Chewing Steel

…wait, what?

This is the (filthy, I know, but I’m not cleaning that) top of the Yankee Squirrel Flinger DEATHRIDE 5000. It’s made of steel. And yes, those scratches?

They’re toothmarks. They go around the entire rim. The little arboreal menaces can’t get at the sunflower seeds through the bottom–not reliably, even with the battery low–so they’re trying to chew in through the goddamn top. I have to admire the hustle, even if I’m taken aback by the attempt to bite through steel. Good heavens.

It’s Friday, my friends; we made it through another week. I’ve got five scenes (more or less) to write before I can call Sons of Ymre 2’s zero draft finished, stick it in a digital drawer to rest, and shift to the copyedits that really need to be turned around soon. Labor Day is Monday, so the neighborhood kids will be getting in their very last gasp of summer before returning to school on Tuesday. I guess we all have things to celebrate.

And if there’s something in our way, I suppose we take a page from the squirrel handbook and simply…keep chewing.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds.

Toothmarks and Video

The coffee is particularly tasty this morning, the marine layer is back, and it’s a decent temperature–for however long that lasts, which might only be until this afternoon but I’ll take it. I’m choosing to believe the trouble I’m having with a certain signup and onboarding process is a result of low caffeine levels and not a particular company making it difficult in order to avoid payouts.

Call me an optimist.

September hath arrived, hurrah! It’s pumpkin spice season–I sort of want to don a mask and head out to collect a small bottle of coffee syrup, not to mention take a look at some earrings. And naturally I am very ready for the weather to turn. Even if it’s not rain, cooler afternoons will be a blessing.

The big news here at the Chez is the Yankee Squirrel Flipper DEATHRIDE 5000 running out of juice far earlier than expected–probably since the heat is affecting the battery–so the level of sunflower seeds in it dropped dramatically. The problem was remedied with the charger, and yesterday I refilled it, slapped the battery back in, and found out the steel cap to the tube of goodies bears multiple tooth- and clawmarks around the rim.

That’s right, the goddamn arboreal menaces have been trying to chew their way through solid metal. Hell hath no fury like a hungry squirrel, I guess. It’s not that I mind feeding them–well, maybe I do mind, but the neighbors have that particular neighborhood duty covered and I am under no obligation. Besides, the birds need food too, and I much prefer them even if they’re a shade messier.

At least they’re not trying to chew through steel. I should take a picture of the cap; I made the Princess look at it for verification, since I absolutely could not believe what I was seeing.

I’ve also started something kind-of-new, Reading with Lili. For as long as it’s fun, I’ll read first chapters (and other things, like that famous fanfic) to you, with commentary. (And silly voices, sometimes.) I’ll stream new ones on Wednesdays (or so) on Twitch, and they’ll go up on YouTube after a decent interval. Since they’ll fall off Twitch in a week or two, YouTube is where they’ll live in perpetuity.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but the response has been so overwhelmingly kind that I might as well continue. And if I get to do things like enthuse about Moby Dick’s first chapter, what’s the harm? I’ll only continue so long as it amuses me, which is a good way to do anything.

The whole streaming thing started because my agent wanted me to BookTok, but that’s so not my style. It’s much more like me to sit down for a half-hour or so to tell you weird things about literature, or just read you some famous fanfic for fun. Ideas for upcoming Read with Lili sessions include the first chapter of Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, maybe some Varney the Vampyre (I’m noticing a theme) and maybe some Lovecraft to get us through spooky season, then perhaps the first chapter of Fifty Shades because it started as a fanfic and I’d love to see what all the fuss is about, and so on, so forth.

I like sharing my enthusiasms. And this might keep me out of trouble, since otherwise I might want to do something silly like set up an OnlyFans to read Victorian erotica with as straightfaced a delivery as I can manage. (Still not entirely decided against that, by the way.)

In any case, there’s walkies to accomplish and a run to get done while it’s still a decent temperature outside, and I am spitting distance from finishing the second Sons of Ymre book. I had wanted to be finished with this beast by now, but various life stressors (including ongoing pandemic) have interfered. So all my engines have been turned to it, and I’m not even looking at the copyedits for another book until I have the zero draft of this one sorted. On the bright side, I’m very near the end–the last set-piece battle is about to commence, during which I need to get the “hero” stabbed (or bitten!) in the ass again. (I promised my editor as much, and by the gods I intend to deliver.)

