Necromancer’s Monday

I spent the weekend dragging a dead series out of its grave. Difficult work, involving a lot of squelching and nausea–but what the hell, I’m sometimes a necromancer, it’s all part of the game. At least I’ve done it before, most notably with Steelflower, so it’s not like it’s my first time.

The weather has turned with a vengeance. I can’t believe it was 80F in October, and now we’re edging down to heavy frost, nights lingering near freezing. The garden needs to be put to bed, but it’s a Monday. I’ve other things to occupy me today–like said shambling corpse of a series, resurrected but not entirely rejuvenated. Frankenstein ain’t got nothing on me, my friends.

I spent whatever time I wasn’t heaving over my office wastebasket doing chores, and getting around 2k of the Jolene story written. Three organic mentions of that song means the Universe has decided it’s time and I think I can do it in six scenes. At least that’s the kernel of the story, and I can add more on either side of the high beats if the structure ends up needing it. I don’t know why I’m being attacked by this short when I have a bloody shambling undead fantasy hulk to deal with and I really need to do a revise on the second Sons of Ymre, but if I’m not drowning in work I’m not really happy so…here we are.

I mean, nobody wants to see me with idle hands. That’s a sure recipe for disaster.

The light has changed, too. While it was smoke-hazy and way too warm for October, any sunshine had an eerie apocalyptic cast. Not like the bad smokes the previous two years, just enough to make the little atavistic muscle right under one’s occipital ridge tighten. Now the sky has paled and any sunlight is a thinner gold, especially when it falls on frost-laden roofs and the steam rises. The trees are merrily changing their leaves; next will come shedding them entirely. The ones falling so far are dry and spicy instead of wet-sludgy since the rains have given us a moment or two to think about things. I’d prefer rain, of course, but this is acceptable. Especially since the chill generally means I can run without dodging weird men on the sidewalk.

The only downside is that other dog walkers will be out in the clear light, enjoying the lack of humidity. I like that just fine, but Boxnoggin loses his damn head. I often have to pick him up by his harness-handle, scolding him. “This is why nobody wants to play with you…you’re being a big bully…don’t you feel ridiculous now? If you wouldn’t scream you could probably say hello…no, screaming it is! Fine. Scream all you want, it won’t change the outcome.”

Poor fellow. Four-plus years of work have made him much calmer, but the instant he sees another dog (who isn’t Bailey, since she put up with exactly zero nonsense from him) he turns into a screaming toddler. Some part of it is probably resource-guarding, but I think he’s just one of those dogs whose circuits fuse at the slightest provocation. A squirrel, a cat, another dog, and his cranium is the equivalent of an action movie explosion. I have to walk away, grimly not looking while carrying sixty-plus pounds of writhing canine.

There are worse jobs. It’s hilarious, I will never be as excited over anything as this dog is for the hose, a fleeing cat, or another dog friend. Or walkies. Right now he’s got his nose pressed to my ankle and is huffing deeply, on the principle that this once got me off my office chair and moving brekkie-ward, so he’s going to try it every time now just in case.

Monday is full of frost-laden light and the sound of delighted canine snuffling. My marching orders have been given and my sock is a little damp, so I bid you a pleasant adieu, my beloveds.

Imperfect Strategy

A clear chilly Tuesday–not quite cold, but getting there–has dawned. I staggered into the kitchen to make coffee, a George Strait song playing inside my head, and decided I had to use Ronnie Milsap to clear things out. Milsap reliably works if I have a country-themed earworm, and has ever since I was a kid.

I don’t even know. I’m wired weird, but we all suspected as much.

Our state does mail-in ballots, and everyone in the house is of voting age and registered. We all went through the paper voter guide last week, went to our different rooms to fill in little boxes, and I took the sealed envelopes to the local ballot box since I don’t trust USPS with deJoy still in charge. (Why has that man not been booted out? Why?) There were pickup trucks parked nearby, and I watched each one carefully, ready to get the fuck out of there if right-wing goons appeared.

It was a sobering experience.

Now we wait–always my very favorite thing! I hate not being able to do anything while danger creeps nearer. I have little to zero hope, of course. Every time I’ve dared to hope over the past six-seven years, I get kicked right in the teeth. I’m done with that.

So, today will be spent trying to keep myself occupied with work. The new cover for Spring’s Arcana, the page proofs–seventy-five of them knocked off yesterday, only 293 to go–and wordcount for the NaNo novel, correspondence, other things to keep my fingers busy and my heart from hurting. It’s an imperfect strategy, since my heart will ache no matter what I find to keep myself busy with, and working will be like swimming against a riptide. Still, I’ve got to try.

The alternative is even grimmer.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my dears. We’re all reeling after years of historical-grade shocks. The wonder is that we’re all still trying to work, sparking and hissing with static, desperately transmitting and receiving despite All This. I think we all deserve a cuppa and a pat on the back, not to mention a nap. And possibly a whole box of cookies.

Que sera, sera, and all that. At least we’ve got each other, and a few stories to tell around whatever small, wan fire we’re clustering for warmth. It’s my job to tell the tales, no matter what else is going on. And it’s also my job to walk Boxnoggin, who could not care less about human politics. He’s got other concerns, and would very much like me to do something about them.

