Yes, All Souls

The holiday yesterday was just what I needed. My nerves were frayed down to bare wires, sparking dangerously–to be fair, this has happened with increasing frequency as the pandemic wears on. It’s still uncomfortable as all fuck, so taking a day is more of a necessity than a luxury.

It was flat-out wonderful. I did a surprise Halloween stream (reading my favorite all-weather Poe story to my darling viewers, it’ll be up on YouTube later today), ate a lot of candy, hung out with the kids…and, despite being barred from work, I moonlighted with a quasi-fanfic and wrote about a thousand words. Because my ideal reward for work is–you guessed it–MORE WORK.

But now it’s All Souls’, the blessed day of Clearance Candy (go forth and conquer, my friends) and the very first day of NaNoWriMo. This year I’m using the NaNo slot in my writing schedule for The Fall of Waterstone (which might be titled The Elder Jewel when it finally comes out), so fifty thousand words of epic fantasy in November is pretty much a given. The other slot this month is for Hell’s Acre. I am deeply annoyed at only being able to juggle two projects at once. If the goddamn fascists would quit and our public health “authorities” do something about the bloody pandemic, I could be back to juggling four projects at once. As it is, I’m swimming against the deep, awful current of stress from People Behaving Shittily.

Still, the morn is quiet and misty. We had a right proper deluge yesterday; I feel sorry for the poor candy-chasers. I’m sure a lot of them were disappointed. We’re used to rain in this part of the world, but still it’s kind of a misery when you’re a kid in a costume looking to score some sweet sweet sugar rush. Boxnoggin was also deeply nonplussed by the amount of water falling from the sky–his trips outside to relieve bladder pressure, usually long and full of celebratory sniffing in every corner, were instead quick and mournful. I’m sure this morning’s walkies will be altogether too damp for his liking, though the rain has temporarily halted and saturated soil is slowly draining.

There will be a sale for November; I’ll announce it in a bit. Right now I’m busy absorbing the last little bit of the morning’s caffeine jolt. My office window is closed but I can still hear a couple bluejays screaming–it’s probably Ed and Stede, though I thought they would have migrated or something by now. Maybe they’re bemoaning the fact that the Yankee Squirrel Flinger DEATHRIDE 5000 seems to have given up the ghost lately despite all the battery charging, and I really hesitate to get another with all the corporate price-gouging going on. Alas and alack.

I suppose I’d best start ambling towards toast. Despite the saturation outside, Boxnoggin is determined to get his walkies and has just pranced into my office, ready to nose me breakfast-ward. Goodness knows I can’t be trusted to keep to a schedule without his supervision, oh no.

Off I go then, my beloveds. I wish you happiness today–and many a good bargain on leftover spooky candy.

First Darling Dahlia

Happy to meet you.

Due to climate and other conditions, I cannot grow tomatoes no matter how hot the PNW summer is. It irks me, but I’ve decided to grow what I can–always the best course of action. At least the lemon balm and mugwort do well, especially once the latter gets established. And you know what also grows well here? Dahlias.

So I splurged a bit on a few bulbs, and my efforts have been rewarded with one lovely flower. The rest have plenty of greenery and are preparing to flower next year, I think. I have just been telling them how happy I am to see their leaves, and using the tomato cages or wire hoops to keep them (and the roses, and the peonies) off the ground. So far everything’s doing well. I can focus on getting the laurel and holly volunteers where I want them, babying along the lilac ones, and cogitating on perhaps turning the front yard into some kind of native pollinator space instead of lawn.

A garden is always a work in progress, rather like a mind. If one thing doesn’t adapt and grow, well, time to plant another. The whole thing got a lot easier once I decided, “well, if weeds are the only thing I can keep alive, by golly I’m gonna grow the best damn weeds in the county.” It frees one up to do so much.

Not that I’m implying dahlias are a weed. They’re nice and hardy, and by this time next year I’ll have more flowers to admire. Plus the roses will have settled in after being moved, and with a bit of spring pruning will come back twice as strong. (And twice as thorny.)

