Not Quite Planned

Rain last night and a sunny morning; I can almost feel the grass stretching, not to mention the grapevines, the hop vine, and the salvia. I’m sure the foxglove out front is pretty happy too, and the blueberries appear to have taken transplanting well. I also woke up with Janet Jackson’s Black Cat in my head at high volume, so of course I had to listen to it and dance a bit before brekkie.

Yesterday was a complete, total, utter Monday. At least it lived up to its name; one has to admire the thoroughness with which some days set out to become annoyances. Oh, I have to admit Monday wasn’t bad; I got basic wordcount on both Hell’s Acre and Cold North.

But that wordcount was mostly me ripping out and redoing the architecture on a foundational scene so that things I plan for later in the serial have a proper footing. So I wrote about 1.2k, but deleted a good 800+ words, so it was fiddly, finicky work that felt like running in place. And of course after a couple of 4k+ days on Cold North, the characters are exhausted and I barely got 600 words out of them.

At least the latter were good words, and I know more about a certain character now. I think he’s got a thing for the heroine, but she’s oblivious and in any case they have plenty of problems, including escaping an elvish cave-city. The Valkyrie in the story is having a bit of a day, too. Fortunately she has a spear, and with a spear all her problems become things to be stabbed.

Funny how that works.

I don’t quite have today planned out yet. All I know is that the dogs need walking and I must run. Yesterday I burned off a lot of anxiety by hauling my carcass along at what passes for high speed–I am not anything approaching swift, mind you, but I can keep a steady pace just about forever. As long as the zombies aren’t sprinters I should do just fine. Then I think I’ll go through some more Hell’s Acre to make sure all the foundation-stones are in place before edging into new territory, and get everyone in Cold North ready to leave the damn city.

I do have revisions on Sons of Ymre to turn around in the next few months, but right now I’m going to work on fresh wordage rather than editing. I’ve spent the majority of my time recently in revision, and while I don’t really mind–it’s where a lot of magic happens–I still prefer the heat of creation.

Both dogs are slumped in a rare sunbeam coming through my office window; mornings are often cloudy and the cedars along the back fence generally block any direct glare this time of day. It’s rare for them to be able to bask, and they’re enjoying every moment of it. Still, the instant I shift to take my empty coffee cup into the kitchen and lace up my shoes, they’ll be beside themselves with glee and anticipation.

I have only a few more minutes of quiet left before that, and I plan to use them breathing deeply. See you around, beloveds.

Hellebores and Chorin’

So far Monday hasn’t been its usual sweet self, but then again, neither have I. At least the hellebores are still blooming.

Half the weekend was spent working despite my best efforts; I meant to take it completely off and get a bunch of chores done but 4k of Cold North fell out of my head. One of the elves brought the heroine a gift with teeth, and I just had to see how that worked out.

Sometimes, when a story heats up, one’s required to put everything else aside and get it out of one’s aching head. Come Sunday, though, I had to get some damn chores out of the way.

So I did, and read a lot of manga. I finished Amu Meguro’s Honey So Sweet series, which was a lovely palate cleanser; then I started on the kids’ Rurouni Kenshin collection. For years, I used to take the kids to Borders (now closed, sadly) and they got one or two manga every time; as a result, they’ve quite the mountain of right-to-left reading. Years of the kids excitedly telling me everything about the stories at the dinner table mean it’s like meeting old friends. They can talk for hours about plot points, ins and outs, and character motivations; I love listening.

I like manga a bit more than anime; I’ve always liked reading more than just about anything else. The kids are fond of Yu Yu Hakusho in anime form, and if I ever got around to watching it I’m sure I’d recognize everyone just from the descriptions I’ve gotten during dinner.

As a result of dipping my toe into the manga waters again, the Princess is reading Hellsing once more, and the Prince is watching a new anime he’s going to give us all a rundown of at the dinner table. I’m sure the kids will argue about the difference between Hellsing‘s manga and anime form, and I will once again mutter about Vampire Hunter D.

