The Rock of Morning

Read a little Anais Nin in bed while my alarm clock finished waking up–it’s one of those sunrise clocks, where the light begins simmering gently a half-hour before the alarm, which sounds like birds twittering. A good investment from years and years ago, though I stopped using it so much in poor Bailey’s senescence because as soon as it began its cycle she was up, gods damn you, and if she was up I had to be nosed and bullied out of bed along with Boxnoggin, and the dear old dog would do so with a lot of cranky because she needed more rest.

Whereas if I got up in the dark (or semi-dark with the curtains pulled) and started going about my day, she slept on, figuring I was Just Doing Weird Human Things and she’d herd me when she got around to it. It was simply easier, and she needed that gentle time in the mornings.

I miss her so much.

Anyway, Boxnoggin could not give a single hoot nor holler about the alarm clock. He must be rousted from the bed’s comfort with his special morning song and some snuggle time, and may all the powers of earth and sky help you if there is not enough snuggle, because he will mope. I have, however, found out that the snuggles can be achieved while I do a bit of reading, since that’s merely a continuation of the nightly ritual–his nose in my armpit as I awkwardly page through the current book.

Once he’s up he requires a bathroom break, and right after that he turns his nose up at brekkie and goes back to bed while I get coffee and settle in front of the glowing box for the morning session. He won’t eat his own breakfast until right before walkies, when he wolfs down as much as possible to get his peristalsis primed. This is entirely separate from the toll of toast crust or little bit of my morning gruel that must be slopped into his bowl, which he will eagerly partake of before going back to bed, turning his nose up at ordinary kibble.

This is the same dog who was underweight and famished when he arrived, thinking that same kibble veritable manna from the gods. I’m glad he feel secure enough to be picky, frankly.

…I meant today’s blog post to be about other stuff, but best-laid plans founder on the rock of morning. Last night I put Horace de Brassiere‘s washable parts in the dishwasher, on the theory that today’s Lili would find them nice and fresh for the morning potion. Today’s Lili, though, spent a significant amount of time staring at poor Horace, trying to put the parts together in some configuration that would make getting coffee a possibility, and cursing her past self for being somewhat of a sadist.

Eventually I found the missing part in the dish drainer and things began to make more sense. Now caffeine is slowly filtering into my system and I have consigned both yesterday’s self and the morning’s first iteration safely to the realm of “well, that happened, let’s laugh.”

I’m about halfway through Nin’s Cities of the Interior, which is four of her interconnected novels in one. It’s much easier to see the throughlines now, especially after the read of her diaries I did last year. I’m in The Four-Chambered Heart at the moment, and seeing her alchemy of fictionalization is doing good things for me. Filling the artistic well, as is so crucial. Last year ended in exhaustion and bad health, too many things taking time away from writing, so it’s good to be back after the first few weeks of this year were spent pruning. Already my productivity is slowly creeping back up to the usual pace.

Over and over again, I learn the lesson of protecting the work. One has to fight quite fiercely for one’s writing time, especially if one is femme-presenting; other people will assume they are entitled to your time and energy as a matter of course. The people worth keeping around are the ones who take no for an answer, but cutting the others out is painful and requires a lot of energy too. And that’s not even counting the voraciousness of the world at large, especially lately–the news cycle and corporate greed won’t let anyone rest if they can help it.

The idea of going back to bed a la Boxnoggin is intensely appealing. But there’s the actual conversation between the Rook and Miss Dove to write today–now that he’s managed to slip in through her garret window, which is not a euphemism–and yesterday’s almost-drowning of an almost-prince in The Fall of Waterstone has implications that kick off the next big chain of plot events. If I get both done I might be able to burn the last bit of cedar wrack in the firepit, which would please me intensely.

None of that will happen until after walkies and running my own poor corpse, so I suppose I’d best get started. It’s a Tuesday feeling like a Monday, always a lot of fun. If all goes well I’ll be able to get to a kidnapping in one project today, and perhaps–if I’m lucky–set up the river race in another.

