Favonian Thursday

A frenzy of revision has ended with Sons of Ymre #2 heading off to the editor, just in time for proof pages on something else to land. Publishing is always a game of festina lente, and not in the way Augustus originally meant it, either. I always thought Marcus Aurelius would have been a better one to coin that aphorism; certainly I think he’d use it in the modern military sense.

Anyway, Jake’s story has reached its final fighting form, and even copyedits won’t change much more than a tentacle or two. I also did some outlining on the next serial–not very much, because I’m more a pantser than a plotter and this particular story needs room and time to breathe. Still, I wanted a little more scaffolding before I set it aside to marinate and turned to the two last revises I have scheduled–Riversinger and Minnowsharp needs its polish before it goes to the editor, and so do both seasons of Hell’s Acre. They’re all exhausting in different ways, and I’m still not sure the latter will see wide publication.

But that’s a problem for another day.

We’re having a most favonian week, as Nabokov would say. Today it’s going to hit 78F, according to the weatherfolk, which is just a smidge too warm for my taste but ah well. It will mean we can have all the windows open, and I’ve pre-gamed by getting that done before coffee. My office window is currently standing wide, and I can already hear a bee-hum. Pretty sure one or two of the little sods are going to hitch a ride on me today–which is fine, as long as they don’t try to climb into my ear. I dislike that; it never ends well for either of us.

I’m glad to finally have Jake’s story off the docket. Now it’s only line edits, CEs, and proofs for that particular book, and afterward that duology can be laid to rest. My editor had fond hopes for an additional book dealing with one of the Fathers, probably Robert–who was, let’s face it, a good dude, though I like Miklos in the second book better–but I can’t see how I’d do that without fast-forwarding at least a decade in that world. It’s best to just leave it as it lays, as my grandfather would say, and move on to a different brand of paranormal romance. I’ll have to dredge through the compost heap and see what looks juicy green, because when it comes to writing romances I have no intention of stopping. I like having those little bits of light between playing in other genres.

Boxnoggin is thrilled by the sunny weather. Well, thrilled is kind of a strong term. He loves that his tender toesies aren’t getting damp except in the more low-lying parts of the park, and once he adjusts to having the windows open he’ll enjoy whatever news the wind brings to his cute little snoot. But open windows mean otherwise muffled sounds are entering the house loud and clear, and he’s not a big fan of that.

In fact, his dumb, very loud ass alerts to every single stray noise, and will until he accepts this as the new normal. This happens yearly; fortunately, since his memory is gloriously short, it won’t take long for him to settle in. Even if we return to cooler spring weather after this, one window or another will be ajar until some point in the fall–or until there’s a summer scorch involving wildfires, in which case we’ll close everything up, turn on the AC, and hope.

I’m not thinking about that right now, either. I’ve managed to clear a lot of work in the past few weeks, and am looking at more feverish activity until the Spring’s Arcana release. Speaking of that, there’s a Goodreads giveaway for that book, and you can sign up to attend the virtual launch party, too. I’m going to be hyperventilating and nervous until a few days after said release, so that’ll be fun. (Check out the last few April sales, too, if you’re in the mood for reading material.)

Speaking of, I’d best get some brekkie and out the door. A morning run before the heat builds will help purge some of the nervousness and return me to whatever zen can be found. You’d think after seventy-plus books or so, I’d be used to release-day nerves. But I’m not, I’m not.

Anyway, I have a whole lot of work to do and the urge to listen to John Denver–the original Rocky Mountain High video makes me giggle fondly, and I have no trouble admitting as much. (Especially the “chased by a bear” editing.) Thursday’s well underway and the coffee’s down to dregs.

Off I go.

Merely Different Work


Spent the last two days doing a massive reformatting on a certain series, preparing for a big announcement in about a month or two. Writing is such a delayed-gratification game, all the dilly-dang time. But it’ll be worth it when I get to the announcement. (You guys are gonna be thrilled, I promise. *cue evil grin*)

Apparently my idea of “recovery” isn’t rest, merely a different type of work. Still, it’s needed to be done for a while, so might as well. Next comes revising the second Sons of Ymre book so that can get put into the production pipeline. I think I’ll focus on that for the next couple days, and whatever remains of the weekend the revision doesn’t eat will be settling on the couch with Boxnoggin and a book. I’m currently reading about female fighter (and bomber pilots) in Soviet Russia during WWII, and next I have a couple ARCs to try out. There’s a further stack of library books to be consumed, too.

We had an atmospheric river earlier in the week, which was glorious. Finally enough rain, even for me; Boxnoggin was significantly less impressed, though the damp didn’t stop him from acting a damn fool during at least one walk. We turned around and went directly home after, which isn’t precisely punishment–he forgets what’s happened within about sixty seconds, so as far as he’s concerned we’re just taking a new route full of fresh things to smell.

I know dogs are generally Zen creatures of the Now, but he takes it to a whole ‘nother level.

Everything is drying out now, except the park. Mud there will be shin-high, I’m sure. I have to walk carefully to avoid losing a shoe, and Boxnoggin finds it absolutely enchanting to get liquid earth between his toes. Which is surprising, he’s such a prima donna about other stuff.

…I’ve also been answering publicity emails while writing this post, so I’m feeling rather scattered. The Spring’s Arcana release is just around the corner; you’d think after the number of books I’ve published this would be old hat. But it’s not, my nerves are rapidly mounting the way they do before any release. There’s a curious dichotomy between the nervousness and a sense of “well, I finished that story years ago, let’s talk about what I’m working on now”; neither is exactly comfortable.

I also have the first sentence for Ghost Squad #3, which is a relief. I knew what the first scene is, of course–Tax sitting on his car’s bumper, looking out over the desert. But I didn’t have the keyhole into the scene that I needed, so I had to wait. This week’s been good for finding things out during walkies or running. Just the other day I found out what the iron key in Redfist’s pocket is, too. Over a decade since I’ve written that first book where the Muse insisted that was a detail, and I didn’t know why it was important until now.

It’s always like that. The work takes its own time and shape, alas.

So. I guess it’s the moment for brekkie, and getting Boxnoggin out into burgeoning springtime. The plums are in flower, trees are budding, the grass is longer, dandelions are making an appearance, hyacinths are exuberant, and I think the lilies of the valley are coming up. I know the hops are out with a vengeance; the freeze and snow didn’t do any damage to their rhizomes.

Funny, every winter I never think of spring, and when it happens I’m surprised the weary old world is still going. Which means I must endure too.

Off I go.

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.