All told, I’ll be working through the weekend, but that’s not unusual. Right now, I’ve got to get some toast, and Boxnoggin is reaching the end of his morning nap so he knows walkies are nigh. He’s been very excited about local kids going back to school, since it means he can watch out the front window to bark his fool head off when they come walking home. It’s a job he takes very seriously. There’s a subscription drop to get handled today, too. No rest for the weary or the wicked, not while we’re also breathing.

Time to get started.

Dog-Day Retrenchment

Significant wordcount on Sons of Ymre 2 yesterday. I suspect the book is spiking for a finish and it can’t happen soon enough. I want the blasted thing done so I can throw it in a drawer to rest, finish a few other projects, and then come back to the mess. I know revisions will be hell–at least, the first round will, since there are a lot of notes in double brackets and I have to figure out the exact geographics. I know precisely where Book 1 was set though it’s not really mentioned in the text, but Book 2 is being somewhat cagey about the whole matter of location.

Of course, this book–like the last few–has had to endure somewhat acid-test conditions. The news cycle has not been kind to my productivity, nor to what passes for my sanity. And to top it all off there’s another heat advisory for today. I’ll be crouching in my office, hoping the AC doesn’t give out and feeling the sun press against my house-walls, attempting to slither through and strike.

All I want is for the rains to come back, and maybe some pumpkin spice.

Boxnoggin is sprawled on the office floor, listening to birdsong filtering through the window. At least it’s cool enough to open the house in the early mornings, changing out the air and bringing the temperature down. We won’t need to close windows until 10am or so. At least, that’s the hope.

I still have plans for the Moby Dick reading–Chapter 1, with commentary, it’ll probably be a two-parter–which still sounds like a lot of fun. And I’m still eyeing Filmora if I want to do certain other types of readings. I can’t believe I’m actually considering video editing; the entire prospect sounds like a deep circle of hell but the end result will be nice. (Like so much else in life.) And of course this will cut into what little spare time I have, but what else am I doing with it?

Watching true crime and scaring myself, that’s what. All sorts of ideas and observations are floating around inside my head; eventually I’ll stop blogging about the damn weather and move on to other things. I do like the throat-clearing aspect of blogging; it forces me to clear out the gunk and get the word-engines humming first thing in the morning, which is valuable. And I like the idea that a peek into the life of a working writer helps readers understand just what it takes to make these stories they enjoy.

Still, sometimes I think about…not blogging anymore. Or moving over to Pillowfort and doing a private journal, or or or. Don’t worry, I’ve no plans yet. It’s just that after near-daily blogging since ’05 or so (first on LJ, then on my own site mirrored to LJ, then my site got hacked, then just on my site after LJ was bought out and turned into a hive of villainy, then downloading and deleting everything before ’16 because it was getting unwieldy…) I might be ready for a change. It does rather seem a case of diminishing returns, like so much else authors are forced to do. I suppose I’ll continue as long as I like doing it, as with so many other things.

I’m not sorry I closed down comments, however. The daily sorting through spam and harassment on the back end reached nasty levels even with a few plugins mitigating the flood, and while I enjoyed the rest of the comment culture, dealing with the firehose of bullshit (largely invisible to readers, thank goodness) took too much time. I haven’t regretted shutting that off, and every time I realize I don’t have that particular chore to attend to my heart recovers a little of its usual song.

I suppose the end of summer is always a time of retrenchment, so to speak. Spring and the very tail-end of the dog days are good for looking at what one’s spending energy on and doing slight course corrections to avoid larger ones later.

The coffee has cooled and Boxnoggin is eager for walkies. I also need to get a run in before the heat becomes unbearable. The itch to go back to the second Sons book and just go until it’s done, no matter the cost, is steadily mounting. It will be nice to finish another zero draft; I need the dopamine hit from considering something “done for now”, even if the snapback will be deeply uncomfortable. Taking a break to talk about Melville (and his “NOTICE ME, SENPAI HAWTHORNE”) will be irksome but actually valuable, forcing me to take a break and rest the mental writing muscles. So…maybe I’ll slap on some extra eyeliner and do that today if the book doesn’t behave. Maybe.

Basically things are up in the air, and I won’t know what the hell until I arrive somewhere. You’d think that with as much time as I spend in this particular state it would be old hat, but it’s a surprise each time. Maybe once the caffeine soaks into my starving tissues things will appear differently. They generally do, after all.

See you around.

Back to Business

The sun is a bit above the horizon, but it’s still dim under the firs. The cedars along the back fence are limned with gold, though, and the coffee tastes pretty divine. I’ve got book pages to add to the site (Spring’s Arcana is up for preorder, my goodness) and there’s next month’s release to plan for as well as October’s–at least, if I get these CEs turned around there’ll be an October release. Just in time for spooky season!

