Dustbin Guard

I was out rambling the dogs before the snowpocalypse, and someone had a Very Large Dustbin before their domicile. It was almost full, too. I don’t know what was happening, but this fellow was standing guard at the door.

Boxnoggin, of course, considered him a Very Large Threat, straining at his harness and flinching every time the breeze made the intruder sway. True to form, Miss B was mildly interested until she decided the whole thing was boring1 and what really needed to happen was supervision of Boxnoggin, which meant she nipped at his hindquarters to get him to shut up.

He interpreted this as an attack from the big hanging thing, there was a fursplosion, and I had trouble hauling him away because I was laughing so hard.

Normally I would have stopped for a conversation with the fellow, but we couldn’t be heard over the dog(s) and it looked like he had a Serious Job anyway, guarding the bin. One doesn’t taunt or torment a poor soldier on duty. I’d’ve offered some refreshment, but by the time we saw the bin again after the snow it was empty and he had moved on. I hope he’s standing guard somewhere else.

But the dogs remember that there was a Thing there, and even when the giant metal bin vanishes they will be absolutely certain that slice of pavement holds something foreboding, and will have to stop and investigate it every time. Then they’ll forget something used to be there and merely halt because it’s habit, it’s what one does at that particular place. It’s amazing to see the process play out; there are places we absolutely, positively must stop on walkies because Something Forgotten Once Happened Here.

The Princess often remarks that we are to dogs what Tolkien’s elves are to humans, which is alternately hilarious and depressing. It makes me want to narrate their morning rambles in high fantasy style, with historical references2 but then I get sad thinking of how brief my furry little companions’ lives are.

It’s probably best to focus on the funny bits. I won’t be able to help myself, after all; I’ll mutter Boxnoggin, what does your dog nose smell? and start laughing like an idiot, humming a kazoo-laden rendition of Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. The dogs, of course, are used to me laughing at random things, and are just content to share my joy.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. It’s been A Week, even considering the year of lockdown. May we have calmer waters ahead, and may we find comfort in rituals. And please, dear gods, let the bin go on its merry way soon so Boxnoggin can stop freaking out every time we get within a block of it.

Over and out.

On Privacy, and Cleaning

The snow is mostly gone, which means (according to the dogs) that everything is back to normal and they have forgotten there were even snow days at all. Consequently, the trace of white lingering in the backyard represents a Change and thus something Boxnoggin has to bark at. The humans must be alerted to Change, because Change is Bad.

At least they got a long ramble yesterday, so as far as they’re concerned, everything is swell.

I am engaged upon two projects at the moment–a revise of the third book in an epic fantasy series, and some digital housekeeping. Pandemic lockdown’s been going on for over a year now; I’ve largely adapted to video calls and the like. The lockdown adjustment period was a marvel of people reaching out, pulling together, and caring for each other–which is, don’t get me wrong, still going on and is wonderful beyond measure.

It was also a helluva gift for predators of varying kinds, taking advantage of the open doors and grace. Which is fine–I’d rather help those who need it despite the risk. Yet now with things settling1 I have hit the wall, and am taking a good hard look at some of the things I’ve allowed into my space(s).

It used to be I would just let things go, smile and nod and Put Up With It until I reached a breaking point, grabbed my katana, and cut a problem right in half. Which solves a great many things but also baffles onlookers, because up until that point I am flexible as a contortionist and accommodating as all get-out. I’ve been attempting to alter that pattern, because the fallout takes up a lot of time I could otherwise spend on pleasant things.2

And sometimes it’s not even a predator. Sometimes–and this is something you’re never supposed to admit, as a woman–there are people one just doesn’t like. And that’s perfectly okay! Heaven knows there are people I just rub the wrong way.3 With nine billion of us on the planet, it’s ridiculous to expect to like or be liked by everyone. Deciding not to spend time with someone you dislike doesn’t make you a bad person–far from. It can, in fact, free you up to spend time with those you do like.

