Magnolia, Centre

The Pacific Northwest is a bit strange. Magnolias do very well here. (So do rose bushes and figs, but that’s a different story.) I was be-bopping along, walking the dogs in the heavy, apocalyptic smoke (the world is burning, natch, ah well, had to happen sometime) when we were forced to pause under a big magnolia for something that apparently smelled AMAZING to two canines.

It struck me, looking at the branch hanging over my head, that the tree doesn’t give a good goddamn about anything. It just… grows. And for a moment my own burden of anxiety lightened, looking at the new buds.

Take where you can get it in this year of our disaster 2020, my friends. There are new leaves on at least one magnolia in the world.

The dogs finally had huffed all they wanted, and we moved on. But that moment of calm was a treasure, and I keep thinking about it. We’ve all been knocked ass over teakettle, but even in the spinning there are moments to be found at the centre.

May you have at least one, if not many, today.

Small Signs

After a morning spent chasing the sound of squirrels on the roof and attempting to break down the sliding glass door because one of the little fuzzy bastards was on the deck, the dogs demanded walkies. I was forced to comply, with the hope that said walkies would wear them the fuck out and halt the sonic assault, not to mention the bowling-me-over thing.

There are small signs the smoke is thinning–things have shadows now, the sky is dingy white instead of nicotine yellow, and (amazingly!) I saw the sun behind a shifting veil of smoke and vapor. Not to mention the birds are screaming in every tree they can find, and the squirrels are out in force looking for snacks. It’s warmer, too–the eerie chill of the past few days is breaking in bits and pieces.

Back home now. The walkies were too short, just barely scratching the canine itches for movement, but it was getting hard to breathe. The deep drilling pain in my lungs is matched by the eye-watering, my nose filling up, and even my ears aching. I’m so ready for this to be over.

Today is for avocado toast (I have one ripe avocado left and plenty of good sourdough) and an epic battle scene, not to mention a villain-motivation scene. If I can just get those two done I can call it a day. I suspect it’ll be easier now that the smoke is thinking somewhat, though not nearly quick enough to suit.

At least Boxnoggin hasn’t attempted to fling himself through the sliding glass door more than once this morning. Small mercies. The light is strengthening outside my window; I never thought I’d miss blue sky. I’m generally more comfortable with the grey of a rainy Pacific Northwest winter, but I find myself longing for a clear day. Being able to run will do me no end of good; the smoke has worked its way into the garage so even the treadmill is off. I haven’t quite collapsed in a breathless puddle yet, but my lungs are telling me it’s close.

And now, breakfast. Tuesday is looking to be as quiet as can be expected. Maybe I can even curl up for a nap sometime this afternoon. Frankly the prospect of crawling back into bed is the only thing getting me through today, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Onward to a morass of blood, swords, cavalry, and trumpeted charges–no, in the book, not out here in meatspace, although the way things are going I wouldn’t be surprised. 2020’s looking to fill everyone’s bingo card.

See you around.

Smoke, High-Strung

The sun is a red disc hanging low in the sky, it reeks of smoke, and I can’t stop coughing. Running today is going to be an adventure, I can just tell. At least this is what we have the treadmill for; I can run inside and not perish. At least, hopefully.

The smoke is from the California and Oregon fires; we’re right on the border between Oregon and Washington. Come afternoon it will probably stream out to sea, but in the meantime we’re breathing it. I can barely imagine what it must be like in California right now. Last night my writing partner remarked “I said 2020 could go die in a fire, and I guess it took me up on the offer.”

I’ve been using the D&D fanfic to keep myself going. There’s a certain Murder Himbo NPC my character’s getting involved with, which is a lot of fun. In game and in fiction, it’s super hot. In real life, it’s a restraining order waiting to happen, and I’m exquisitely glad for that division. It’s fun to play my psychotic teenage id constrained only by dice rolls and the whim of the DM, but it’s also good to crawl into my nice safe bed with the dogs each night.

I mean, I love me a good murder himbo, but I wouldn’t want one around the house. Imagine the cleanup.

Today is for dropping a lit match onto the carefully stacked kindling in The Bloody Throne. Throne is Book 3 (The Poison Prince comes out in November), so it’s the payoff I’ve been building towards for two and a half massive chunks of text. I’m also in the last half of the third season of HOOD, and just about to write Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and Little John breaking a planetary embargo to bring back King Richard and end Prince John’s reckless, despotic rule. So each writing session is slow but paradoxically mentally a bit easier than usual, because I’ve stacked all the blocks carefully and now just have to make sure they fall in the correct pattern when I yank the keystone out.