Happy Friday, my beloveds. Remember to relax and grow what you can.

The rest is Ma Nature’s problem.

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.

Werelion Proof

The weekend was spent looking over the proof of That Damn Werelion Book, and now all the changes from that pass (and the proofer’s pass) can be folded in–which should take me a couple days, but at least it’ll mean the paperback will come out relatively soon. After the final changes are done, it will be time to cut a final ebook and a PDF interior proof, then get the wrap cover for the latter. Then I can load everything, set the final pub dates (maybe a little earlier than the October 31 that’s currently scheduled) and…

…go back to other work, probably while there are roofers banging away overhead. Naturally Boxnoggin will be beside himself during the replacing of the Chez’s roof, which will be super fun for all involved. But once that’s done I’ll stop worrying so much about it, especially when autumn rains move in.

That will be a distinct relief, and I can turn my attention to the bloody washing machine afterward. It’s always something.

Maybe I’ll even take a day off afterward. I did take half a day on Saturday, but the itch to get this damn book sorted was well-nigh unendurable and slotting it around other books wasn’t working too well. I sense a spate of furious activity looming, probably as a means of ignoring other things, and I’m only grateful that the social media sabbatical seems to have re-wrapped my nerves to the point that I can work again. I’m still not going to look at the news; I can’t bear it and I have to write or we don’t eat.

That sound you heard in the distance was my heavy, gusty sigh.

At least the werelion book is relatively fun, even if it didn’t do what I wanted. Letting a work take the shape it wants to instead of the shape I think it should have is a constant theme. I do not bemoan it; I’m far more comfortable with letting others do what they need to as long as it’s not hurting anyone. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t extend to books as well.

I should probably mention that last week’s Tea with Lili was about writing dialogue, and ended up with a piece of life advice about testing for toxic people. The life advice at the end of a tea seems to be the direction we’re going, though I don’t think I really have much to give beyond stuff that essentially boils down to “don’t be a dick.” On the other hand, human beings invent so many ways to be dickish I might as well find a multiplicity of ways to encourage people not to be–certainly a thankless and never-ending task, but part of aiming to be a decent person, I suppose.

And with that (and the July sale) I shall be about my business. Boxnoggin needs a walk, my tired corpse needs to be hauled through a run, and thankfully folding in proofreaders’ changes takes far less time than proofing the goddamn book itself. The day’s work is all cut out, as the saying goes. Oh–there was an episode of squirrelterror over the weekend, too. Yes, it ended with me shoeless and screaming; no, not a single arboreal rodent was harmed. Though I do have rug burn, and bruises from tiled floor.

Off I go, then, with a beady-eyed glare in Monday’s direction. It will have to do as a warning shot, since I need both my hands for typing and can’t reach for the machete at the moment.

See you around.

Songs, Handholds

The week continues. I woke up with Janet Jackson’s Nasty in my head, playing at jet-takeoff levels. It is indeed what the kids call these days a sick groove. I’d forgotten Paula Abdul was in that video, so I probably should listen to Straight Up and Rush, Rush this morning too. Not to mention some Pointer Sisters. Sometimes that’s how the day goes, using songs like handholds, working my way up the cliff face.

It’s very bright this morning; the sun rising in a clear blue sky but still trapped behind the cedars. A tenuous, fragile peace fills me; it could be simple emotional exhaustion. I think I’ve gone numb, to a certain degree. The hurt is still there, a slice from sharp rocks under ice-cold water, I just can’t feel the damage.

I did manage to get the line edits open yesterday, at least. It’s not bad, I’m just resisting reading the books again because they deal with grief and I have all I can handle sitting in my chest at the moment, a granite egg holding something horrific. Most of yesterday I was sunk in the space werewolves thing, occasionally stopping to yell “OH MY GOD JUST KISS” at the characters.

Not sure if this story will do what I want. They rarely do. I just wanted some fluff, but the characters are talking and both of them have goals and backstories hardly conducive to what I intended. I talk a lot about the balance between absolute control of and absolute submission to the work, but sometimes one just wants the bike to go in the direction one’s steering, goddammit.