It’s good to have things to look forward to. Off I go, then.

Superlative, Swimming

I’m staggering around blinking blearily this morning, feeling rather like a frayed wire. The coffee is sinking in, Boxnoggin is very eager for walkies, and I can’t even think about the prospect of breakfast yet.

On the other hand, I had quite possibly the best copyediting experience of my professional life so far in the past few days, and that’s been amazing. The Salt-Black Tree is now sent back to the publisher, ready for the proofs stage. (After multiple drafts and copyedits, no, it’s still not done. We are right on schedule for the release date, though.) It feels like I’ve been working on these books for a century, but part of that is them being written during pandemic(s). Time has become a very fluid beast indeed.

It was such a relief to discover that not only were the copyedits highly reasonable–I glanced through them before the holidays, though I couldn’t get to work on them until after the New Year–but the copyeditor, bless their heart and everything else, had entirely understood the assignment and seemed to “get” me as a writer too. A happy synchronicity which made it ever so much easier for me to do my end of the work. Sometimes things just…mesh, and it’s beautiful. I’ve had great copyedits before, don’t get me wrong. This one was simply superlative, and I enjoyed it to the hilt.

The weather has also cleared, so I might be able to get the firepit out again soon and toast some s’mores over dry, fallen cedar boughs stripped from the fallen tree. It’s also a relief having that dealt with, even if the back fence is in bad shape. Poor thing tried its best, but having nearly a hundred feet of tree dropped on it isn’t ideal.

Honestly, I can relate.

All in all things seem to be rather looking up. I know saying that is an invitation for the Universe to kick me in the teeth (my, how pessimistic I’ve become) and yet I cannot help feeling relieved and treasuring the feeling of at least part of the current swimming the right way again.

So. Today I get Boxnoggin walked, dial up the third assassination of the day in Hell’s Acre, write an elf and a werewolf verbally sparring in front of a woman who is definitely not interested in hearing either’s bullshit, and…I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s something else on the docket. The dog is leaning against my chair, giving me the oh please can you just stop with the glowing box and let’s GO, mother, come on treatment.

I might even be able to take a half-day off sometime soon. (Shocking, I know.) But in order to get there, I’d best slither off my chair and get some fuel so the canine can have his ramble. We both need the movement; I’m feeling a bit scattered after the massive effort of the past few days. All aboard and full speed ahead, damn any torpedoes and devil take the hindmost.

…not that I’d think that gentleman will want me, but at least we’re on speaking terms. And with that cheerful thought, I’m off to have brekkie. And another quad shot of espresso; yesterday I had a bathtub’s worth of tea, but I think I need jet fuel to get me underway for Tuesday.

See you around.

Flood-Time, Back Into Joint

Working through the weekend means Monday arrives a little before one’s ready. Though I did take half Sunday off to do chores, bake bread, and get a coq au vin in the oven–which made the house smell glorious indeed. An evening on the couch listening to gamelan music and reading the back half of a Murakami novel (Kafka on the Shore, the subject of last week’s Reading with Lili and Great Chapters) was exactly what I needed, too. I hadn’t visited that particular book since 2014, and a lot of temporal water has gone under the bridge since. It’s been a recuperative experience and I’m looking forward to polishing it off entirely tonight.

But first I need to get through a full day’s work, what with the serial and Cold North revisions. The latter need the bulk of my time now, since I should turn them in before the new year.

In the “very good news indeed” column, the recuperative period for running injuries has passed and I can start building mileage again, which is a gat-damn blessing. I need those endorphins. It’s the dark half of the year and holiday strain is mounting; balancing all that out with some sweat and purging of the unpleasant stress chemicals will help me keep my footing. Plus it’s nice and grey and gloomy, so the sidewalks and road-margins are largely mine again.