Goodness, that takes me back. Wow.

In any case, I also got a chunk of chorin’ done, including sweeping the garage and taking a swipe at the car upholstery. Miss B got a bath once the Princess got home–she was furious, of course. The funniest thing about bath days is about an hour after the washing is done, when Miss B is still damp but doesn’t remember quite why, she only suspects something dreadful happened and is determined to express her displeasure through interpretive dance around my feet.

She gets many a pet, pat, and treat to make up for the horror of being bathed, poor thing. And of course Boxnoggin needs a brushing (his skin gets irritated with too much bathing; he is a very slick-coated fellow) and many a pet, pat, and treat as well. He loves bath days–unless it’s time for him to get in the tub.

That was the weekend; now it’s Monday again, and neither the day nor I are quite ready for it. I’ll be all right once I have a run under my belt and a few moments to fall into a story. Not quite sure what’s going to happen in Cold North today, but I know precisely what Hell’s Acre needs next, and that’s a very tired heroine learning the rooftops of an alt-historical Victorian London.

She might even make a few friends, or at the very least, engage in combat with a very surprised hero.

And of course when I get to bed tonight there’s a nice big omnibus of Rurouni Kenshin to make my way through. It’s something to look forward to; I’ve just got to survive Monday’s attempts to shake me from its back. And I should water those hellebores.

I think today’s run will sink my teeth firmly into the day’s ruff, and once that happens I’m impossible to get rid of.

Off I go, then. Wish me luck.

No More Anvil

I lost Sunday to post-vaccine fatigue. I’m not entirely sure if the exhaustion was from my body being taught how to fight off the plague or the sheer relief of getting the first dose. I suppose it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Spending yesterday catching up on Sunday chores means I feel like today’s Monday. It isn’t, I swear I know it isn’t–but I keep checking, just in case. I probably need more coffee, too.

That’s a given.

Walkies were accomplished in a state of near quietude. There was nobody else out, which meant the dogs could take their time and Boxnoggin wasn’t disposed to yell at anything. He’s very certain any fellow pedestrian is suspect at best and openly threatening at worst, especially if they’re accompanied by their own canine duennas. Miss B, of course, just rolls her eyes and nips at him, but that sets him off further and I have to separate them like toddlers in the ball pit.

All the time I’m telling him, “This is why nobody will play with you, you’re bossy and mean. If you’d calm down I’d let you say hello–No? This is how you want it? FINE.”

Other walkers no doubt find this hilarious.

Today’s run, the first post-vaccine, went extremely well. So much of running is a mental game, I literally can’t tell if it’s just the relief making the activity easier or if the vaccine has genuinely wiped out some long-hauler’s syndrome. It doesn’t help that we were never able to get tested to see if we’d had the damn plague, but at least the entire question’s academic now. I managed a full run, though somewhat slower than usual. I’m going to blame the time off after finishing the diptych and the further recovery time after the jab.

Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on social media, but I felt like changing it up today. It’s just such a blessing not to carry the anvil anymore. And there were a few bees, bumbling into my hair and making themselves at home for a short while before staggering out, falling into the air, and zooming away upon their regular business.

I don’t even know, man. But it’s nice to be back. Today I work on Hell’s Acre, getting chapters ready for the June launch–there’ll be a cover reveal soon–and also a little on Cold North, since I want that in good shape before I make final decisions on my post-June writing schedule. Soon I’ll be getting revisions, proofs, and other stuff back, so I’ll be complaining about revising when what I really want to do is write.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. For now, there’s more caffeine to be had, and plunging into a fresh new world to accomplish.

I can’t wait.

Tired Work, In Longhand

I slept most of yesterday–proper sleep, not the falling into a black void for most of the day that’s been happening lately. There seem to be no other symptoms left, or if there are I’m too tired to notice them. The only thing I’m suffering is exhaustion so deep and wide it mimics total apathy. Even breathing seems like hard work.