On the bright side(?), there was a Jerry sighting yesterday during dinner. The poor fellow really is hapless, and I feel bad for laughing. Whatever was wrong with him, I suspect it happened before he interacted with Boxnoggin, and I’m glad his fellow corvids (especially Carl and Sandra) pitch in to help him out. And–not gonna lie–I feel somewhat of a kinship with him. God knows I bumble through life trying desperately not to crash into any trees, literal or figurative.

Yesterday there was a small earthquake in the area. Don’t worry, it was only 2.8 on the Richter, and I’ve long ago made my peace with living on the Ring of Fire. (And now I’m humming Johnny Cash.) I was at my desk, and my first thought was that the wood had achieved sentience and given a shiver. Then my heart exploded with joy because I thought it was Bailey was in the footwell, as was her wont sometimes, and she’d turned over or settled with a huff, shaking the entire piece of furniture. Then I checked, remembering afresh that she’s gone, and wondered if it was her ghost, or if I was telekinetic, or if I had finally gone ’round the bend and was hallucinating.

I’ve been told I’m crazy, or too imaginative, all my life. (Despite my intuition being right 98% of the time, I might add.) Funny, ennit, how we can be trained to disbelieve our own perceptions?

Yeah. Hilarious.

The coffee is almost done, so I should shuffle out to the kitchen for some toast. Today Boxnoggin gets a long walk, and he’ll enjoy that muchly. He’s taken to prancing when he leaves the house in harness, and clearly considers himself my protector even more than he used to. Getting it through his canine head that I’m the one in charge takes plenty of patient redirection, but at least when I’m doing that I’m not glancing to my other side to check on the empty spot that should be holding Miss B.

I hope the peace lasts. And I hope I can get these damn characters to kiss sometime soon. If they won’t, well…there are worse things, I suppose, and at least I’m being distracted.

See you around.

Solved By Machete

I’m in a positively dreadful mood this morning–indeed, I’ve been tetchy all week, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the heat, though it breaks at night to allow for sleep; maybe it’s work, though I’m always happiest with a surfeit of that; maybe it’s the state of the world. The Princess concurs, for she’s been in somewhat of a mood too; she thinks perhaps it’s processing a bit of last year’s (and ongoing) trauma.

The body remembers, no matter what the rest of one would like.

Consequently I’m trying very hard to be kind, especially in small invisible ways. There is nothing better than performing a few acts of kindness to lift one’s mood. Of course it’s selfish–one should be decent simply because it’s the right thing to do–but it’s at least enlightened selfishness, and it will do. Or so I tell myself, and hope like hell it’s true.

The damage from the heat dome is still rippling through plants in the neighborhood, and I’m sure through the animals as well. Some of the laurel volunteers I put along the back fence have crispy-crittered, and since the sprinklers are Having A Moment (someone will hopefully come by to diagnose them today) much of the yard is too. The tomatoes and other seedlings, watered by hand, are holding on; the pennyroyal that wasn’t grubbed up by squirrels (WHY, for godsake?) is actually thriving. So there’s a win or two lurking in the greenery.

Including the Zombie Rhubarb, which used to be near the lilac volunteers but was moved to a sunnier spot because it frankly refused to die even after the late, lamented Odd Trundles did his best to nest in it. I don’t know what that dog had against rhubarb–maybe he simply knew it’s not my favorite?

Still, I admire the plant’s absolute refusal to lie down and die. That kind of stubbornness is near and dear to my heart, so I’m even watering the damn thing. It’s flourishing like the hellebores now. I’ve told it flat out, “We don’t have to like each other for me to do my best by you. Uh, sorry about the dog…”

I think it’s forgiven me, despite Boxnoggin’s desperate desire to water it on his own. What is it with dogs and rhubarb? I have no clue.

