the media seems to be doing its best to elide ongoing protests, but what can one expect from corporations owned by one or two super-rich?


Anyway, there’s walkies to accomplish, a run to get in, and hopefully, if I am very disciplined today, the rest of the proof pages to knock off. Normally I do these on paper, because I don’t “see” the errors as well on a vertical screen. Fortunately I have a tablet and pencil, so I can pretend it’s paper while playing with something penlike. Which seems to be just enough to fool my brain into thinking I’m working in the accepted way, so it clicks over into “critical reading” mode. I don’t know how readers will like this book, but at least it’ll be the best I can make it before it toddles out into the world.

In between, when I’m taking breaks or before I really get going, I’ve been poking at Moon’s Knight. Of course I have other projects sitting and simmering, but that’s the one filling in the cracks while most of my bandwidth is taken up with Poison Prince. I’m deeply worried I won’t be able to pull off half of what I want to with Bloody Throne or Black God’s Heart, which is pretty usual at this stage of the game.

Part of the frustration is that I am not working at even close to my usual pace. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic, fascist coup, and massive protests seem to be giving everyone a smidge of trouble in the concentration department. I’m trying not to feel bad about it, but there’s that strange anxiety thing where the ability to cope with disaster is never good enough. At least I’m feeling more relaxed than I was–finally, finally nobody is telling me I’m “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

Sooner or later I’ll be back to my usual speed. Or, you know, catastrophe will mean I’ve other problems. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, all I can do now is continue as I’ve been. I hope you find a little peace and self-care today, dear Reader.

We need all we can get.

Usual June

The coffee is particularly nice this morning. I got the perfect proportion of cream to bitter, and I am sipping it while not watching the world at large shred itself to pieces. Later today there will be gallons of tea while I mark up proof pages, always a fun time. The kids are looking forward to pizza if I spend all day doing that; finishing a zero, looking over CEs, or proof pages mean Mum might not have enough oomph by the end of the day to attempt anything like cooking.

We’re having usual June rains for once, which is grand because of drought. It also means I’m productive, though not in the way one would think–I spent most of yesterday on a trunk novel instead of on three paying projects and proofs. Sometimes one just has to give the Muse what she wants, and apparently she wanted a harpy attack on battlements.

Go figure.


It’s been two weeks, and the dictator is still in power after gassing and shooting peaceful protestors for a photo op. The military is still deciding which damn way to jump and the dictator’s cabal is still stuffing the federal judiciary. The media is deciding not to cover the huge ongoing protests, no doubt for a collage of reasons including the risk to reporters1 and the fact that a few in the ruling class now own most of our media outlets. The violent repression will probably go all but unremarked now, and come November voter suppression and other dirty tricks will put the seal on it.

And don’t even get me started on the pandemic. We’re seeing the result of Memorial Day’s “whining for a haircut” gatherings, and it’s just as anyone with any sense feared.

The body count is entirely to be expected with regressives and a criminal cabal made up of malignant narcissists and sociopaths in power. This is the system functioning as designed. It’s not a breakdown, it is the logical endpoint. In short, as many (including yours truly) broke our lungs and throats screaming in warning for decades, this was their game all along.


As usual, though, there’s the dogs to walk and a run to get in, laundry to fold, work to accomplish, voices to boost. The dogs were quite active early this morning, despite the fact that my alarm had not yet rung; maybe it was the rain overnight. Anyway, Boxnoggin was determined to crawl under my covers–probably because he thought the roof wouldn’t shield him from falling water–and Miss B, having decided she was up and wanted attention, was on my other side doing her level best to keep me from seeking solace in unconsciousness when she desired ear-skritches, dammit.

Boxnoggin will hate the morning’s walk, because his precious wee paws will get wet. You’d think he’d be more of a wash-and-wear bruiser, this dog, but instead he’s Nervous and Delicate. Miss B is the smarter and more dangerous of the two, but nobody seems to think so. They see the shape of Boxnoggin’s head and freak out, thinking “pit bull” instead of “oh hey, boxer-terrier mix, that’s no nanny dog.”2 I can’t count the number of people who have said “aren’t you scared?” while looking at him.

The dog can barely find his own paws; the only thing I’m concerned about is him tripping and hurting himself, frankly. But I just smile, because if they’re afraid of my big black doofus, it means I’m safer. Especially since most of the people who cast longing gazes upon him are the middle-aged white men who selfishly want me to stop going about my business to service their random emotional needs, and tend to get aggressive and violent if ignored. *eyeroll*

Meanwhile, I have to keep a sharp eye on Miss B if I’m accosted, because she is done with any bullshit at all and will lunge to nip if someone decides to intrude on my personal space. It’s the cranky old lady one has to watch out for, not the gangly youth in his black coat.

