Running, an Inch

Steelflower in Snow

This morning, I was in a bit of a mood. Out the door with two fractious dogs into cold rain, one dog unfazed and the other wanting to pull ahead to finish the damn deed so he could go home and dry off, my patience was all but exhausted.

And yet, while my feet pound and my breath comes high and hard, I realize, this is not who I want to be. The irritation falls away; I leave it like a discarded skin and run into the future of who I do want to be.


Years ago, the stark grief of a broken heart pushed me further, faster. I ran until I couldn’t, without dog, bee, or any other companion, and when I stopped and closed my eyes, all that touched me was sunshine, dust, and the knowledge that I had done what was necessary. It still hurt.

It hurt.

And yet, when I opened my eyes, there was nothing to do but keep moving. I had to get home, after all. Sitting in the middle of a street and waiting for the rest of my life is not who I want to be.

So I chose differently. And kept going.


I began running because it was something I could do on a treadmill in the solarium. A single mother can’t leave her babies unprotected; besides, my body had become a stranger. I ran at first because it was the best of several bad options, then I kept running because the endorphins had me hooked, then I ran because it had become a habit.

Now I run because it soothes me, because it is still the only time I have to be truly alone. Despite the company of dogs, it is while running that my soul expands a little. The rest of the world falls away and I can see who I’ve been, and more importantly, who I want to be.


Irritated? I write. Happy? I write. Sad? I write. I do it because it’s what I was meant and made for, what I was designed to do. I am helpless to stop writing.

But running is a choice. The static vanishes. Physical motion, the thunder of my pulse, dripping sweat–all reminders that I can choose. There is only an inch allotted to us, a small, separate piece caught in the net of circumstance, privilege, physics, and obligation. They can take every inch of me–they have certainly tried, all my life–but one.

That small piece keeps me human. It is the part where I choose.


The dogs don’t like it when I run alone. Boxnoggin is protective; Miss B simply thinks it’s her duty to crawl under my skin and stay there. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, whether because of injury, weather, or other considerations, I find myself solitary.

I am alone, but I am never lonely while that small inch of me remains.


B slows near the end of even short runs now. She doesn’t want to, but she is becoming elderly, and her body does not do as she wishes. It doesn’t matter. Speed isn’t the issue. Looking down and seeing her grin as she paces me, in her accustomed place and all right with her world despite our slowness, fills me with aching love. I have so little time left with her; I slow as much as she needs.

Boxnoggin doesn’t quite have the rhythm down yet. He’s young, and though it’s been months, he learns at his own pace. Above all, he wants to protect his pack; the constant changing of our route during runs to make it easy for him to behave and get accustomed to the fact that when I need him to snap or growl I’ll let him know takes a lot of bandwidth. Still, we persevere. Eventually he’ll learn, and I will have become the person who gave him the space for that teaching to sink in.


When I was a child, my primary female caregiver wanted me to become a doctor. It was her own unfinished dream, and I was responsible for seeing it through. The knowledge loomed on the horizon like a mountain at the end of a sea journey, just a smear at first and for a long time neither larger nor smaller no matter how fast one sails. Suddenly, it begins to grow, and the shadow of expectation pressed on me from crown to soles. I couldn’t breathe.

I chose passive resistance to her dreams all my young life. But when I left that house, I had no idea how to find out what I wanted to be–or even who I was. I’ve spent decades trying to unravel the mystery, making false starts, drowning in other people’s needs, pouring myself into black holes, lighting myself on fire to keep others warm.

And then I began to run.


“I can tell you haven’t run today,” the kids say.

“I can tell you haven’t run today,” my writing partner says.

I can tell I haven’t run that day, and I close my eyes, imagine my feet hitting pavement and the wind making that low sweet sound in my ears. Even when I don’t run I can choose who I want to be. Running only reminds me. It shakes me, and while everything is whirling inside my skin I realize there are some things nailed down, some handholds I can trust on my internal cliff-face.

There is a me who can decide. I just have to give her an inch.


Today it was raining. The dogs were both tetchy, their fidgets not quite worked out yesterday. It took twenty damn minutes for the red cloud of irritation around me to blow away. Both beasts needed constant reminding and redirecting. Before I snapped, I took a deep breath, slowed my pace, untangled both of them, and swallowed the unkind things I might have muttered at their poor, silly, excited selves.

Unkind is not who I want to be.

The carapace falls away and I am damp and new, slowing to a walk and petting the canines who depend upon me. I tell them they are good, and they believe me. Sometimes–not very often–I slow enough to listen to them tell me I am good, and I try to believe them, too.

