Dogs in False Spring

Good morning, happy Monday, and whew.

Throne of the Five Winds is a Kindle Daily Deal ($2.99USD) today. If you like intrigue, battle, pretty dresses, hairpins, assassinations–well, who doesn’t? And there’s a whole lot of all those things in that series.

In other news, I am typing very slowly because my left wrist is rather swollen and there are gouges on it as well as the back of my hand. People, leash your goddamn dogs. I don’t care how friendly you think they are–Boxnoggin definitely is not. My dog doesn’t step outside without a harness that puts Victorian-era straitjackets to shame, because he can’t be trusted and I have to make good decisions for him. Letting your pooch wander into traffic or, gods forbid, wander up to mine and start some shit only ends poorly for us all.

And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

We had a few sunny days; now the rain is back. Everyone was out in their yards and gardens celebrating false spring the past few days, and even I got a few things trimmed and tidied. But it’s back to being grey and dull, drippy and mossy; I’m thrilled. This also means the sidewalks will be thinly populated during walkies, which is a blessing since I only have half the usual number of hands to deal with Box’s shenanigans.

He’s a good dog, and he wants to be good. Unfortunately he also has zero self-regulation and a whole lot of ideas just bright enough to be incredibly dumb and dangerous. Why Bailey chose him for a companion I will never know; perhaps she wanted another dog she could do the thinking for since she had such an excess of mental horsepower–Max (Odd Trundles), bless him, could forget to breathe and had to be reminded, which was one of Bailey’s self-chosen jobs, performed with zest and glee.

Don’t get me wrong–Boxnoggin’s entirely loving, and goofy, and a darling. I just wish he were a little less enthusiastic when I’m wounded. Ah well.

Dawn is coming up, the firs are dripping. I miss the cedars along the back fence–well, there’s no fence there either, but that’s a complaint for another day as well. There are copyedits to get through and various other bits and bobs to accomplish today. I’d best get started, since I’m moving at about half speed.

See you ’round.

Breaching in Absurdity

There was a band of bright pink and gold at the eastern horizon when I took Boxnoggin out for his first loo break of the day, and a waning moon tangled in the lilacs’s bare branches as well. I prefer to be going to bed as the sun is rolling out, but decades of kid- and dog-schedules means it hasn’t been an option.

Maybe someday soon. In the meantime, there are bits of beauty to be found even while my body grumbles.

My health almost broke completely last week, but things are a tiny bit better now and I’m trying to be as gentle as I can. Plus there’s all sorts of purging and spring cleaning in the works. I can’t recall the last time I did a good old-fashioned Kondo-ing–I have to wait for better weather to put a “free” pile at the end of the driveway, but that just gives me time. I’m breaking tasks into tiny chunks, arranging them like mosaic around the large stones of two projects on the grill.

At least those are going well. I’m within striking distance of finishing two zero drafts at once. Maybe when that’s done I can arrange the surroundings for my usual productivity, because if I’m not juggling three-plus projects at a time I don’t know who I am. I need that third slot in my working schedule open, dammit.

The biggest thing is trying to be kind to myself, a skill I have very little practice with. I tend to hurt myself before anyone else can get around to it, a purely protective mechanism. Trying to be friendly with the person in the mirror is difficult at best; on the other hand, difficulty is what practice is for. The purging of physical space will also help me let go of habits which aren’t serving me. At least, that’s the theory. We all know how vast–and instructive–a gulf looms between planning and execution.

One of the quandaries I’ve been struggling with lately is the paradox of being completely free to decide who to be, and it generally ending up with being who one actually is. I could not wrap my brain around it, no matter how accustomed I’ve become to putting a few contradictory ideas in the old skull-case and just…letting them sit there. There was something in the tension I just wasn’t seeing, and I kept picking at it with every invisible finger I could spare. (Like a scab…)

A couple days ago Boxnoggin was busily sniffing a thorny bush he always tries to get his harness hooked on while voiding his bladder into its tangle. I was occupied with keeping just enough tension on the leash to make sure he didn’t get gouged like a prince attempting to hack his way to a sleeping castle, and it hit me. Right between the eyes, in fact, and I gasped with relief like a breaching whale.

I’d overlooked preferences. Choosing what one wants to be can be boiled down to a preference. For example, I prefer to be kind, it’s literally the easiest state for me and has the benefit of feeling good as well. And what are preferences but part of who one is? The paradox is not neatly resolved–it never is–but the signpost goes up and that’s all I need.

Just point me at it, and I’ll start moving.

Of course, some of my wants and preferences are a little less than ideal–frex, I would prefer to be in bed right now, and to stay there while the books write themselves. Alas, such is not the world we are given. But even those non-ideal wants make me who I am, and I get to decide which of them to indulge and which to gently chivvy myself out of. I suppose that’s the “absolute freedom” part of the bloody paradox.