Needs must, when the devil drives–or when the dog needs a ramble. Off I go, my beloveds.

See you around.

Puzzle Dog

Good working days have been happening lately. I’m almost afraid to inhale too deeply lest this great fortune be noticed by the world, which will certainly snatch it away. Or at least, that’s the feeling. I’m doing my level best not to look at the news cycle, and not to leave the bloody house–I know, that last bit is me anyway, but I’m turning it into a requirement instead of a preference. All I want is to be left alone to write my horrid little stories.

We’ve also found a job for Boxnoggin. Well, another job, since he’s already responsible for things like holding down the floor, yelling out the front window any time there’s activity on the street, “protecting” me during walkies, and being a giant doofus. (All of which, it must be said, he excels at.) But he wanted more, so I dug out one of Bailey’s old puzzle toys.

Now, Miss B was a smart dog. She only needed once with a toy to figure it out, and to remember. Max, of course, used pure brute force on anything puzzling, so anything with parts smaller than fist-size had to be whisked away from his gaping jaws. Boxnoggin, however, lies between these two poles. He isn’t as bright as Bailey, but he’s also not as dim as Max–gods love that bulldog, but his brain was so occupied with piloting his unwieldy corkscrew body through space, there was little to nothing left over for any complex cognitive task.

All of which means dear ol’ van der Sploot is at just about the perfect amount of mental horsepower to get a lot of fun out of this particular puzzle. He has to get an upside-down plastic cup out of its socket in order to turn the top disc of the thing and gain the other half of the kibble inside, and so far he’s accidentally solved it, occasionally deliberately solved it, and forgotten the trick to the solution each and every time. The half-hour of crunching, slobbering, nosing, and pawing wears him out so badly he naps for the rest of the day, and when he finally solves this toy reliably I’ll switch him to another puzzle until he forgets the first.

It’s good to have a plan.

We’re all amazed, frankly. The Princess can’t get over how quiet and well-behaved Boxnoggin is after a session spent dislodging kibble from the damn thing, and he apparently loves it, to judge by how hard he begs for it to be filled and set on the floor. The Prince is fascinated, watching Box try to figure the damn thing out. (And helping a bit when he gets frustrated, because in this house we don’t let people flounder if we can help them.) I’m just happy for the peace and quiet; I thought we were going to have to do four training sessions a day with Bailey gone.

She kept Box corralled, and while he was thinking of weird things for her to herd him out of, he wasn’t getting into trouble. Much.

I suppose I should finish my coffee and get him walked–another important component of keeping him out of mischief. There are bergenias to get planted as well today, since my writing partner was kind enough to break off a few clumps for me. They do well in Pacific Northwest conditions, and I might even have one inside since I’ve got the grow lights going and a little room on the coffee table. There’s wordcount to be done today, and some CEs landed too. Those are afternoon problems, and I’ve a whole morning to get through.

I will never be as happy with anything as Boxnoggin is with a handful of kibble in an elaborately designed plastic dish. Still, left to myself, I am content.

Now if I could just get the world to cooperate…

Zorro Friday

Please note that yesterday, due to a combination of calendar and technical malfunction, I accidentally sent a notification for next month’s sale. Sorry about that, my bad–we’ll have to wait for September!

Look at this Very Good Gentledoge.

This is Zorro, the CCO (Chief Canine Officer) over at Belle Books. Belle is a great romance press; they took over ImaJinn when the head publisher there passed on. They’ve always been wonderful to me; I adore their entire office staff, especially the great Mx Ireland, who does graphics for the monthly sales and sent me this photo a little while ago.

Zorro’s likes include treats, skritches, and long afternoons spent reading. I’m not sure if he has any dislikes, other than the lack of treats and skritches. But I do know Zorro is a gentledoge, a scholar, and a Very Good Boi. And it looks like he has excellent taste in books!

Yesterday I read the rest of The Eye of Argon on-camera, and today’s Tea with Lili will be all about writing romance. Before that I have to walk Boxnoggin (who would very much like to make Zorro’s acquaintance, but an entire continent lies between them, alas) and run my own sorry corpse. At least the heat has abated somewhat, though we did not get more than a light misting of anemic rain.

We’re finally at Friday, my beloveds. I wish you a very pleasant day, and an even more pleasant weekend.

Emotional Raft-Building

Monday has dawned early and cool. I thought there was some marine layer but no, it’s only a slight haze and the fact that we’re past the solstice. The sun is rising a bit later as we tilt away, which pleases me. I do understand the giant nuclear reactor in the sky powers all life on this planet (well, except the stuff hiding in thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean), I just also want to hide from its radioactive yellow eye.

I did decide to put my Eye of Argon reading on YouTube; you can find Part I here. I’ll get to Part II in the next few days, I suspect–if you want to see it live, it’ll be on Twitch first, then I’ll pop it over to YouTube. I would very much like to find out what happens to Gringr, as well as the Girl with the Golden Brassiere. It seems you lot rather like me reading to you, and my daughter says as soon as I finish this novella I need to read at least the first chapter of some fanfic titled My Immortal. I floated the idea on my social media feeds, and the response is half-and-half. Half of you are saying, “OMG it’s so terrible, DO IT,” and the other half respond with, “I love this idea, DO IT!”