We walk home. Because we choose to.


I have kept a single inch to myself, one thing I have never mortgaged, sold, smothered to please someone else. I have fed others from my broken body and kept a single crust from the feast despite those who tell me it is selfish treachery to avoid subsuming myself completely. The world is hungry, abusers are famished; they will take even that last inch and leave for other tables while your bones rot.

I hid that inch so successfully it took running to find it again. And, over and over again, it expands to fill me while I write.

Running doesn’t fill me. It strips away the noise, the constant pressure, the weight of people who sold their inch or never found it, who want to crack my bones and eat my marrow to fill their own unending hunger where that small space used to be.

I learn, over and over again, that I choose who and what I am. There is an inch of me beyond reach, a table in the presence of mine enemies, and every time I lace up and buckle the dogs in, reach the end of warmup and pitch forward to take the first few steps into the uncertain future, I realize again that I am not lonely.

How can I be, while I run?

Time Passes

FISH

I would really, really love not to have Wichita Lineman stuck in my head when I wake up. It would be super swell not to hear that song again for a while. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’m just ready for a new record to hit the needle inside my skull.

*time passes*

I had a big long post planned for today, but then I fell into a rabbit hole or two, went for a run, a bee tried to fly inside my mouth twice (or more properly, two bees tried the same thing on two different occasions) and Lord Boxnoggin decided it was too warm for running, so he stopped in the shade and I had to carry him across four lanes of traffic (plus the divider) to convince him we were going home and he could, in fact, walk.

I don’t blame him, we’re still learning where his comfort levels are. I’m heartened that he actually stopped instead of just trying to do what he thought I wanted and hurting himself.

Recovering from the zero of Poison Prince proceeds apace. I was not allowed to work yesterday, so some cleaning I’d been putting off got done, I set up today’s subscription stuff to go out, and I watched some movies I’d been meaning to get around to, like Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. Both were much better than the Avengers franchise–less stupid, pointless misogyny, better plotting, and I’m interested to see where those directors go next.

Speaking of subscriptions, I should probably shill those a bit, since they take a great deal of worry off my back and also give my darling Readers something nice at the same time. So, if you like the idea of Robin Hood in Space (and free ebooks of each version!) or of weekly fiction drops, head on over to the subscription page and check it out.

This week’s offerings will drop at 2pm PST, and if you sign up to any of my Gumroad offerings you get the latest one sent to you immediately.

Anyway, I should probably get at least a token amount of work done to salve my conscience, but not too much or recovery will be jeopardized. It’s a fine line, and I think I need coffee in order to keep my balance.

Over and out.

Adversarial Book

Took a bit of a sabbatical last week, at least from the blog and most social media. It was nice to do some deep breathing and restore my sense of proportion. I keep thinking I can save the world.

The world, however, either doesn’t want saving, or the job’s just too big for me. The latter isn’t so much of a consideration–I take on jobs too large for me all the time–but the former is. You can’t save those who want to drown.

The Poison Prince has broken the 60k mark, and I’m beginning to think I can pull this off. There’s no reason for the dividing line between books 2 and 3 to be placed exactly where it is; I can slide it back and forth as the need arises. Everyone in this book is talking when I need them to get to the dying.

This is probably a common problem in epic fantasy creation. *snork*

I’ve been moonlighting with a couple other things–Sons of Ymre, and the other Watcher book. Neither are moving very quickly because I have to fit in wordcount around the big bulk of Prince. I want to be done with this book so badly, it keeps me up at night sometimes. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard, because if I end up pulling all-nighters I’ll need longer to recover when I finally get a blade in the bowels of this fucking book and it breathes its last.

*eyes former paragraph* I may be having an adversarial relationship with this bloody book. Anyway.

It’s a cloudy morning; hopefully there won’t be anyone with unleashed dogs at the park. I’m having to stagger Miss B accompanying me; she’s getting to the age where the shorter runs are all she’s comfortably capable of. Of course she wants to go on every run, bar none. She would gladly run her heart out if I asked it of her, but I don’t ask it. In fact, I actively discourage such a thing, being a cruel and unjust owner who wishes to keep her safe and sound for a few more years.

It was awful to lose Odd Trundles, but the awfulness was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that we expected to lose him at any point, so it wasn’t exactly a shock. B, though…when she ascends to the great kibble bowl in the sky, I’m going to be devastated. It’s going to hurt worse than just about anything.