Now, there are people one dislikes that one has to be professional with for the sake of getting along, or even just having a reasonably calm time at one’s job. That’s not what I’m on about here. I’m talking purely personally, which gets a little strange since I’m partly a public personality, what with social media giving access to creators in unprecedented ways. I’m endlessly glad I’ve had only middling success and am not famous, which just douses this particular dynamic with jet fuel and lights a match.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get creeps, or stalkers, or people who want to be published and think feigning friendship is the way to get there, or even just the lonely. My natural inclination to be as kind as possible has been weaponized against me before, and that’s left a mark. Plus, I don’t take vacations or days off, really. The nature of the work–being basically a freelancer supporting an entire household–means no time for it, and very little time for keeping up with the telly or even streaming the New Hot HBO-or-Whatever Series. So the people who want access to me for, let’s say, non-friendly reasons tend to get sorted out pretty quickly, and I’m vigilant.

Sometimes they work their way in, though, especially when the digital “doors” open up because there’s a catastrophe and I’m actively seeking to be as kind as possible to as many as possible. I realized lately that I’d been avoiding certain places where I used to find a lot of solace and support because of this dynamic, and I don’t like it.

Which means it’s time for cleaning. It’s spring, might as well. I did a whole thread yesterday about the struggle of leaving behind people you care about in a space that no longer feels safe, and how it’s okay to protect yourself. It’s advice I wish I would have had when younger. This sort of cleaning is a difficult, painful process, not least because one naturally wants to accomplish it without hurting or harming the innocent, so to speak. For me, it’s best accomplished slowly, in patient stages, and well before I reach the katana phase.

Being a public person means one is going to get a certain amount of creep swirling around one’s mentions, comments, and the like. It’s a hazard of the job, but one doesn’t have to deal with it everywhere. It’s perfectly natural and reasonable to keep some spaces private; the world is not owed access to every single moment of your day, despite the inevitable pressure to open up for it. And if your decision to keep some parts private gets you yelled at by Certain People, that says more about them than it does about you.

By their works shall ye know them, and all that. Plus, if we’re dispensing homilies, those who mind that you’re keeping some spaces private don’t matter, and those who matter won’t mind.

Now it’s time to ramble the dogs, for the snow is gone and they are eager to be back to our regular schedule. I also get a run today, since the melt has been accomplished to the point where I’m fairly sure I won’t slip and break my fool neck while attempting warp speed on icy pavement. I’m nervy and anxious to get out the door, but before I go, I’d just like to reiterate: It’s okay to keep some things private, or to put up the walls and declare some parts of your self not-for-sharing. It’s also okay to leave a space where you no longer feel safe; like the airplane disaster videos say, you must first adjust your own mask before helping anyone else with theirs.

This is difficult as all get-out, and should you find it overwhelming you’re not alone. It’s a hard thing, and it takes time.

But you–yes, you reading this–are worth it. And (though I often forget as much) so am I.

Over and out.

See What We’ve Saved

The instant the slush goes down to something below “fall and break my fool neck” proportions, the happier the dogs and I will both be. Boxnoggin is practically going mad without his rambles, and I’m not far behind.

It was a hard weekend, though peaceful because of the snow. Even with the sloppy melt going on, there are still areas of blank white, nice and crisp. Watching the powder fall was soothing; the ice storm a little less so. And I am, truth be told, slightly tired of my feet being numb, even in several layers of socks.

All told, though, I like the cold better than heat. One can always put on another layer or sip something warm. Sweating, though–that leads to chafing, and dear gods how I hate chafing.

I did get a lot of knitting done. The Princess’s best friend and the Prince both have nice new chenille blankets, and I had eight skeins of a chunky wool blend that’s mostly turned into scarves at this point. A great deal of the fun of knitting is giving things away.1

I finished Kieckhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages recently, which was an enjoyable read; next up is Kelleher’s The Alliance of Pirates. I’m really looking forward to the latter, and maybe it will chase the Viking stuff out of my head so I can focus on the revisions that need to be done without a whole ‘nother epic fantasy series trying to tear and claw its way out.

Some books are possessive. This one, however, needs to wait its turn. I’m pretty sure it’s unsellable, which has never stopped me before but which does mean it has to fill in the gaps and cracks between other working projects. Of course nothing is as delicious as stolen time, and writing in said stolen time is the sweetest fruit there is.