Still, I woke this morning with what is probably a short-term burst of energy and the urge to listen to old-school Madonna. And I’ve gotten a fair amount of work done in longhand, which I’ll have to transcribe when I can sit up for longer periods of time.

If I’m indeed recovering, the trick will be not pushing too hard. Every time I get ill or injured, I make it worse by putting off any rest as long as possible and then leaping back into the fray the instant I start feeling the least bit better. I know I shouldn’t, of course–I’m always on friends and loved ones to be gentle with themselves after illness or injury.

I give very good advice, but very seldom follow it.

It doesn’t help that over the past few years I’ve witnessed pandemic, rising authoritarianism, and ongoing fascist coup. Even my ability to find silver linings or transmute pain into art is creaking under the strain. This comic strip sums it up perfectly–and also gives me some hope, because it’s pain (you guessed it) transmuted into art.

I should feel better. I should be grateful to be so lucky, so immensely privileged to be able to rest at least a little. I should be happier.

But I’m not. And it feels like a very personal failing.

At least I felt like eating this morning, and the void seems to have retreated. I’m going to have to work twice as hard to catch up; my job requires a constant juggling of chainsaws. Any halt means a rain of buzzing gas-powered sawblades, and who needs that? Not me, that’s for sure.

I’m hoping my optimism–such as it is–will come back. If all else fails, there’s sheer spite, which has kept me going through personal disasters and might as well be pressed into service for worldwide ones. I’d really like to be a nicer person, but if spite is what it takes to survive, well, that’s what I’ll use.

So, while this temporary flush of energy lasts, I’ll let the dogs drag me around the block and see what fires remain in my email inbox. I’ll work as long as I can, and probably end up sacked out on the office floor at some point in the day. The nice thing about that is the dogs will be overjoyed to have me so accessible, and probably stomp on both my kidneys and my liver to boot. I’ll call it “canine massage.”

In about a week vaccinations should be open in our state. That means the Prince and I have a shot (ha ha) at getting appointments. I suspect I’ll feel a lot better once both kids have at least the first jab, and once we’re all three thoroughly immunized I’ll probably have some variety of crying fit from sheer relief. If I focus on that–and on the fact that I have to finish the second book of Black God’s Heart–I can ignore everything else. At least I’m making progress on the latter, if only in longhand. It’s even soothing to write in a spiral-bound notebook again; my gods, how that takes me back.

Boxnoggin is resting his chin on my knee and Miss B is right behind him, crowding close and giving me the full benefit of sad doggy eyes. They want their walkies; who am I to deny them such a small pleasure? Wish me luck, or at least enough energy to get around the block.

Over and out.

Quiet, Silver Linings

The house is quiet. The dogs know I haven’t finished my coffee yet, though when I do they’ll prance down the hall, attempting to herd me out for walkies. Sometimes it’s vexing, but then I think of how baffling plenty of things must seem to them. Ritual and habit are comforting when one hasn’t much control. Even a canine can feel upset at a lack of agency.

So I call upon patience, of which my stock is slender indeed lately. The exhaustion makes everything twice as difficult as it should be, especially bureaucratic paperwork–which I attempted yesterday, and am about at the point where I’d love to burn everything down and walk into the forest, never to be seen again.

…I’m only half joking.

I suppose I should be heartened that I’m (evidently) processing some of the last year and a half. It means I’m safe enough and have enough bandwidth to deal with it, which is supposed to be a good thing. Unfortunately I don’t want to deal with it. I want to just continue coping and not have to feel this, because frankly? It sucks.

It doesn’t help that I’m furious at the abdication of responsibility by government last year, either. We’re personally lucky, here at Chez Saintcrow, to have survived in the shape we did, but it’s still touch and go, and no help is coming because, well, I’m a freelancer. I’m sure someone will bleat “Well, you shouldn’t have chosen this career”, but a single mother with two toddlers had to make what shift she could, and now I suppose I’m unfit for an office job because my tolerance for petty bullshit is close to nil.