That’s a lot of mixed metaphors, but you get the idea.

I may have to take a couple days off soon, because my wrists are still hashed from the portal fantasy I wrote during my semi-nervous breakdown and also from spending the weekend dumping out 16k or so of the D&D fanfic on top of regular work. The spirit is more than willing–work, running, or game sessions are the only times I forget everything else happening in the world–but my flesh is beginning to think I’m a bit of a martinet.

Ah well. Ice, stretching, and ibuprofen are the order of the day. I am wondering if it’s worth taking the dogs out for a walk in this smoke-haze. Boxnoggin is a Sensitive, Nervous Fellow, and is already skittish from the few days of high winds. He really, really doesn’t like the smell of burning. Miss B is sanguine, of course–not much disturbs her as long as I’m nearby. She has largely consigned both winds and smoke to the realm of “things my goddess does I don’t understand” and leaves them to me to sort out. Which is as it should be, but Boxnoggin still thinks he has some sort of responsibility to Take Care Of It, and of course he’s manifestly unfit so it stresses him out.

I keep getting nervous, high-strung pets nobody else will take. Gee, I wonder why.

I’m glad of my own precarious bubble of safety today; I wish I could share it with everyone on earth. Be kind to yourselves, dearly beloveds. Right now, survival–in whatever forming whatever fashion–is winning. Illegitimati non carborundum, and all that.

Bastard Latin, yes, but it gets the point across. Happy Thursday, over and out.

To The Leashes

Well, I’m awake. At least, some simulacrum of awake, I suppose, since my eyes are open and I seem to be enduring consciousness.

I wasn’t allowed to work once I started making dinner on Saturday, so yesterday was spent with chores and poking at things that don’t qualify as work, per se. I’m not sure if this means a return to normal productivity or I’m just using all the dread as fuel the way I used to harness deep anxiety; I suppose time will tell.

The most fun I had this weekend was dumping out a fair chunk of text loosely based on our D&D sessions. It feels like writing fanfic, and in a way I suppose it is. But it’s hilarious, it’s zany, and it’s not work, so I was allowed to spend most of yesterday rolling around in it and chortling happily to myself.

My nerves are a little steadier this week. Like grieving, adjusting to disaster requires certain stages, and while one might go through two or three of them at once, they all have to be at least touched or one won’t reach the other side.

Not sure if there’s another side to reach, but I am balanced delicately on surface tension like a water bug, and attempting to keep my step light indeed.

The heat doesn’t help, but then again, when does it ever? The dogs are at least as grateful for the air conditioning as I am, though, and spend most of their time sprawled on cool tile or hardwood. Boxnoggin is taking his mandate to keep Miss B alive very seriously; she is an old lady and really needs a companion to boss around in order to live her best life. He doesn’t mind being bossed since he just does as he pleases anyway, and the resultant spite from being balked in her quest to supervise his fuzzy ass is keeping Miss B young.

Just goes to show one always needs something to live for. Sheer stubborn spite will do.

So. It’s a Monday, I have a full day’s work before me even though it’s a holiday. But since it’s a holiday, I won’t work too hard, just hard enough to scratch the itch of writing a combat scene or two. Plus, I’ve got to get out the door before the heat builds. The fur-beasts need walking, and even though I can use the deep anxiety for fuel, I also need to work off the edge of it with running so it doesn’t wear my body and brain out like a well-loved toy.

And now, to the leashes. The dogs can’t walk themselves, and the books won’t write themselves. It is, not gonna lie, nice to be necessary for both.

Happy Labour Day, my chickadees. May we all labor only as much as we wish to today, and may those who would oppress us roast upon their own fires.

Over and out.

Hope, Dry Land

It’s been a dreadful week. Monday was bad, Tuesday worse, Wednesday a gulp of air but not nearly enough, Thursday below the surface again. Now it’s Friday, so we all deserve a treat.

This is the dog who wriggled out of his harness last week and gave me a damn heart attack, my gods. He has since been very quiet and thoughtful, probably since I only caught him because he treed a cat. (Don’t worry, I made sure the cat could get down before I left the area to drag Boxnoggin’s silly ass home. Nobody was hurt, though I was terribly frightened for about ten minutes.) Also, I got a new harness for him, one billed as escape-proof.

