Blood, Sunrise, Constant

There’s a high thin haze today, hopefully blunting some of the heat; this morning’s sunrise was blood-colored. I think there’s some wildfire smoke high up, leaping over us instead of descending to clog as it did last year–for which I am devoutly grateful, because the suffocating fire-reek was a hideous time. Our sprinklers are finally working again too (don’t ask) so the garden is in much better shape. Even the tomatoes are happy.

And why did I see the sunrise, you might ask? Because unlike me, the dogs are morning people. They simply couldn’t allow me to stay abed any longer, not when there were fun things to do and naps to take in other areas of the house. Also, last night got a bit too warm for comfortable sleeping since the house was closed up, and Miss B didn’t like that at all.

So I was poked and prodded from slumber, and hopefully I’ll be able to ingest enough caffeine to keep my temper sweet. Or sweet-ish, as the case may be.

I am not quite as snarling as I was last month, or even as peeved as I was yesterday.1 Another hard run this morning wrung a fair amount of sweat and stress chemicals free, so that’s good. The weather folk say Friday will bring a little rain, and that’s even better. I don’t feel quite right when the moss between my toes dries out; the Pacific Northwest is not supposed to be this arid.

Apparently mentioning werewolves yesterday made Cold North sit up and take notice, because that book informed me it was quite done marinating and would like a revision, please and thank you. I can’t find a trio of premade covers for the projected trilogy, but I keep looking–if a trad publisher won’t get interested in Tolkien Viking Werewolves2, I’ll just have to bring it out myself, which will stretch the timeline a bit but that’s life. One thing I will not do is let this story languish untold.

Some projects, I don’t mind if they stay trapped on my hard drive forever. Others want to go out into the world as a matter of course, and who am I to gainsay them?

It will mean a lot of thankless effort, and the first book’s insistence on revision now is already playing havoc with other scheduling. But a surplus of work is where I’m happiest, and if I put my head down and focus on the stories I won’t have to brood upon the state of the world, which is a large, deep mercy. I feel guilty for being unable to handle even looking at the news, but my resilience has reached a stumbling-block after the last four-five years.

I’ve had all I can stand, as Popeye says, and I can’t stands no more.

The roses have all recovered from their move, and most are even blooming. Even the ketchup-and-mustard seems quite happy in its new home. One of the blueberries appears to have given up the ghost, but I’m going to give it another winter to make absolutely certain before I decide what to do with its corpse. The terrible heat does seem to have made a dent in the slug and snail population, which means my hostas are doing much better than I had any right to expect, too.

These are the things I’m concentrating on, because I can’t bear to look beyond my garden gate at the moment. It feels like falling down on my responsibilities, but exactly nobody and nothing will be served by fretting myself dry about systemic failure driven by the greed of a few rich bastards and the foot-dragging cowardice of those elected to stop them.

And with that cheerful thought, I’m off to steep a cuppa (coffee might vibrate me right into another dimension, which might be a blessing but I HAVE DEADLINES) and return to the world of Solveig and her shieldmaid. It’s actually not a bad little story, which means I’m right in the phase I need to be with it. Don’t worry, I’ll start hating it around the copyedits stage.

At least that remains the same. Some things are stable and constant, even during *gestures wildly* all this.

Stay safe out there, beloveds. I’m trying to hope, though it’s difficult; whether I’m hopeless or not, though, the line still has to be held.

That stays constant too.

Running Body, Rewards Chosen

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This morning’s mood is best summed up by, “give me the coffee and nobody gets hurt.”

Not that I’d actually hurt anyone (without severe provocation) but the threat has a few salutary effects. One takes what one can get.

The weather watchers say we’re going to have another heat wave–not as bad as the recent dome, but it won’t cool off at night like it usually does, which is a recipe for disaster in this part of the country. Very few people have air conditioning and we’re used to opening up windows overnight to keep the houses livable. The cumulative effect of hot days and nights bearing no relief stresses the very young, the very old, and the chronically ill.