The advent of autumn is bringing bit of renewed energy. The nights are reasonable sleeping temperature again, and hopefully we won’t have many more gasping-hot days before the rains arrive and I can be truly productive. I love water falling from the sky, it’s partly why I live on this slice of the globe. I mean, there’s also the lack of venomous bite-y things, but that’s a smaller consideration. Generally the bite-y things and I observe an armed truce; they leave me alone, I return the favor wholesale and with relish.

Boxnoggin has had a rather rough weekend, and is sulking on my bed. Oh, he got all his usual treats and walkies and pets, but I’ve had to leave the past few mornings to look after a friend’s menagerie while they were out of town and Lord van der Sploot did not like that, no sir, not one bit. Now that we’re back to the regular schedule he’ll settle in and cheer up, but he’s extremely unhappy with any disruption in routine as only a toddler can be. He got a treat and pets each time I returned, but I think he smelled other animals on me (not my fault, cats are affectionate and chickens are, well, chickens) and wished I’d take him along to make acquaintance.

The thought of the chaos such a maneuver would cause is hilarious, sure. Especially with the turkey. (Yes, there was a turkey. No, it did not attempt murder this time.) But also, it makes me tired.

It’s going to be a busy week. I’d like to get the Moby Dick reading on Twitch at least half done, the CEs of the second Ghost Squad book need to be turned around, and there’s wordcount to get in on the serial and the second Sons of Ymre before I have to add revising Cold North to the mix. Plus there’s website updates to do and I’d really like to at least do a trial reading of some Victorian erotica.

Still not sure if I’m going to put that last item on an OnlyFans, or a dedicated YouTube channel. I mean, I have this paperback of The Pearl lying about, and it’ll be great training to see if I can keep a straight face all the way through. I won’t be dressing up, however–it’ll probably be strictly audio, with perhaps a static image or two as the visual component. There’s a certain amount of fun to be had in reading high-grade historical smut in a low, even tone while wearing schlubby sweats.

I suppose I should see if Filmoria will work for that sort of thing. Hrm. The world apparently wants me to learn some kind of video editing, though I hate it. We’ll see.

I’m happiest while writing, second happiest while revising and the like, and just generally content when I’ve too much work to handle. Consequently, September’s going to be a banner month–but I have to get through the last few days of August to get there, and they promise to be jam-packed.

The sun has reached a gap in the cedars, and the coffee has cooled. Boxnoggin has decided sulking won’t get him anything and is shaking his collar, preparatory to trotting down the hall to check on me. I’m in running togs, which is a good sign as far as he’s concerned, but he’s very unsure whether or not the garage door is going to open and Mum disappear for a few hours. He would very much prefer not, thank you very much; a run is one thing but leaving in the car quite another. He’ll be all right once it’s clear we’re back to business as usual, though I’m sure he’ll miss the extra treats.

Let us gird ourselves for Monday, my beloveds. It’s a deadly day, but we outnumber it and I’ve got the baseball bat handy. Upward and inward, excelsior, and all that.

Last Strawberry Season

Strawberry season arrived at last.

We knew that with a wet spring, strawberry season would be delayed. It came along in July instead of June, and I’ve noticed stragglers through the neighborhood all August. There’s one last hurrah for the crop between now and the autumn rains, which I’m waiting for with frank impatience.

The turgor pressure in tree branches is low, the lemon balm is beginning to turn golden at the edges, the hop vine is making noises like it might fruit this year, and it even smells like late summer. A particularly dusty, auriferous scent distinct from petrichor, especially in the early evening. We’re about to have a spate of days with decent, reasonable temperatures, but no rain. Not yet.

It’s all right. The strawberries need the heat more than I need sky-drops; after all, I’ll have the whole winter. And the birds are gorging at our feeders, some of them in preparation for migration. Others are simply fattening up for the lean months, and the squirrels romping in the cedars are no longer kids but lithe adolescents. Even the rabbits down the street know the change is coming.

Have a lovely weekend, beloveds. Fall (and pumpkin spice) is what I’m waiting for.

But for the strawberries, I can wait a little longer.

Attend to Stitching

Yesterday I freshened up the ol’ eyeliner, got the new microphone situated, and did what I’ve been threatening–a reading of My Immortal. I lasted seven chapters, and though they are very short chapters, the fic absolutely broke me. To be fair it was one of the author’s notes that did me in, and I ended up somewhat helpless with laughter. So now I can say I’ve done it, just like I can say I managed all the way through Eye of Argon.