And of course maybe I’ll suddenly get the urge to write something about pirates. I hear Black Sails is really good, so I can possibly distract myself with that.2

It’s hard for a lot of people right now. It’s yet another six-month pandemic anniversary (some of us have been in lockdown for a whole goddamn year) and we could have been done with this before now if reasonable science-based adults had been in charge. A lot of us are grieving, or in holding patterns unable to grieve as well as cut off from necessary contact. And let’s not even talk about the fascist coup and all that bullshit.

At least there are dogs, and the beauty of fresh snow. There’s the secret stealthy sound of melt in the gutters, there are books and quiet and the fact that even if we’re in lockdown, we’re not precisely alone. Every day we’ve spent hunkered at home, every time we put on a mask, we’re Doing A Good. We’ve lost a lot, yes. Who can tell how much we’ve saved because most of us have been doing what we should all through this?

The trouble with the thankless work of saving is that it’s invisible.

It might seem like faint comfort, but I’ll take it. The thing that’s getting me through is caring for those I’m responsible for, and reminding myself that staying in and masking up are ways to show I care. I’m a natural hermit; the isolation doesn’t wear on me. What does is the loneliness and sadness of those I care for.

I know it’s rough. Most of us are quietly doing the best we can; sometimes that gets lost in the noise of the selfish. They are few indeed, but very loud. Of course the sonic assault is one of their primary weapons, to distract us from noticing how tiny and petty they are. Otherwise we might just stop letting their selfish selves ruin things for the rest of us.

Imagine that.

It’s time to play with the canines a little, working off a bit of their energy until we can go rambling and let them stick their snoots in the usual spots. Then a shower, and to the grindstone of revisions. Getting books through publication is akin to cliff-climbing–one handhold at a time, exhale, use your legs, it’s about the whole route not just the next hold.

Best to get started, then. Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Remember, we can’t see what we’ve saved–but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Sleep, Cold, Carnivorous Sheep

The weekend was long, Sunday night sleepless; consequently Monday was spent in a fog. Not only am I recovering from finishing a three-season serial (at least, the zero draft of such) but Various Life and Historical Issues have reared their heads lately.

No wonder I collapsed into sweet unconsciousness for about twelve hours last night. It was welcome, but now I’m in what I think is a sleep hangover. Do those exist? They should, because I’m fairly sure I have one.

Sleep has always been difficult. It’s hard enough to shut my brain off for any period of time, however fractional. Then there’s the vulnerability aspect–growing up, any dimming of hypervigilance was dangerous indeed. One never knew where the next attack was coming from. In past years, sometimes the only rest I could get was while hiding in a closet.

Any closet. I’ve hunkered down in a lot of closets.

It helps to have the dogs nearby, breathing quietly and sometimes dreaming. And, as Calm Therapist used to say, “if you can’t sleep, just resting is good too.”

It’s a very chilly morning, at least for us–hovering near freezing happens rarely here in the PNW. The dogs are, for once, not pushing for walkies. Mostly because Boxnoggin went out this morning and gave me a Significant Look. “I left a nice warm bed for this?” He’s really not going to like when the mercury drops to the Fahrenheit twenties next week. Poor slick-coated fellow.

I get one more day half off before I dive into the epic fantasy revise. It’s yet another finish to a trilogy, and things I spent two doorstop-sized books carefully setting up come crashing down, landing precisely where I want them. (Or so close it makes no difference.) I’ve been marking time with Cold North lately; I meant for the book to be a very close, confined gothic but Tolkien crept in, and that means sprawl. So now I’ve got elves, a Black Land, and (in the most recent chapter) a mutated, carnivorous sheep.

I don’t even know. These things just happen.

I don’t cherish the idea of yet another epic fantasy–the last one exhausted me–but if that’s what the Muse wants, I suppose that’s what she’ll get.1

At least I’ve some finished works, going into 2021. If all else fails, self-publishing is an option for at least one of them; the other might do as a serial.

All that can wait. There’s walkies to accomplish, after all, and a morning run to get in while I’m still feeling bouncy. I like inclement weather because it leaves the sidewalks free and those damn middle-aged white men who won’t leash their dogs stay inside.2

The house is quiet. The coffee is sinking in. If this is what “enough” sleep feels like, it’s quite pleasant and I wish I could have more of it. But life is about what we have, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.