We shall see. But anyway, here’s Boxnoggin after his adventures, worn out and collapsed on his fancy memory foam bed, reproachfully staring at me because I didn’t let him keep the cat.

We’ve all got problems, haven’t we.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. If you’ve reached the end of your ability to cope, you’re not alone. I’m hoping that a little rest and a little scratching the itch of a book I’ll never sell will give me enough strength to break the surface, gasp, and maybe find some way to climb out of the sea.

At least I can’t sink entirely. I mean, just look at that face. The dog needs me to remind him how to get up the stairs in the morning, for godsake; Miss B has her own list of requirements. For them–and for the kids–I’m still struggling for the surface.

May we all reach dry land soon. Over and out.

Portal Fantasy Weekend

Spent the weekend reorienting myself, by which I mean “taking two days off and writing nothing but portal fantasy.” Subscribers will be happy to know Moon’s Knight is coming along nicely, and I’m almost ready to throw the heroine out into the Underdark to make her way somewhere very special.

I’m a little taken aback by the response to what was intended to be a throwaway few chapters of a story that would probably never gather steam. I suppose now I should finish it, but it’ll take a while since it has to fit around three paying projects. All of which I’m either behind on, or deathly afraid of becoming so.

Pandemic and fascist coup tend to put a spike in one’s productivity, alas.

The urge to retract into my shell–or crawl into a hole and tug the hole closed behind me–is well-nigh overpowering. Shutting off the wireless and just writing, fueled by tea, seems the best option right now. Looking at the news is a fool’s game. I’ve lost all hope of being able to turn any fraction of the tide. A vast mass of Americans not only wants to worship death and kill itself choking on its own jackboots and phlegm, but also wants to take the rest of us into the abyss as well. Fighting that current is exhausting.

But it’s a Monday, and today I start the last half of the last season of HOOD. Then I shift to The Bloody Throne, where two women are accosted by an Emperor in a garden and nobody gets what they want out of the interaction. Last but not least, I’ve dinner to think of, and finishing the day by getting the protagonist in The Black God’s Heart out of her city and well on her road trip to the West.

And Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped. At least I’ve my health.

At least I have music. Today is for Anonymous 4 and Alan Parsons Project. I don’t know why the Muse wants them in alternating order, but I’ve long since learned to just give the bitch what she’s yelling for and let it go. We work better together when I just feed her what she demands. I’m hoping she’ll let me listen to some Willie Nelson soon, I have an urge to put Red Headed Stranger on repeat once the church songs and synthesizers have scratched whatever is itching on the Muse’s back.

The dogs are eager for their walk. After Boxnoggin’s recent shenanigans he has not only his harness but two collars and a leash; the new, hopefully escape-proof harness arrives soon. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. And there’s a run to get in today.

If you’ve lost the ability to deal with *gestures at the world* all this, you’re not alone. I’m taking refuge in work, as I often do; I wish I had some advice that held even a glimmer of making any of this better. Alas, I’ve got nuttin’. All I can do is write, and gods grant it’s enough.

And who knows? If I get all my work done today, I might steal a few minutes for the portal fantasy. Stolen time is the sweetest and most productive, as we all well know.

Happy Monday, chickadees. Take care of yourself today. We need everyone, especially you, so do what you’ve gotta to re-wrap the insulation on your nerves. I don’t see this ending anytime soon–and with that cheerful thought, I’m going to finish my coffee and walk the beasts. Pretty soon Boxnoggin will be in a hamster ball for the daily promenades, just to keep him out of trouble.

And with that hilarious mental image, my beloveds, I am over and out.

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Concluded

At least the fence is still standing. That’s something, I suppose.

I promised you the conclusion to the tale of Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable yesterday, didn’t I. When we left our fair heroine (that would be me) she was attempting to teleport to said fence, though she had used up her one teleportation ticket for the day on attempting to grab her fool dog before he could launch himself for a spinning squirrel. Said fool dog had just shaken off the daze-effects of hitting the fence and was hauling himself, somewhat drunkenly but at a high rate of speed, after a spitting, cursing squirrel who sounded like a shaven-headed New Yawk cabbie.