Much time has passed while typing this, mostly because Boxnoggin has been very insistent that he needs tummy rubs and needs them now, thank you, what on earth do you mean Mum might want to tie her shoes or finish a piece of writing first? Clearly my priorities must be readjusted. And of course I should probably take down the rest of this coffee if I expect to have anything resembling clarity of thought for the rest of the day.

Meh, maybe clarity’s overrated. I suppose I could just stagger along without it, the gods know seeing some things clearly has given me nothing but an incipient ulcer and trouble sleeping.

Happy Tuesday, dear Readers. I hope it’s less like Monday, although so far 2020 has seemed a year of bad Mondays.

Over and out.

Simple Creatures

It was a long weekend, but not a bad one. I felt quite guilty about taking time off, as usual. Still, I’m rested and relatively renewed, so at least there’s that. And I’m going to need it, there’s proof pages on the boil, not to mention daily wordcount to get in.

The dogs even got bacon grease in their breakfast, so their weekend is counted an unqualified win. And school is officially out, not just “work at home because pandemic,” so the Little Prince is quite happy; nobody will be bothering him to get his work done before faffing about.

Me? I’m fighting off the temptation to check social media before noon. If the world is on fire, it’ll burn just as well without me. I can’t work when I’m half sick with dread–though it’s never just half sick nowadays, is it.

The thing I can’t get over is how normal life goes on while I watch history happening. It never hit me this hard when I was younger–I remember seeing grainy television images of the Challenger disaster, of the Wall coming down, and the like, but since I had very little sense of history then, I knew only that it was important to watch and not look away. Being able to put what one’s seeing in some kind of context is terrifying.

Not that I wish I couldn’t–I’d rather know the context than be oblivious, I suppose. Regardless, I can wait until noon to induce more stress nausea. It’s not like it’s going anywhere.

All that being said, I’d love to be able to play with something just for me today–once the work is done. Maybe I’ll just do proof pages and reserve the evening for a trunk novel. I’ve been wanting to try something new lately, I might dig in the compost heap and drag a few old bits out, see what cross-pollinates.

As usual, there are the dogs to walk and a run to get in. Life doesn’t stop while the empire crumbles; it goes along, minute by minute, as if it can’t tell. I do notice the media seems to be ignoring the fact that the protests are still ongoing, which is… interesting, isn’t it. Certainly lets you know which side the bread is buttered on.

…there, that’s all I’m allowed to cogitate on the state of the world until I’ve finished coffee and had a run, in that order, with a slight break in the middle to walk these very excited canines. The bacon grease has filled them with optimism, hope, and quite a lot of energy. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be so easily pleased, then I take a look at my tea collection or the loaded bookshelves crammed in every corner of my house that can possibly hold such things.

I suppose I’m a simple creature in my own right. I wish the thought was as comforting as it could be.

Happy Monday, my friends. May we all have a little peace today.

Emotional Weather

I’m not allowed to look at Twitter until noon1–partly so I can get some damn work done, since the kids and I will starve if I don’t, and partly so the persistent pain in my stomach I thought was just stress anxiety doesn’t develop into a full-blown ulcer.

After all, I live in America, where healthcare is nonexistent.

The weekend was… rough. I kept refreshing various feeds–news, social media, et cetera–waiting for the other shoe to drop. Plenty of people are celebrating victories, which is great. (After all, someone has to.) But my gut–the same gut that’s aching with anxiety and tension–isn’t so sure it’s time for flying ticker tape just yet.

Growing up with periodically violent domestic abusers means I’m intimately aware of emotional weather patterns, and what are dictators, fascists, and the like but abusers writ somewhat larger? I can’t be the only one to have noticed they all play from the same thin handbook.

So I have a sinking feeling the current small gains in a few American cities are sops thrown by “authorities” attempting to defuse the protests and get everyone back under the boot, perhaps with the heel painted a different color but still crushing as usual. I fear what happens when an abuser of whatever stripe senses his victim slipping away–a honeymoon period, but if that doesn’t work, a massive escalation in violence to re-batter said victim into quiescence.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the gains, but now isn’t the time to relax our demands. Of course, with a worldwide pandemic on and unemployment at a historic high, there’s little chance of relaxation in any direction.

There are people who have been working for abolition and reform for decades, and they know better than I do. If they’re hopeful, so am I. There are also people like Sarah Kendzior who predicted this whole goddamn thing (and nobody listened, of course) and people who study or have lived under authoritarian regimes who are still sounding the alarm.