Time Loop, Recovery

Between various bodily aches and canine upset tummies (Miss B is an Elderly Statesdog, and has Elderly Statesdog Problems) I was up and down all night. I really could have used some sleep after the weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. Groundhog Day is, after all, here.

Again.

I suppose I could have gotten up and done some knitting, but instead I lay in the dark and thought about things. The mind is always a sack of squirrels; it never, ever shuts off. I suppose some part of it is the genetic predisposition to anxiety triggered and reinforced by my upbringing. Consequently my main strategy to gain some rest is pushing myself to exhausted collapse, which isn’t exactly optimal.

On the bright side, I got a character stabbed yesterday, and since there’s no run today (the body simply won’t have it, for once) I can work through the consequences for long uninterrupted hours. That’s the plan, anyway. Anticipating uninterrupted work hours is a sure way to ruin and disappointment, but I can’t help myself. I long for some time to simply roll around in a world of my own creation, escaping from this one.

It might not be healthy, but it’s my job, and I like it. If I were caught in a time-loop I’d probably spend the day doing the same thing, for at least a century or so.

At least Miss B appears to have no lingering ill effects from the night’s games. She is, in fact, her usual spiteful, jealous, stubborn, lovely self. I’ve rarely been so pleased to see her muscling Boxnoggin aside to get in on pets and treats, or patrolling the hall as she attempts, once more, to boss every human in the house into a single room where she can supervise us. We don’t listen, of course, but without something to herd she is at somewhat of a loss, and Boxnoggin has decided he wants to be curled upon his fancy memory-foam bed in the living room until it’s time for walkies.

Part of recovery is the spinning mental merry-go-round married to physical lethargy. The tension between the two is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s just one of those things one has to get through. The body will not let go until it’s processed everything one pushed aside to survive an awful event, no matter how one ducks and dodges. Might as well sink into it, let it happen, deal, cry, scream, use the heavy bag, so forth, so on. Fighting the processing gets one nowhere.

I should say it’s never gotten me anywhere. The only way out, as I tell the kids, is through. Trying to avoid processing just burns energy I could use for other things, like getting this damn zero finished, getting through the epic fantasy revisions (third and last of a triptych, my gods), and figuring out the next serial–which I think will be Hell’s Acre, my alt-Victorian melding of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and The Da Vinci Code, with plenty of other things (the Roman Empire never fell, for example) added in. I’m going back and forth between that and Mandeville & Starke; we’ll see what I finally land on.

So if your brain feels like a bag of methed-out cyborg squirrels and your body feels like it’s been beaten with a club, you might be simply processing the last few years’ worth of constant trauma. I keep saying you’re not alone because if I can help even one person through the woods, I consider it time and effort well spent. We must save each other; goodness knows nobody else is coming to.

Now Miss B is nudging at my knee, knowing from the way I’m breathing and shifting that I’m almost done typing, which means it’s almost time for walkies. (Dogs, as well as human toddlers, are great believers in habit and ritual.) When I stand, the creak of my chair will alert Boxnoggin, and despite my aching body and exploding brain, I will smile because he will thunder down the hall full of excitement.

It’s not a time loop, but it’s a nice reminder nonetheless. It’s Groundhog Day, again. I don’t know how many more I’ll have with Miss B, but I plan to use each one to the full.

Over and out.

Flakes, Time, and (French) Toast

A lot of you are on the cake train, and I’ve got to say, if that’s my contribution to the rising relief, I’m happy with it. (Bonus for all the “cake wasn’t a lie!” jokes. I knew you were My People.)

However, I have definitely had enough cake, and though the enjoyment of cake is a renewable resource, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make another one for a while.

The weather feathers are saying snow today. It won’t last–it never does in this temperate part of the world–but it’ll be nice to drink some hot cocoa and watch it come down, even if nobody told me we were out of sandwich bread.

Bloody hell.

I’m not heading out to the grocer’s under these conditions. Everyone will be out panicking through their French toast shopping–eggs, milk, bread. I suppose I could whip up some bread dough and have that be the day’s project along with getting the end of HOOD‘s Season Three arranged. I need this zero draft done, boy howdy.