Anyway, the day is jam-packed. There’s subscription stuff to get out the door, groceries to grab, dog walkies and a run to squeeze in, and damn it but I want these revisions done. Time to make a list on an index card, or I’ll get absolutely nothing accomplished. It’s a shame none of these problems can be solved by a machete, for I’m in just the mood to take a few swings. (Related: I really do need to get a wooden baseball bat…)

I suppose I should also get some breakfast, too. But before all that, it’s coffee to soothe my nerves somewhat, and Josh Groban on the play queue to do likewise. Something about the vibrato is entirely calming.

I’m hoping Thursday will decide not to be overly difficult. But if it is, I’ll get out the machete.

Marshmallow, Sun Storm, Tuesday

It’s a grey Tuesday morning and there is not enough coffee in the world. A solar storm is expected to hit the earth today, and frankly I’m not bloody surprised, the way things have been going.

At least the cicadas are quiet, since the temperature drops overnight. They’re probably waking up the same as I am, lethargic and blinking, staggering towards their version of coffee, preparing for an entire afternoon of screaming in the treetops.

Lucky bastards.

Even the dogs are a bit beside themselves this morning. They won’t eat their breakfast and Boxnoggin is in a fractious-toddler mood. I’d say “you need a nap, dog,” but we literally just rolled out of bed. It could be he’s sensing my crankiness.

There are bright prospects, though. The other day I made an offhand comment about using Cocoa Pebbles and Rice Krispies to make treats–you know, butter, marshmallow creme, all that. The Princess got That Look, and when she came home yesterday she was loaded with Cocoa Krispies, tiny chocolate chips, marshmallows, and a plan.

I pointed out there were Cocoa Krispies but no Cocoa Pebbles (her very favorite cereal) in her supplies and my eldest child fixed me with an arch look of amusement. “The recipe I found was for Krispies, so I’m doing it that way first before I alter it.”

I could only nod sagely and mumble, “That means more marshmallow treats for us all, so I can’t complain.”

To which my child replied, just as her mother would, “Damn right.”

She even divided the pan into quarters. One was plain, one was studded with sea salt flakes, the third had tiny chocolate chips, and the last was drenched with homemade salted caramel sauce. Needless to say, that last bit was my favorite, though everyone else in the house is split between the plain and salted quarters.

So, there’s a crispy-crunchy experiment at some time in my future, possibly with caramel. That’s not a bad prospect; it’ll get me through a day of internal wires sparking through worn-off insulation, a both-hands deathgrip on my temper, and my fingertips aching from keeping my claws sheathed.

In any case, I should probably get some breakfast to balance out the caffeine once my stomach settles, the it’ll be time to walk the furry brats. I’m sure there will be hijinks; Carl the Crow has taken to accompanying us on walks around the block. She flits from tree to tree, eyeing me sideways and occasionally letting out raucous yells. I’m not sure if she’s adopted us or is waiting for me to look away so she can torment Boxnoggin–I believe she has not forgiven him for the Jerry Incident.

Speaking of Jerry the Crow, his tail feathers appear to be healing, and he’s having a lot more luck with flying. He’s still apparently only capable of short hops, and he tends to hang around our yard all day because I’m leaving sunflower seeds and the like in easy-to-reach places for him. Sandra and Carl are okay with this too; they keep bringing peanuts and cracking them in the birdbath, filling the damn thing with peanut shells. I think someone in the neighborhood thinks they’re feeding squirrels, though why anyone would do such a thing is beyond me.

We also have a ring-tailed squirrel (christened Einstein) who is up to No Good and seems positively bent on tormenting my daughter. Maybe it’s a family inheritance thing.

I do have a Backyard Tale to tell you concerning Norbert (long-time Readers will remember Norbert the Shattered Gargoyle) but I need more time and energy to write it than I possess today, so it’ll have to wait.

And with that, my beloveds, I shall bid you a fond adieu. Getting out the door before the marine layer breaks and the temperature rises is the name of the game, and since I’ve finished my coffee, breakfast is next. I can only dread what sort of hijinks will occur once I strap the dogs into their harnesses and leave the house.

Wish me luck…