I’m upping my running mileage too, so this will mean getting out the door early, for whatever variety of cool can be found. I’d forgotten how an alteration of the running schedule makes the entire body feel different–my legs feel a lot longer, for example. And different parts of my arms ache because running is a whole-body effort and if your trotters are tired concentrating on your arms can provide the last bit of help needed to keep you going.

I suppose I’ve been running for a bit now, and it’s completely reshaped my body. I’m pretty sure even my bones bear the marks, with muscle attachments pulling at them in specific ways while I jog along. A lot of people don’t realize just how dynamic one’s bones are; they respond like muscles do, changing shape and reinforcing areas of high stress.

Pretty sure mine are mad at me right now, but it can’t be helped.

I feel at once taller and more compact when my mileage goes up, especially when intervals are added to the mix. Running also requires a very particular brand of kinesthetic attention, like dance, combat, or climbing–knowing where one is in time and space, thinking a few moves ahead while staying loose and ready for surprises.

Maybe that’s why I like all those things; they make my brain stop eating itself for short periods because the whole mass of walnut-folded grey matter is busy making sure I don’t accidentally dart in front of a bus or tumble off the damn wall.

If I fall in front of a bus, I want it to be deliberate, you see.

Someone’s started messing with a leaf blower, which means the neighborhood is officially awake and the day has begun. The dogs got a handful apiece of yesterday’s party Cheetos in their respective bowls; the Prince had his vaccinated friends over to play video games, eat pizza, and watch Miyazaki movies. It was a roaring success, though a little strange to have people I didn’t give birth to in the house again.

And with that, it’s time to walk said shaggy beasts, then get out for that increased mileage. There’s Hell’s Acre to write today–the heroine is about to pay a call which will alter her entire life, though she doesn’t know it yet–and maybe a little werewolf erotica, since I’m done with that difficult revision.

My reward structure is all messed up. “You did good! Here, have some anxiety-thumping caffeine, go out and run until you think you might throw up, and write some monsterfucking–you’ve earned it!”

What’s even funnier is that I choose those rewards. I don’t know whether it’s being a writer or just being wired strangely. Ah well, I’ve been a weirdo for 40+ years, there’s no point in stopping now.

At least by the time I find out where the leaf blower noise is coming from the coffee will have sunk in, providing its tranquilizing effect. Small mercies, the only kind we ever get around here.

Happy Thursday, my beloveds.

Mileage and Cheese

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A lovely cool grey morning, though without a single spatter of rain, has me feeling almost myself again. Almost, just not exactly quite. I managed to get out the door for the morning dog walkies a few minutes early, which meant less traffic on the sidewalks; the day’s run was accomplished at a slightly lower speed than usual since I’m bulking mileage. Come Friday or so I’ll do some intervals, then after a few days’ worth of rest my speed should start to creep up while my distance remains steady.

Or at least, that’s the plan.

I did not get a heroine involved in a stabbing yesterday, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. I think the stabbing has to come today, in the hero’s POV. Serves him right if he gets a puncture; he’s been getting a bit arrogant lately and needs someone to take him down a peg or two. This being Hell’s Acre, of course, he’ll get it in the most mannerly way possible from our dear heroine.

I mean, she’ll stab, but she won’t be rude.

Other than that, the day is set aside for revisions on Sons of Ymre. There’s a lot more horror than romance in that book, and the Lovecraft and King in Yellow references fall fast and thick. My poor editor. *evil chuckle*

I’ve queued up a lot of Miles Davis for the afternoon’s work, and am attempting to use another jolt of coffee to clear the mud out of my head. I’d forgotten how absentminded upping my running mileage makes me for the first couple days. On the plus side, I’ll sleep well tonight, which is a blessing all its own.

The minus is that my usual work pace has dropped to what feels like a snail-crawl. I know it’s not, I know I’m in a good spot and can afford a few days’ worth of not-quite-top-speed, but still. It irks me to be operating at less than full capacity.

Some of my slowness could be the absence of lunch, a problem easily rectified even if the dogs are going to be underfoot as soon as I twitch to rise from my office chair. Since I’m contemplating midday bruschetta, their cheese-sense is no doubt tingling. I swear, the instant any human in the house even thinks about thickened milk product, both dogs perk up and scuttle forth to beg for treats with single-minded intensity.