Not that it was ever very high, indeed.

So I’m waiting for the moment the absurdity of all this will provoke me into screechy laughter, and meanwhile searching for silver linings. Like said dogs, like the fact that both kids are healthy and one has had the first vaccine dose, like the fact that the words are still showing up reliably, like the lilacs greening at their branch-tips.

My twenty minutes of coherence is all but up. So I have to bolt the rest of the coffee, brush my teeth, and collapse for a short while to gather enough strength for walkies. The dogs, of course, will take stomping on my kidneys for a short while in lieu of getting the leashes and harnesses on.

But at least I have kidneys to stomp on, and dogs to do the stomping, and both kids are tucked safe in their beds. The Prince is on spring break and the Princess has a couple days off work, so they’ll be up to housebound hijinks later today, I’m sure. I’m just glad the Prince’s cough has fled.

See? Silver linings. One must relentlessly pursue them, especially if the alternative is too grim to be contemplated.

And with that cheerful thought, I wish you a lovely Tuesday, my beloveds, and bid you a pleasant adieu.

Hope Eternal, Dog


I know I keep posting pics of Boxnoggin. I can’t help it. He’s just so photogenic, truly a handsome boi.

This is our favorite square-headed canine attempting to drill a hole through me with his gaze, all in service of gaining a bite of my fiery chicken curry. Despite me telling him he would absolutely not like the result, he is bound and determined, because hope springs eternal in the soul (and the stomach) of Dog.

He did not get any fiery chicken curry, but he did get to split a treat biscuit with Miss B after I was finished with lunch.

What can I say? I’m a sucker.

I’m exhausted, coughing, and fatigued. Can’t tell if it’s allergies, plague, flu, or just the last year and a half finally coming home to roost in my poor corpus, but whatever it is, I spent most of yesterday in bed and am about to repeat the trick today. Wish me luck, and remember: Mask up, wash your hands, and hydrate. We’re not out of the woods yet. Far from.

RELEASE DAY: Damage

Good morning, everyone! We’ll get to the Friday photo in a bit. It’s a release day! That’s right, today Damage is out in the world.


Damage

Keeping her safe will be his hardest assignment yet. . .

Reeling from trauma and divorce, Cara Halperin takes what should be a simple job with an expensive agency. As a nanny to rich children, she shouldn’t have much to worry about, and her job is just complex enough to keep her from brooding. Unfortunately, the agency’s sent her into a trap.

Vincent Desmarais wants to go back into the field, but instead, he’s put on leave. The diagnosis? PTSD. No problem–he can pick up security work on the side to keep himself sharp–that is, if the side work isn’t just as dangerous as the bloody places he’s longing to get back to.

When the lights go out, Cara and her young charge have only one option: to trust the new security guy. Vincent finds himself unwilling to abandon them to fate or let them out of his sight. If the trio wants to stay alive, they’ve got to trust each other. . .

. . .but that may just be what their enemies are counting on.

Now available from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Amazon, and Kobo.


It’s strange to see stuff I worked on during lockdown (not the book itself, but the publication and production process) reach release. Publication takes a long time, which means we’ve been in lockdown for what seems like bloody well forever. But the book–my love song to a particular movie starring Matthias Schoenaerts–is out now, it’s live, and I’m going to be spending most of the day roaming the house and twitching from release-day nerves.

You’d think it would get easier after so many titles. Alas.

As for the Friday photo, get a load of this guy.



Yep, that’s Boxnoggin attempting to disembowel one of my favorite couch pillows. I gather–and this is my translation, so it might be a little blurry–that it “looked at him funny.” Fortunately he didn’t manage to eat much of the stuffing, so that was all right. And I had another slightly less wounded pillow to stuff into the case too. Small mercies.

Have a good weekend, everyone. I’ll be trying to recover from release day and revisions at once. Multitasking self-care saves time, right?

Right? (If I’m not right, don’t tell me…)

Over and out.