Oh, there are other people out even in the worst weather. Some dog walkers, plenty of other runners, the occasional bicyclist or seven1. But the aggravations of summertime–ambling middle-aged men taking up all the space and attempting to stop me to chat about the weather, assholes with unleashed dogs making problems for everyone, Karens sashaying from one side of the space to the other while yelling into their phones–go elsewhere when the rains descend. Every year I breathe a gusty sigh of relief when the weather turns, and not just because it’s my most productive time but also because the road clears.

There’ll be a glut of new exercisers on the path just after New Year’s, slowly trickling down to those who have managed to make an actual habit somewhere near the end of March. But for now, as the year wends to its darkest point, I’m often alone while running.

And I like it.

In a few days we’ll haul out the tree and decorations. I have not been Whamageddon’d yet, but when I go for last-minute feast prep and to pick up some cheap crockery for smashing2 I run the risk. Either I’ll get to Boxing Day having won Whamageddon or Whampocalypse3, so it doesn’t matter. My writing partner and daughter are already well in the latter, and enjoying it muchly.

Speaking of Boxing Day, the Winter Portal Fantasy Sale is still ongoing. After that I’ll take a break from sales for a wee bit.

I’ve had a great deal of synchronicity lately; it seems like the universe and timeline are attempting to heal, plucking at seams and Franken-stitching stuff together. Another blessing, frankly. I don’t think I could handle much more of everything being out of joint, as it were.

The coffee is at its dregs, my office is cleaner than it was before the weekend, Boxnoggin has not yet trotted down the hall to roust me for breakfast but that will certainly happen before much longer. I suppose I must embark upon the week. It will happen whether or not my coracle is caulked, so I might as well commend my soul-craft to whatever gods look out for weary writers and push away from shore.

Here we are, my beloveds, and time floods onward. Let’s check the wind, set our sails, and get to it.

Welcome, Great Pumpkin

Happy Samhain, my beloveds. It’s the first and last day of the witch’s year, and there’s already a bowl of candy on the kitchen table. I did roll out of bed and straight into eight complex tasks I had to accomplish before I was allowed to make coffee–one of which was taking Boxnoggin outside for his usual wake-up loo break. He is Quite Put Out that it’s so damp outside, and the wind flirting with the cedars also touched his rump, at which he gave a startled leap and looked at me as if I were responsible.

To him, I am a near-incomprehensible all-powerful goddess, so clearly the weather is some kind of terrible chthonic joke I’m playing on the world. I wish I had even a sliver of the might this poor dog attributes to me; I could do so much with it.

But the heat pump has been turned on, the bed made, Boxnoggin’s brekkie (ignored for the moment, until I head to the toaster) set out, a multitude of other preparations finished, and I can sit to absorb some caffeine for a few moments. Poor Lord van der Sploot is going to despise walkies today, despite begging for them the instant I finish my coffee. He’s going to give me so many reproachful looks, I can just tell, and when we get back home he’ll need a towel and a treat to mollify him.

Last night I finished absorbing an ancient battered paperback of Dick Gregory’s No More Lies, which was a well-written, engaging, truthful, and difficult read. Engaging with American history–cavalcade of genocide, enslavement, and robber-baron enrichment that it is–pretty much always nauseates. If you have any empathy, that is. Nothing in it was a surprise, though I did learn a few details about some specific events I hadn’t known before, and in Chapter VII, I came across one of the best passages I’ve ever read in a history book.

Although repression is a futile solution, it is a legitimate reaction. All men have the basic right to be afraid, regardless of how wrong, how degenerate, or how insane they are.

–Dick Gregory, No More Lies: The Myth and the Reality of American History

It’s very kind to attribute cruelty, bigotry, and misogyny to fear instead of just sheer sociopathic cruelty. I think fear is always a component to varying degrees, though most of it is simply that many people are comfortable with being cruel and even enjoy it when there are no consequences. A steady, swift application of social disapprobation and financial penalties for being a bigoted dickwad would do a great deal to correct and deter most fascist fellow-travelers; unfortunately, our entire society is set up to reward such behavior instead.