This isn’t even close to finished. It’s not even close to a tie, let alone a win. The wannabe dictator who attempted to declare martial law on June 1 is still in power, as are his criminal cabal and loyal apparatchiks, and the military is still weighing its options.

No wonder so many of us are sick with anxiety. I won’t even ask “what else can happen” because I’m sure the gods will show us.


I did finish Orlando Figes’s The Crimean War this weekend; Figes is problematic at best (due to his habit of giving gushing and pseudonymous reviews of his own books and scabrous ones of fellow historians’ on Amazon) but it’s a good overview of the entire affair. I did appreciate the first few chapters carefully and patiently giving a grounding after essentially stating “You’re not going to understand this without some background, so we’re starting a few decades before the damn war.” My understanding of the Crimean War was spotty at best, mostly gleaned from British literature, so it was good to see behind the curtain. I mean, it’s still spotty, but less than it was.

Next up is Lawrence James’s history of the British Raj and Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, both for obvious reasons. Since I can’t sleep worth a damn, I might as well amp up my reading time.

As for this morning, there is coffee to be finished, there’s dogs to be walked, and the day’s work to plan. Since I’m now juggling three paying projects at once, the morning planning and boiling inside my head has to be carefully structured so when my fingers meet the keyboard I know what I’m doing–at least, as much as I ever do. We’re coming up on the last half of the third and final season of HOOD, where everything I laid out in the first season comes full circle and little things I seeded throughout every previous season now show their effects. Also, the proof pages for The Poison Prince landed, and I have to address those while also catching up with The Bloody Throne–another third book, where things I’ve been foreshadowing and seeding since Book One finally show their flowers. There are also huge set-piece battles to write, which is going to be a certain variety of fun.

And I’m excited about The Black God’s Heart. Now that a few business things have been taken care of I can work on it in good conscience, which means the characters who have been champing at the bit can finally be allowed to canter. We’re not going to gallop just yet.

A surfeit of work is better than a paucity. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t thing, though–I feel guilty for having work, guilty for not being able to work because of current world events, guilty for not doing more, guilty for not doing better self-care, on and on. There’s no winning in this hurricane, so I’m just doing what I always have, putting my head down and doing the best I can with the stories crowding around me to be told.

It’s all I can do, I suppose.

I wish you a pleasant, peaceful Monday, my friends, despite the fact that it will likely be anything but. I keep saying it, but I hope to be wrong about what I see coming down the pike. I long to be wrong the way I’ve longed for little else in my life.

Over and out.

Summer Shot

Well, I shut down Haggard Feathers, and I’m waiting for the fact to hit home. It’s always sad when an experiment doesn’t work out. I’m taking some comfort in the fact that it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just *gestures wildly at world events* all this. Retracting in this area will give me more energy for other work, not to mention keeping the newsletter and giveaways alive.

Summer appears to be firing a shot over our bows. Yesterday it was 80F, today it was 74F by 10am and there’s no sign of the mercury halting its rise. At least it’s cooling off overnight, but with both dogs attempting to sleep on me, rest is at somewhat of a premium and the morning walk was one episode of temper after another on the part of my furry, four-legged charges.

Miss B is simply a cranky old lady, but Boxnoggin is young, springy, and what my grandfather (may the gods rest and keep him) would call “nervous.” People look at Lord van der Sploot and see a big black dog; what they don’t see is that he’s scared half to death by a single leaf falling from a tree, or a droplet of rain. He’s just tuned to a really high pitch, and managing him is a fine line between firmness and mercy.

So the morning walk was a constant stream of “mind your manners”, “you know better, that dog barks every time and literally nothing happens”, and “no, eating bees is not the answer, eating bees is NEVER the answer.”

I don’t think he quite believes me upon that last point, but progress is being made.

One of my tea-tankards has developed a crack, but I never quite liked the glaze on it anyway and might patronize the small pottery place I bought it from for new ones. Silver linings! And I have a soy-almond-vanilla creamer that does good things for black tea, so that’s pleasant too.

Tiny victories, tiny luxuries, are getting me through the end of May. It feels like this year has taken forever, doesn’t it? And yet I have to smile, because both dogs are sacked out taking advantage of cool hardwood and AC–another small luxury. We don’t get awful heat often enough for it to be a large one, but when it hits, I am ever so grateful. The decades spent in places without central heating or cooling have given me a deep appreciation for that technological wonder, I can tell you.

I wish you luxuries and victories today, dear Reader, of whatever size we can manage.

Over and out.