I had a hot knitting date last night, so I didn’t get in any work on the Viking Elementalist. It’s all right, I still have to figure out what happens on her first night sleeping away from home. I think the werewolves are going to make an appearance, though not in the way the protagonist might expect.

I originally had a huge set-piece chase and stuff planned for the end of HOOD but it just doesn’t make sense. The story wants a different route. I just wish it would have told me before now, but honestly, it was a bad year for both of us and I’m holding no grudges. I have to have faith that the story knows what it’s doing and will bring us all home safely.

Faith in anything else, however, is in somewhat short supply around here lately. (Need I restate, it was a bad year and the January following was a real dilly too, even though it hasn’t even ended yet?) It hasn’t been a full week since the inauguration, but the time feels endless. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to the pre-pandemic experience of time. I’m reserving judgment on whether that’s a good or bad thing, just like I’m waiting to see if there will be any consequences leveled at violent racist insurrectionists.

I had a whole rant flash through my mind about how we’re all shaky-legged in the first recovery stage after major ongoing abusive trauma, trying to breathe and flinching every time the madness looks like it’s about to start up again. But Boxnoggin is alerting every time a stray gust of wind goes down the street, and I can’t keep a sentence in my head long enough to type while he’s interrupting every other word.

He wants his damn ramble, even though he’s going to pick up his dainty paws and give me many a reproachful glance as soon as he realizes it’s near freezing and yes, we’re bloody well walking even though he’s changed his mind.

You know, I bet I can still have the big chase at the end of Season Three if…

*time passes*

…aaaaaand I managed to get the idea onto a Post-it before Boxnoggin lost his shit again, since a nice lady with a stroller and two well-trained dogs was passing in front of our house, and apparently that Cannot Be Borne. There’s sixty-plus pounds of dopey black boxer-terrier who needs to frickin’ chill, and he won’t until after a ramble.

Wish me luck. It’s cold out there, and maybe I’ll see a flake or two. Atmospheric, though. Not human. (Though our neighborhood has no shortage of the latter…)

Over and out.

Swimming, Smile

The morning has started with Boxnoggin jostling Miss B into punching Yours Truly in the mouth with her paw. Of course when I let out a short blurt of surprise and recoiled, both dogs realized their human was hurt in some fashion and scrambled to attempt aid. Which meant stepping upon my recumbent self, nose-punching me in the eye, scraping my shoulder with doggie nails, and then getting into a shoving match with each other. I had a swollen lip before I even rolled out of bed, and my eye is still watering.

This doesn’t bode well for Thursday, but maybe the day’s just getting everything out of its system early?

At least I have coffee. Some days the java just tastes better, and this is one of them.

I only got 450 or so words on HOOD‘s Season Three before dark yesterday. Once the sun went down, though, things got better and I ended up with a solid 2k+. Of course I’ll have to look today to see if any of them are good words that can be retained.

No silver lining without a cloud, naturally.

Once I get the zero of Season Three out, it’ll be time to cross that off my big to-do list and figure out the next six months’ worth of writing. Normally I juggle one serial, two trad publisher books, and one project Just For Me at a time, with small breaks for revisions, copyedits, and the like. With the loss of productivity due to pandemic, fascist coup, and related stress, I’m not sure if that’s do-able.

But if I don’t write, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. Not to mention I can’t go a day without writing at least something, or I start to feel diamond-tipped insect-feet itches under my skin.1 It’s just easier to continue pushing myself than to allow any sort of break.

It’s very… sharklike. Keep swimming so I don’t suffocate, and wear a smile.

So. Thursday is antsy, but so am I. My coffee has cooled rapidly while typing this, and the dogs are very eager for walkies. I find myself eager to get out for a run; getting rid of cortisol and other stress chemicals through sweat has been a real sanity-saver. Of course, it doesn’t balance out the stress-eating, but then again nothing’s perfect.

Except for dogs, that is. Even when they punch me in the face first thing in the morning.

All right, Thursday. We’re not going to hurt each other (any more), are we? Because I’m in a mood to lay some napalm if you get dodgy.

Over and out.