The next Reading with Lili session will be the first chapter of Moby Dick1, with commentary. I really want other people to know what an absolute BANGER the book is, and offer some commentary. It probably won’t be as popular as the first two reads, but that’s okay. I’m really only doing this to please myself. it might have to be broken up into two sessions, because while it’s only three-four pages in my Norton Critical edition, the type is pretty small and there’s a lot going on.2

The only danger in the reading is that I’ll have to drop the history I’m working my way through and go through Moby Dick again. My headcanon is that Queequeg survived, and reached his own island where he was a king again, dreaming of his lost love. Because he did love Ishmael.3

Ahem. I have strong feelings about the book, which is strange. I’d attempted Billy Budd and Moby Dick in high school, but bounced hard off both. Years later, after coming across a certain Twitter bot, I attempted the latter again and was pleasantly surprised, not to mention somewhat overwhelmed. It’s a wild ride; I can’t wait to enthuse over it with you.

Yesterday was rather warm and today promises to be the same, but–thankfully–not so bad that I’ll have to close up the house and turn the AC on. Boxnoggin loves this weather; the rest of us are waiting (with varying degrees of desperation) for autumn. I’m a pumpkin spice bitch all the way to my core, and I need the rains. It’ll be another month before we have a good soaking, and I’m already fidgety with anticipation.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print this morning, beloveds. There’s walkies to get through and a run to accomplish, the weekly subscription stuff to load, and I was disturbed by rendering aid late yesterday afternoon so I have to spend correspondingly longer today with Sons of Ymre 2. The CEs for the second Ghost Squad book have dropped, and a little bird told me The Dead God’s Heart is now up for preorder. Once I have actual cover art I’ll do up book pages for that duology. My work is cut out on a Thursday; now I must attend to stitching.

See you around.

Puzzle Dog

Good working days have been happening lately. I’m almost afraid to inhale too deeply lest this great fortune be noticed by the world, which will certainly snatch it away. Or at least, that’s the feeling. I’m doing my level best not to look at the news cycle, and not to leave the bloody house–I know, that last bit is me anyway, but I’m turning it into a requirement instead of a preference. All I want is to be left alone to write my horrid little stories.

We’ve also found a job for Boxnoggin. Well, another job, since he’s already responsible for things like holding down the floor, yelling out the front window any time there’s activity on the street, “protecting” me during walkies, and being a giant doofus. (All of which, it must be said, he excels at.) But he wanted more, so I dug out one of Bailey’s old puzzle toys.

Now, Miss B was a smart dog. She only needed once with a toy to figure it out, and to remember. Max, of course, used pure brute force on anything puzzling, so anything with parts smaller than fist-size had to be whisked away from his gaping jaws. Boxnoggin, however, lies between these two poles. He isn’t as bright as Bailey, but he’s also not as dim as Max–gods love that bulldog, but his brain was so occupied with piloting his unwieldy corkscrew body through space, there was little to nothing left over for any complex cognitive task.

All of which means dear ol’ van der Sploot is at just about the perfect amount of mental horsepower to get a lot of fun out of this particular puzzle. He has to get an upside-down plastic cup out of its socket in order to turn the top disc of the thing and gain the other half of the kibble inside, and so far he’s accidentally solved it, occasionally deliberately solved it, and forgotten the trick to the solution each and every time. The half-hour of crunching, slobbering, nosing, and pawing wears him out so badly he naps for the rest of the day, and when he finally solves this toy reliably I’ll switch him to another puzzle until he forgets the first.

It’s good to have a plan.

We’re all amazed, frankly. The Princess can’t get over how quiet and well-behaved Boxnoggin is after a session spent dislodging kibble from the damn thing, and he apparently loves it, to judge by how hard he begs for it to be filled and set on the floor. The Prince is fascinated, watching Box try to figure the damn thing out. (And helping a bit when he gets frustrated, because in this house we don’t let people flounder if we can help them.) I’m just happy for the peace and quiet; I thought we were going to have to do four training sessions a day with Bailey gone.

She kept Box corralled, and while he was thinking of weird things for her to herd him out of, he wasn’t getting into trouble. Much.

I suppose I should finish my coffee and get him walked–another important component of keeping him out of mischief. There are bergenias to get planted as well today, since my writing partner was kind enough to break off a few clumps for me. They do well in Pacific Northwest conditions, and I might even have one inside since I’ve got the grow lights going and a little room on the coffee table. There’s wordcount to be done today, and some CEs landed too. Those are afternoon problems, and I’ve a whole morning to get through.

I will never be as happy with anything as Boxnoggin is with a handful of kibble in an elaborately designed plastic dish. Still, left to myself, I am content.

Now if I could just get the world to cooperate…