…I just glanced at the office door. Miss B is sitting, ears up and eyes bright, waiting. Every inch of her is expectant.

I suppose I can’t disappoint the poor elderly dog–and Boxnoggin is coming down the hall, his nails clicking on hardwood. Time to wade through canine excitement in the direction of the kitchen and hope the kids left me some fresh mozzarella.

Garden Amelioration, and Glitter

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It’s a quiet, cool Monday morning–a lot nicer than the last Monday I suffered, and that right out the gate as well. Even the coffee tastes better today for some reason.

It could be the long run I took on Saturday, a sign that I can carefully start upping my mileage. I was quite pleased to find that out, except for the fact that it means I’m going to have to do interval training as well. If there’s anything I hate, it’s the bloody intervals, but they help with a lot of things and cut down on injuries so I suppose I must.

Today is for retrenchment, scheduling, and decision-making. I might even get the kitchen mopped if I’m extraordinarily ambitious. But mostly it’ll be revisions on Sons of Ymre, as well as a rooftop battle in Hell’s Acre. The latter’s gone about as long as it can without someone getting knifed atop a crumbling alt-Victorian tenement.

My joys are tiny and petty, but they are entirely mine own.

The sprinklers are finally working again. (I will say the solution was hysterically simple, and made me laugh like a hyena for HOURS.) Which means that some of the garden damage will be ameliorated soon. The ferns are already luxuriating in the change, and the honeysuckle’s very glad indeed. It’s a good thing plenty of bushes were already well-established or that heat dome would have put paid to them all. As it is, I think we’ve lost at least two rhododendrons. The poor things just couldn’t take it.

Plenty of the evergreens in the neighborhood are showing crispy needle-ends. Even some of the lavender is looking scraggly, and once established that plant likes a great deal of benign neglect. At least I saved the tomatoes and most of the peppers.

I suppose I should quit nattering about the garden and get the dogs walked. I’m going to need to lace my shoes loosely today, but not so loose they slip free when I hit warp speed. It’s all a balance.

The big event of the weekend (so to speak) was walking up to the craft store to get round magnets. One session with a glue gun later, and I have more fridge magnets made out of bottle caps. The cackling of joy when I realized yes, I am capable of wielding a glue gun was probably disconcerting as all get-out, too. You know they have glitter sticks for those things?

The mind boggles.

In any case, I’d best take advantage of the quiet while it’s still here. As soon as I shift to tie my shoes I’ll have Canine Halp, and that doesn’t even cover the entire brushing-my-teeth situation. I suppose I should be thankful the dogs are seeking to be helpful, because it they set out to be actively obstructionist I’m afraid the house might be reduced to splinters ere long.

I’m cautiously hopeful Monday’s going to cooperate. It would be a nice change.

Solved By Machete

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I’m in a positively dreadful mood this morning–indeed, I’ve been tetchy all week, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the heat, though it breaks at night to allow for sleep; maybe it’s work, though I’m always happiest with a surfeit of that; maybe it’s the state of the world. The Princess concurs, for she’s been in somewhat of a mood too; she thinks perhaps it’s processing a bit of last year’s (and ongoing) trauma.

The body remembers, no matter what the rest of one would like.

Consequently I’m trying very hard to be kind, especially in small invisible ways. There is nothing better than performing a few acts of kindness to lift one’s mood. Of course it’s selfish–one should be decent simply because it’s the right thing to do–but it’s at least enlightened selfishness, and it will do. Or so I tell myself, and hope like hell it’s true.

The damage from the heat dome is still rippling through plants in the neighborhood, and I’m sure through the animals as well. Some of the laurel volunteers I put along the back fence have crispy-crittered, and since the sprinklers are Having A Moment (someone will hopefully come by to diagnose them today) much of the yard is too. The tomatoes and other seedlings, watered by hand, are holding on; the pennyroyal that wasn’t grubbed up by squirrels (WHY, for godsake?) is actually thriving. So there’s a win or two lurking in the greenery.