Life has mostly been about what I can endure rather than what I like. Philosophically it’s been great training; emotionally it’s been a rough patch. Now I have a little breathing room to do something else. Sorting through a midlife tangle (because I’m sure that’s what some of this is, just a function of getting older) is proving most enlightening. A few parts are even fun, but mostly they’re deeply satisfying, plenty amusing, and occasionally painful enough to provoke tears.

I never used to cry, either. Nowadays it’s safe enough to let a few feelings show. A great and lovely change.

Anyway, the coffee is almost done, and there’s feathery bright clouds over a layer of darker grey as the sun rises. The daily balance has been tipped past dawn into actual morning, and soon the dog will need his ramble. I might even have another meditative untangling while he’s busy sticking his nose in something foul; they tend to happen when life is simply so absurd a deeper meaning can slip through the cracks. And we all know dogs are great at absurdity.

See you around.

Modes, Bright Spots, and Dog Rituals

I am a rapidly thinning rope stretched between stress nausea, other health problems, and the determination to keep going. I joke a lot about stubborn endurance being my only real talent, but good gods it’s painful. Being in publishing is like wielding Pullman’s “subtle knife”–it always cuts the writer, and thought some people can make the wound better (looking at you, Beta Reader Who Just Gave Me The Strength To Go On, you know who you are) it never heals completely. The industry is set up to be tremendously exploitative of the people who are actually doing the damn work, whether it be writers (keep ’em below the poverty level!) or editorial assistants (unsung heroes working for peanuts) or or or.

Then you add in ebook thieves atop it, and…well. It’s enough to make one despair.

If I don’t look at my inbox I can actually get a day’s work done, but that just means borrowing trouble. I suppose things will get a little easier if I can manage to finish a zero draft, either of Rook’s Rose (which will bring Hell’s Acre to an end and make the problems there revision instead of creation, always assuming I’m going to publish the duology) or of Riversinger and Minnowsharp, but the latter series is on life support and I’m fighting so hard just to keep it breathing I don’t know what I’m gonna do going into Book 3.

The strain of the past few years is rather beginning to tell, I think. Shifting from crisis mode into attempting-to-heal, or even just a mode mitigating the damage, is tremendously difficult. I’m also watching the whole AI chatbot thing go down, which is big fun all the way ’round. I’ve taken to joking that I should label my work as “100% human extract, 0% AI content”, which is HILARIOUS but doesn’t solve any underlying problems.

Ah well. I have to laugh, otherwise I’ll start screaming.

At least there’s always Boxnoggin. One of his favorite games is burrowing under the covers in the morning; he’s a terrier mix, and those positively love wriggling into dark spaces. (It’s the rat-hunting they were bred for.) But, since he is a dog of Ritual and Habit, this has to take a very specific form. I must first wriggle under the covers, being completely covered and “invisible” to him–since he has very little object permanence–before crooning, “Wheeeere’s Boxnoggin’s-real-name? Where is he?” at specific volume and cadence.

I must also leave an aperture large enough for his snoot to discover, both because he cannot–despite trying with all his might and main–solve a puzzle if it’s too difficult and because otherwise I will be suffocated by his enthusiastic efforts to do so against all odds, for if the puzzle is too complex the dog will apply his entire being, soul and body entire, to brute-forcing it. So I have to make the hole just large enough, and help him while he flails desperately to get into the Hoomin Sheet-Cave.

Once he arrives there is a positive explosion of joy, licking my nose and everything else he can reach, before he curls into a tight ball, waiting for me to arrange the covers just so. Then, with only the tip of his cold wet nose exposed to the outside air, he promptly hits his canine snooze button and is out for as long as I can stand being still. Afterwards he is amazed–AMAZED, I tell you–when I finally struggle out of the wreckage, because he has forgotten the rest of the world exists. And I start the day laughing, because dogs, man.

We don’t deserve them.

I suppose I’d best finish the coffee and get something solid in me; said canine doofus needs his ramble and I will explode if I don’t get a run in. Being trapped by the weather, lacking exercise endorphins, is not doing me any good at all. I have the next scenes needing to be written in both projects currently on the burners prepped, and half the weekend is going to be taken up with proofreader queries. I just knew there was going to be one more kink in the production hose for these particular works; when one sets out to write about divinities of any stripe, one invites such things.

There are bright spots, even in the current mess. It’s hard to focus on them, yet I keep trying.

Endurance has to be good for something.

One White Goose

You have to look past the molehills…

I would apologize for the blurriness of this snap, but what you can’t see is Boxnoggin’s leash wrapped about my legs as he tries desperately to make the acquaintance of a flock of Canadian geese–and one brilliant white number. I could not tell if it was albino or a domestic Anatidae that had decided to go feral, a wild white goose of some other kind hanging out with distant cousins, or a personification of the frost we’ve been having lately.