The level of espresso in my mug is dropping, and my tissues are soaking up the caffeine like dry earth gratefully swallowing the autumn rains. I suppose it’s time to think about brekkie, drop the leftover toast crusts in Boxnoggin’s bowl, get out the trench coat, and go for a damp ramble with the dog. I’ll be cooking all day, except for if/when I manage to squeeze in an extra livestream–I think I might read Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart to you madcaps, since it’s my favorite of his short stories and I haven’t cracked open my Compleat Edgar Allen for a hot minute. (I’ll probably hit Twitch this afternoon.)

Rain on the roof, all the high-fructose corn syrup we can handle, a day completely off because for godsake I’m not working on Samhain, and tonight we’ll burn wishes for the upcoming year on perfumed joss paper…my dance card is full.

I hope you have a blessed day, my dears. I wish you a pleasant holiday.

No Silly Decisions

Had a difficult time dragging myself out of bed this morning and made the mistake of looking at the day’s to-do list before coffee. Had to take my imposter syndrome by the scruff and give it a gentle shake–no wonder I’m feeling overwhelmed, after back-to-back copyedits, a new release, and Everything Else. Three years of functioning under pandemic circumstances are beginning to tell. It’s time to be gentle with myself, and to not make any silly decisions because I’m tired.

Never make any life decisions before coffee or after 9pm, my friends. It’s a good rule, one I wish I’d known sooner. Of course I feel a bit panicked, given the sheer amount of work going on. Of course I feel drained after upping my livestreaming time. And of course I feel frayed down to transparency after back-to-back copyedits.

I prefer too much work to too little, naturally, and I’ve got my wish. Now there’s proof pages to get done, and I can spend the rest of spooky season on revisions and the serial. I think NaNoWriMo this year will be the next Tolkien Viking Werewolves book, so that’s one decision off my plate. And I’m considering tapering down the weekly online teas in favor of simply reading to you madcaps. We’ll see.

The weather has finally turned. It’s no longer a gasping-hot mess outside, which makes walkies–not to mention daily runs–ever so much more pleasant. Pretty soon I’ll need a jacket during Boxnoggin’s morning struts, and I can’t wait. The fitful breeze through my office window is the perfect temperature, and despite the fact that the season changing means a lot more yard work, I’m extremely happy. It’s not quite pumpkin season yet…but the gourds are swelling on the vine, and soon the rains will come in.

I’m ever so much more productive when it rains, so I’m looking forward to that. So it’s time for deep breathing, a stern look at my imposter syndrome (already shrinking to pea-size since such things always quail in the face of objective proof), and some toast to balance out the coffee just hitting my bloodstream. And maybe, just maybe, a few hours off today after I finish the critical stuff on the list, since I’ll do no-one at all any good if I hit burnout. That new true-crime documentary on Netflix won’t watch itself, after all.

Happy Thursday, beloveds. We’re almost to the end of the week. If we just hold on a little longer…

Sixth Time Friday

Snow? Ha. I scoff at such inclemency!

How is it Friday? Wait. Is it Friday?

…I checked, for the sixth time this morning. It is indeed and irrevocably Friday, and I’m pretty sure the recent freak snowstorm was winter’s very last gasp. Sometimes seasons like a long drawn-out death, like certain movie villains. Remember Alan Rickman’s death scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Everything about that movie was fantastic, except for Kevin Costner.

Christ, I’m old.

Anyway, it’s Friday. There’s an upcoming Tea with Lili today, where we’ll be talking about how to deal with snapback. (I will still be knitting on the same damn shawl.) I’m sure there will be other tangents and subjects, as per usual.

It is a hushed, dripping, misty morning, and the neighborhood is quiet. This is, I suspect, a mercy of short duration. Even the dogs are subdued (don’t worry, this won’t last) and I am only a third of the way through my coffee. The week is bouncing around inside me, trying to find a place to settle, and I dislike the feeling intensely.