Including the Zombie Rhubarb, which used to be near the lilac volunteers but was moved to a sunnier spot because it frankly refused to die even after the late, lamented Odd Trundles did his best to nest in it. I don’t know what that dog had against rhubarb–maybe he simply knew it’s not my favorite?

Still, I admire the plant’s absolute refusal to lie down and die. That kind of stubbornness is near and dear to my heart, so I’m even watering the damn thing. It’s flourishing like the hellebores now. I’ve told it flat out, “We don’t have to like each other for me to do my best by you. Uh, sorry about the dog…”

I think it’s forgiven me, despite Boxnoggin’s desperate desire to water it on his own. What is it with dogs and rhubarb? I have no clue.

Anyway, the day is jam-packed. There’s subscription stuff to get out the door, groceries to grab, dog walkies and a run to squeeze in, and damn it but I want these revisions done. Time to make a list on an index card, or I’ll get absolutely nothing accomplished. It’s a shame none of these problems can be solved by a machete, for I’m in just the mood to take a few swings. (Related: I really do need to get a wooden baseball bat…)

I suppose I should also get some breakfast, too. But before all that, it’s coffee to soothe my nerves somewhat, and Josh Groban on the play queue to do likewise. Something about the vibrato is entirely calming.

I’m hoping Thursday will decide not to be overly difficult. But if it is, I’ll get out the machete.

Marshmallow, Sun Storm, Tuesday

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It’s a grey Tuesday morning and there is not enough coffee in the world. A solar storm is expected to hit the earth today, and frankly I’m not bloody surprised, the way things have been going.

At least the cicadas are quiet, since the temperature drops overnight. They’re probably waking up the same as I am, lethargic and blinking, staggering towards their version of coffee, preparing for an entire afternoon of screaming in the treetops.

Lucky bastards.

Even the dogs are a bit beside themselves this morning. They won’t eat their breakfast and Boxnoggin is in a fractious-toddler mood. I’d say “you need a nap, dog,” but we literally just rolled out of bed. It could be he’s sensing my crankiness.

There are bright prospects, though. The other day I made an offhand comment about using Cocoa Pebbles and Rice Krispies to make treats–you know, butter, marshmallow creme, all that. The Princess got That Look, and when she came home yesterday she was loaded with Cocoa Krispies, tiny chocolate chips, marshmallows, and a plan.

I pointed out there were Cocoa Krispies but no Cocoa Pebbles (her very favorite cereal) in her supplies and my eldest child fixed me with an arch look of amusement. “The recipe I found was for Krispies, so I’m doing it that way first before I alter it.”

I could only nod sagely and mumble, “That means more marshmallow treats for us all, so I can’t complain.”

To which my child replied, just as her mother would, “Damn right.”

She even divided the pan into quarters. One was plain, one was studded with sea salt flakes, the third had tiny chocolate chips, and the last was drenched with homemade salted caramel sauce. Needless to say, that last bit was my favorite, though everyone else in the house is split between the plain and salted quarters.

So, there’s a crispy-crunchy experiment at some time in my future, possibly with caramel. That’s not a bad prospect; it’ll get me through a day of internal wires sparking through worn-off insulation, a both-hands deathgrip on my temper, and my fingertips aching from keeping my claws sheathed.

In any case, I should probably get some breakfast to balance out the caffeine once my stomach settles, the it’ll be time to walk the furry brats. I’m sure there will be hijinks; Carl the Crow has taken to accompanying us on walks around the block. She flits from tree to tree, eyeing me sideways and occasionally letting out raucous yells. I’m not sure if she’s adopted us or is waiting for me to look away so she can torment Boxnoggin–I believe she has not forgiven him for the Jerry Incident.

Speaking of Jerry the Crow, his tail feathers appear to be healing, and he’s having a lot more luck with flying. He’s still apparently only capable of short hops, and he tends to hang around our yard all day because I’m leaving sunflower seeds and the like in easy-to-reach places for him. Sandra and Carl are okay with this too; they keep bringing peanuts and cracking them in the birdbath, filling the damn thing with peanut shells. I think someone in the neighborhood thinks they’re feeding squirrels, though why anyone would do such a thing is beyond me.