So. One dizzy squirrel, making directly across the yard for the Venerable. One just as dizzy dog hard upon his heels. And then there was yours truly, my darlings, who had not only hit her hip on the table (gaining a quite magnificent bruise) but managed to get around the Venerable, which meant…

…which meant, O my beloveds, that I was in Travis’s way.

I skidded to a stop, almost turning my ankle on a fallen fir cone. At least this once I was wearing shoes–a small mercy indeed, because I was in the path of a cussing squirrel and a dog-sized tornado.

This was, to put it mildly, not an optimal position. But I compensated for it by digging my heels in and clapping my hands over my ears. I have no idea why I did the last, unless the combination of Travis’s torrent of obscenities and my own–what’s that?

Oh yes, my dearest Reader. I was producing a fair amount of blue words on my own account. Travis has nothing on me when I get going; when provoked, I am capable of language that not only would make a sailor blush but would also drop my sainted grandmother into her grave twice over if that redoubtable lady was not already occupying hallowed ground. And my grandfather would be at once pleased and mildly chagrined, suspecting that I inherited the propensity for breathtaking obscenity from him. (He might even be right.)

ANYWAY. This is the conclusion, so I’d best be swift. Or swift-ish.

You know how, especially in sports or action movies, everything slows down–even the dialogue, which produces a weird distorted rumble–as disaster approaches? I stood a very real chance of being flattened not only by fleeing squirrel but by my own dear, dopey, absolutely determined dog. It occurred to me, in one of those crystal-clear thoughts that go through one’s head during a disaster, that a squirrel looking for high ground might mistake me for a sapling and attempt to scale the redoubt, so to speak.

And Travis… well.

Travis bulleted past, and I am telling the bare honest truth: his tail brushed my throbbing, almost-turned ankle because he was still zigzagging somewhat.

I stopped cussing to scream like a cartoon elephant upon discovering a mouse on the floor.

Boxnoggin, on the other hand, was not so lucky. He clipped me hard on the shin as he went past, and I almost went down. Perhaps it was Physics’s final blessing that I deflected him a fraction from his course, or he might well have gained himself a squirrel snack.

But Travis had reached the Venerable, which seemed singularly unmoved by events. (It’s very phlegmatic, even for a tree.) I mean, the Venerable had witnessed the approaching disaster, been hit by the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000, and furthermore–being firmly rooted–could do absolutely nothing to dodge any further trouble, hijinks, or shenanigans.

That poor tree. Odd Trundles used to headbutt it all the time, too. I keep thinking I’ll wake up one morning to find out it has, with a supreme effort, moved a foot or so in any direction to try to avoid one of those long-ago disasters.

Anyway, I am… pleased? Is that that word? I suppose it must do. I am pleased to report Travis reached his goal and climbed up the Venerable like a pole dancer determined to gain a championship trophy in the district finals. I am somewhat less pleased (again, I suppose that will have to be the word) to report that poor Boxnoggin forgot himself for a moment and tried to go up the trunk right after him, fell back on his ass, and let out a “yipe!” that shook me to my core.

Don’t worry, he’s fine. Only his pride (such as it is) was lightly damaged.

I expected Travis to hang safely out of leaping distance and treat us both to a torrent of abuse, but apparently he had suddenly remembered he had other places to be, for he went up the trunk without stopping and vanished in the Venerable’s canopy. And that, my dears, is pretty much the end–I won’t trouble you with a catalog of bruises or bumps suffered by the human involved in this small tale.

Except it’s Friday, which means there must be a Friday photo. And there is one more small thing to report.

Normally Boxnoggin is not a dog much troubled by memory. (He occasionally forgets how to go up stairs and must be patiently re-taught.) But that afternoon made a deep impression upon him, so much so that when he’s let out now, he attends to whatever pressing business, bladder or bowel, that needs doing and heads unerringly for a spot just to the south of the Venerable, where he throws himself down and stares…

…he stares, as I said, longingly at the back fence, and makes a throaty little sound. It’s the same sound he makes when he wishes to pursue a cat, rabbit, or any other small creature. And if you listen closely, you can hear what he’s saying.

Come back,” he moans. “Come back and play with me, forever and ever and ever…

And every once in a while, just to be sure, he cranes his neck to the left, examines the Venerable, and makes certain to check the hanging bird feeder.

Just in case.


The End


until some-damn-thing-else happens, of course.