I’ll be working all weekend, but at least I can take a deep breath while the fog wraps the trees–blooming or simply leafing out–in cotton and the birds gather on the Yankee Squirrel Flinger. I do really have to tell you guys about Boxnoggin and the windchimes, you guys will enjoy that story even if it’s embarrassing–for him, mind you, though he’s forgotten all about it already.

I was wearing shoes and thus escaped shame. (Mostly.)

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. May your weather be fair, your pets hilarious, and your relaxation epic.

See you next week.

Mental Mustelids

The dogs have turned up their nose at brekkie–“mere kibble, Mother, how dare.” Of course when they arrived from the shelter, even plain kibble was treated like manna. Now they’re spoiled, and they know the dinner-bowl will contain kibble, wet food, and perhaps a scrap or two from the human repast. So they disdain the morning offerings, unless they get just too hungry around midday and snarf it while I’m having lunch, begging all the while for a moiety of my own meal.

Such are dogs. Nothing is as good as what’s in the other’s bowl. Miss B, as an elderly and somewhat demented fur-child, thinks “sneaking” from Boxnoggin’s bowl is putting one over on the entire house. Boxnoggin is a really good sport about it–he can’t understand why she wants what’s in there so badly, but while she’s occupied he’ll wander over to hers and eat. You can see him give the equivalent of a canine shrug each time.

I have just resurrected and am staring blankly at my coffee mug. Someone in the neighborhood has been running a leaf blower for nearly an hour; the sound provoked me out of bed along with the dogs’ bladders. I need caffeine, I would not willingly step away from the slow infusion of java and that is what stops me from going looking for the source of the ruckus. Of course not everyone can keep my schedule, and the world does not exist to please me.

I’m just grumpy.

Yesterday was a good working day. I stripped out and rebuilt that bothersome scene in Hell’s Acre, and the monster hunters in Sons of Ymre #2 are now well and truly caught. The creation of a reasonable amount of text was accompanied by a deep and awful crisis of self-confidence. I suppose Sons #2 is shifting early from the new-and-shiny portion of novel writing to the Slough of Despond part. Hell’s Acre, of course, is having a difficult time because so much of it has been written during pandemic and other awful recent events.

I know where the problems lie, but the quicksand still drags at my feet. I still turn off the light after reading a bit of Nin’s diary and settle into the dark, where the barking of you’ll never be good enough echoes through my interior halls once I’m not distracting myself with actual work. (Or true crime videos.)

I know the only solution is to put my head down and keep working, that it’s most probably the voice of brainweasels and therefore, a lying liar who lies. Yet my defenses are rather thin right now, for a variety of reasons. I wake with the awful seashell song of you’ll never be good enough, you’re a fake, nobody really likes you or your books echoing through my skull, and the only mercy is that there’s usually another piece of music burrowing into my grey matter as a distraction.

Sometimes I wonder if the constant internal music is a self-protective reflex, drowning out the brainweasels. Maybe, maybe not, but either way I value the relief.

In any case, there are the dogs to walk and a run to accomplish. Then it’s back to the word mines–the subscription drop today is going to be lovely, I need to make a few more notes for tomorrow’s Tea with Lili (we’ll be talking about worldbuilding; Part I is now up on YouTube), there’s the return of a favorite character in Hell’s Acre to go back over and tweak, and I need to make some decisions about the structure of Sons #2. It’s a busy day, and I should make a list or nothing will get done. I’d like to do the running-with-werewolves scene in the Sekrit Projekt too, but that may be a step too far in terms of ambition and have to wait for the weekend–always assuming the other Sekrit Projekt via my agent doesn’t suddenly catch fire and rearrange my writing schedule.

…maybe the brainweasels are responding to the sheer amount of work I’ve assigned myself. Which is fine, I’ll lash them to the chariot and make them drag me, if I have to. If I were any good as a graphic artist I’d want to draw that, me in a Boudicca-like vehicle, pulled by a number of mouth-frothing mental mustelids.

Now there’s a fun mental image, and with it I shall bid you adieu, my beloveds. Don’t let Thursday win. If we band together, we can take it down.

Over and out.