We also have a ring-tailed squirrel (christened Einstein) who is up to No Good and seems positively bent on tormenting my daughter. Maybe it’s a family inheritance thing.

I do have a Backyard Tale to tell you concerning Norbert (long-time Readers will remember Norbert the Shattered Gargoyle) but I need more time and energy to write it than I possess today, so it’ll have to wait.

And with that, my beloveds, I shall bid you a fond adieu. Getting out the door before the marine layer breaks and the temperature rises is the name of the game, and since I’ve finished my coffee, breakfast is next. I can only dread what sort of hijinks will occur once I strap the dogs into their harnesses and leave the house.

Wish me luck…

Whyfor, Carl?

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Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on my Masto instance…but today’s was just a little weirder than usual.

It wasn’t the weather, though yesterday’s heat was only a prelude. They’re saying over 100F sometime this weekend; I’m sure that will be fun. But this morning there was a little coolth, and Sandra came by the birdbath as usual so I knew Carl and Jerry were okay.

Anyway, I strapped the dogs in and got us all out the door, thank heaven.

It wasn’t until we were halfway down the block, a bee crawling on my shoulder and Miss B very interested in some lithadora, that I realized Boxnoggin wasn’t prancing just because he was happy to be out of the house. No, he was dancing in place for an entirely different reason.

If it wasn’t Carl it was his evil twin, standing in a driveway and eyeing us sidelong. I caught a wicked gleam in his corvid eye while Boxnoggin strained at his harness, just longing to get across the street and Make A New Friend.

Given that Box’s idea of “friendship” with smaller creatures is “shake it like a Polaroid until the neck snaps, then look mournfully at the corpse wondering where your friend went”, I felt it was unwise (to say the least) to let him seek a closer acquaintance with Carl.

Besides, Carl fights dirty. I should know.

I don’t know if it’s normal behavior for a crow to follow a wild-haired writer and her two canine companions around the block for walkies. But every time I looked up, Carl–or his evil twin, I am certainly not ruling that out–was perched nearby, taking off with a snap-flutter as the dogs finished their sniff stops and moved on. I’m not sure if he was herding us, just curious, or doing recon for a sudden attack.

What I do know is that Boxnoggin was very aware we were being watched, and seeing him alternate between fierce “it’s on the ground, let me go SHAKE IT” and coy “ohai, you are watching me from above, let me display coquettish prancing to entice you closer” was not the most amusing thing I’ve ever seen–but it was close.

That was how I came to be standing on the sidewalk audibly scolding a crow for taunting my poor dog. “He’s not bright, Carl,” I informed a bird slightly bigger than Boxnoggin’s head. “This is beneath you, frankly, and I’m disappointed in your behavior.”

Carl cawed a couple times in reply, clearly unwilling to give up the game.

Once we got to the backyard and I let the dogs out of their harnesses, Carl settled in the cedars, watching while I herded them back into air-conditioned calm. He was gone when I came back out, hair braided and the rest of me slathered with yet more sunscreen for the morning run.

I don’t even know.

As for the run, I sweated sunscreen into my eyes so that was fun. Also, the bees are getting to be a nuisance. I love them, I truly do, but trying to crawl into my nose is not the thing. I suspect the only reason they didn’t go for my ears was the fact those are always blocked with music-delivery pods, and my eyes were left alone because I was blinking furiously trying to get away from the stinging.

They’re leaving my mouth alone, at least for now. Small mercies. I was also afraid I’d crush one settling in my elbow as I ran, but I guess it just wanted a drink? I’m happy to help but dear gods, the little pollinating bastards seem to lack all sense of self-preservation.

I’m hoping Carl’s accompaniment was merely curiosity. If he’s planning hijinks, I may have to stroll the dogs while armed. I’m sure the neighbors won’t wonder at me walking along, two dogs strapped to my waist, a golf club over my shoulders.

It might even add something to the morning…