It’s a wonder I got the photo I did, frankly. Sixty-plus pounds of enthusiastic dog would have been ever so happy to drag me over every single molehill in his quest for literal gooseflesh. He had to settle for a sonic assault, which did precisely nothing but make my head ring.

I can say that the other geese were quite protective, and huddled around their semi-cryptid (if only by comparison to its fellows) relative. But Boxnoggin and I stayed far enough away to not provoke a mass flight and all the mess that entails–since, after all, they tend to unload before takeoff, like seagulls. Which took some doing; the damn dog was utterly beside himself.

“You idiot,” I kept saying, “what would you do if you caught one?” But such considerations do not belong in Boxnoggin’s head. He is a creature of the eternal Now, and at that moment his deepest longing in life was to chase some frickin’ geese.

Unfortunately (according to him) he was dragged free of the park and we continued on walkies. There might be another flock resting there today, depending on when we get out the door; I’m not really looking forward to it even though it’ll make poor Box’s day.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. The weekend looms, I’ve got an elvish city to wreck–the attacking army has reached the walls, which is a nice change from previous days–it’s been a rather bumpy ride to get here. Oh, and I have a new subscriber tier to test out, so we’ll see how that goes.

See you next week…

Not Homeward Yet

What the actual what-what, it’s Monday again? I feel like we were just here? But that’s a frequent occurrence these days. My sense of time, both objective and subjective, has suffered what I suspect is irreparable injury from pandemic and fascism and whatnot. If not for my desktop and phone keeping track, I wouldn’t even know what month it was, let alone day.

Which pretty much means I’m hosed if the electronics start deciding to mess with the temporal continuum. But then again, they could hardly do worse than humans so bring on our new robot overlords, says I.

It is a very clear, very cold morning. Boxnoggin has once more turned his nose up at breakfast–he does this as a matter of course, knowing full well the food will still be there later if he decides to peck at it–and gone back to bed after complaining throughout his entire backyard post-sleep unloading. His complaints did not take the form of hurrying through the entire affair, despite it being frigid. That would be too easy. No, he had to complain and take his sweet time finding the proper spot to piss upon.

I love this dog, even if some of his choices are incomprehensible. I’m sure he feels the same about his humans.

We had an actual fire in the upstairs fireplace yesterday, burning chunks of the well-seasoned cedar that came down in the backyard during the terrible windstorm. It took all day for Boxnoggin to get accustomed to it–for ’twas a change, and all change is bad to this particular canine–and this morning he is looking at the fireplace with puzzlement because it’s no longer snapping, popping, and providing warmth. It does rather need to be shoveled and brushed before I build another fire, despite the cedar burning very clean; if I am exceeding ambitious I will get that sorted today.

(Probably not.)

The river race in Fall of Waterstone has been written, and I had high hopes of getting to the actual sacking of an elvish city during the weekend. Alas, this being an epic fantasy, the elf-king of that particular place wanted a conference; my tongue is thrust deeply into cheek since the narrator clearly believes “this meeting could’ve been an email”. Fortunately nobody will burst into song, for lo though I love Tolkien I have a very low opinion of my own doggerel and I want to get to the FIRST BIG SET-PIECE BATTLE, which will feature fire and slaughter and narrow escapes and falling masonry and a huge troll twist-burning with malignant magic and, because I am Like This, a particular exercise in rhythm-writing I’ve been looking forward to for over a year.

And I’m not even halfway through! There’s still fleeing to the forest kingdom, an elf-queen who looks like Gwendoline Christie, ash-orcs riding spiders and direwargs, plus the stunning (and kidnapping!) conclusion to write. And then there’s book three, involving the cursed werewolf city, a thrilling escape, yet more battles, death vs. giant liches, a sea-voyage to talk to the source of all pain, a celestial battle that will destroy half the continent, and a bittersweet ending.

Go big or go home, and I ain’t heading homeward yet.

It’s difficult to attempt something of this size and nature without someone standing at the cave-mouth to fend off monsters. I’m basically engaged in a fighting retreat with this trilogy, which we all know is the most difficult of maneuvers. But in a few years it’ll be done, and no matter the critical reception, I will know what I’ve accomplished. That’s going to have to be enough.

Sometimes that’s all a writer gets. It’s very dark-night-of-the-soul around here lately. I’m hanging onto the ledge with teeth and toenails, because my hands are busy writing.

So. Monday it is. I’m really enjoying Tumblr right now, and most of my professional network has moved over to Mastodon as well–except the publishers, but they’re always the last to arrive because it takes a long while to execute a turn when you’re that ponderously sized. Whales and elephants manage it more swiftly because they’re magic, but corporations are exceedingly inelegant brutes. And Boxnoggin has figured out I’m almost done with coffee, so it’s breakfast-and-walkies time.

At least that never alters. World without end, the beast needs his slouching ’round a few blocks. And maybe I’ll get to the sacking today.

It would be nice.

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.