All the more reason to take care now while she’s with me, and snuggle her a bit more. If I can get her to hold still for it–she’s always wriggling free to go play with Boxnoggin. He is somewhat of an elixir of youth for her, their wrestling, yapping, and chasing serving to exercise them both. She’s pretty pissed every time he goes on a run alone with me.

Poor Miss B. She just longs to supervise everyone and everything, like the busy little bossy bee she is. Speaking of bees, there are no doubt going to be plenty of them trying to infiltrate my skull. Maybe I should braid my hair to give them more places to cling instead of a ponytail.

Well, that’s my morning work cut out for me. I suppose I should get moving.

Over and out…

Gut-Heaving Weekend

So Saturday morning, instead of settling down to work all day, I gutted out a run and came home to promptly lose everything I’d eaten in the last twelve hours.

Since I run in the mornings, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be, but bad enough. Still not sure if it was stomach flu or food poisoning. I’m tender in the middle right now but feeling ever so much better, especially since I had Sunday to recover as well.

The only bad thing is that I needed those days for work, not for time-sharing on the loo. I managed to get all my housework chores done, even the mopping, but dear gods in heaven, I would have rather been writing than heaving out my guts. Though the two often feel somewhat similar.

I’m fine now, as long as I eat as little as possible and don’t move too quickly. I don’t mind the non-eating; I’m busy enough that cutting down on meals or just eating a handful of bland stuff is a relief. But the moving slowly? I’ve got running to do, dammit, and it won’t get done if my body keeps being weird about it.

So it’s back to the epic fantasy, I guess, without a weekend’s worth of work on anything I want to write. At least I’m back in love with The Poison Prince, I made a decision last week that freed up a lot of mental and emotional energy. I’ve a death scene to write and the barbarian hordes to get moving for the border, so I’d best get started.

But first, a run. A nice gentle one with Sir Boxnoggin, since Miss B spent the entire weekend trotting after me and attempting, in her own inimitable fashion, to “help.” There isn’t much a dog can do when one is heaving, but she tried, and each time I got up in the middle of the night she was right there to herd me the few steps to the loo.

I suppose I’m lucky to have such aid. I would have hated to get lost.

Anyway, I am tender in a number of places but I have not yet begun to fight. Plus, Boxnoggin is all but vibrating in place. Time to get out the door.

See you around, chickadees.

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Running the Canines

This is the sight that greets me if I look away from my desktop while wearing running togs. Lord van der Sploot is doing what he does best, while Miss B simply stares, clearly expectant.

Mum. It is time for the running of the dogs. We are patient, yes, but eventually I will crawl into your lap to remind you that IT IS TIME.

Of course, two minutes outside and Boxnoggin began to pull. He thinks that if we speed up we’ll get out of the rain more quickly. I don’t exactly blame him, he’s a slick-coated fellow and Miss B’s all-weather coat has spoiled us somewhat.

So running with him is just like it used to be with Miss B–a constant battle to get him to stop fucking pulling, dammit. He settles down after a few kilometers and begins working with me and B as a unit, which is the whole point. B needed years before she began settling almost immediately and still pulls sometimes, when she gets Very Excited by the prospect of a Strange Dog.

Now that we’re home and I’m in dry socks, with bonus hot tea, Boxnoggin has settled in his favorite dog bed in the living room. He’ll rotate between there and the couch, according to how damn tired he is and if he thinks there’s a prospect of something interesting happening outside he can bark at. Miss B is sacked out on one of the dog beds in my office, whistle-snoring. She’s an elderly dog now, and needs her rest.

You can also see Boxnoggin’s tail going so hard it blurs, which is a constant. Every day is an adventure as far as he’s concerned. Pets all the time! Snacks! Mealtimes at regular intervals, and treats for easy jobs like sitting down. One gets the idea he thinks this is doggie heaven. He’s even started begging for car rides, now that they include good things like going out for French fries. It used to be he’d shake and drool in the car, probably thinking we were taking him back to the shelter, poor fellow.

I’m hoping he’ll realize soon that he’s home forever, that even if he behaves badly he’s not going anywhere. The poor little guy hates to be alone–and little is a misnomer, he’s become quite portly, what with regular meals; his coat gleams and glistens quite shamefully now. Miss B just rolls her eyes and nips him when he starts getting all worked up thinking he’s going to be taken away. His rather, well, energetic nature keeps B active, trying to stay one step ahead, which was the entire point.

They’re pretty much made for each other, my little control-freak doyenne and her enthusiastic sidekick. B has plenty to do keeping him out of trouble, so much so that I suspect he will keep her alive just to see what happens next.

May it be so. In the meantime, they have naps to accomplish, and my tea is getting cold.

Over and out.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.