Just like in parenting, the hardest thing will be keeping a straight face. I suspect you lot, like my children, are actively trying to break my composure. I did chuckle a few times during Eye of Argon‘s first three (and a half!) chapters, but I was not reduced to nonverbal hysterics, so according to my own rules I have not yet lost. I’m sure in cutthroat competition rules I would be required to hand the reading over to someone else, since I have given a giggle or two, hut honestly I’m not superhuman.

Despite my best efforts, I might add.

The hilarity is helping. I’m finding myself with a little more energy nowadays, and I think my body and brain are adjusting to the idea that I might have survived creeping fascist coup (so far) and not-one-but-two pandemics (again, so far) and I can’t keep going in emergency mode. It feels rather like the third act of a zombie apocalypse franchise lately–the first wave of disaster has passed and we’re left clinging to wreckage, attempting to build a raft instead of simply focused on merely keeping our heads above the waves. I’m sure this is a quite widespread feeling. Mostly I’m just exhausted at being in crisis, and withdrawing like a bruised anemone.

It helps that autumn is approaching, and with it the rains. I’m most productive when water is falling from the sky; with a new roof I won’t have to worry so much all through winter and that’s a welcome thought. Boxnoggin will hate the damp, poor fellow, but perhaps it will keep him from shenanigans during daily walkies. We’re working on not yelling our fool heads off when another dog appears.

The concept has not quite worked its way into Boxnoggin’s poor dazed head, but we’re trying. After four years in our household he is much better behaved and less reactive, though it’s an uphill battle all the way. He was really treated dreadfully in some of his previous homes, and it’s left a mark. On the bright side, he’s been with us for longer than anywhere else combined, so he’s beginning to relax and think of the Chez as his permanent home.

We do not believe in giving up around here. At least, not on our companion animals. Certain other things we heave over the side with abandon, but sunk costs are not a consideration when it comes to the canines (or felines) we’ve promised to take care of.

I don’t want to relax. I don’t want to loosen my deathgrip on my coping mechanisms or my temper, because that will be the moment some-damn-thing else will happen and I’ll have to start the process of emergency coping again. On the other hand, living on the ragged edge of adrenaline, no matter how familiar it feels (spent most of the first thirty-odd years of my life there), is not optimal and I do not want to continue.

Boxnoggin has just finished his traditional early-morning doze. It’s the nap he takes after the first potty break of the day; he gets a few more z’s in while I’m absorbing my coffee. Now he is informing me the schedule means toast for me, toast crust for him, and the preparations for walkies must commence in a timely fashion. He’s not quite as insistent or managing as Bailey was, but gods help us if the rituals are disturbed. And I suppose it helps me keep on track. I might ignore my own needs, but never his. Off I go, then.

Brace yourselves for Monday, my beloveds. I have a feeling this one’s going to be a dilly.

Heat, Hose, Happy

It hit the upper 90s yesterday (Fahrenheit, thank goodness for small mercies) and I am still a headache-y puddle despite air conditioning. I just don’t do well with the heat, though the garden is extremely happy. It would be better if I could have gotten the sprinklers turned on, but what with one thing and another that hasn’t happened and I don’t really truck with plumbing or electricity. Best to let the professionals do it, because so much could go wrong.

In any case, I got to the forty-chapter mark in the proofreaders’ changes yesterday; That Damn Werelion Book is ticking along. Another day should see me through, then I can look at global changes, one last circuit through the thing to check for formatting errors…then it’ll be time for the wrap template to go to the cover artist. That’s one of the very last steps before final release scheduling.

I might also do a sale for Moon’s Knight next month; I haven’t decided yet. So many things to think about, and even working through the weekend I haven’t been able to catch up with other stuff. I’m not quite chicken-with-head-cut-off yet…but it’s close.

Birds are yelling outside my office window–wide open to catch what coolth is possible this morning–and the cicada in the Venerable Fir is already droning. Boxnoggin needs to be walked and I should suffer through another run today, too, which means I need to get started very soon indeed. But the coffee isn’t even halfway finished.

It is rather satisfying to go through the proof. There are less errors than I thought, which is always welcome. Any page not bearing marks or highlighting is a gift. I want the paperback out well before the ebook, for obvious reasons, and come September I’ll be glad I set it all up beforehand. Future Me will be thanking Present Me, but Present Me is in a bit of a nasty mood, muttering balefully into a coffee mug.

The high point of yesterday was taking Boxnoggin’s collar off and making him sit in the backyard, then picking up the hose, setting the nozzle to “jet”, and watching him lose his tiny little mind while he chased a spray of water. He loves it. I will never be as happy with anything as that dog is with a water-jet, my gods. A few years ago he could easily go for twenty minutes, but now that he’s safely out of puppyhood (well, at least physically) it only takes about eight to ten before he’s exhausted, happy, soaked, and ready to nap the rest of the day. It’s a nice, easy way to wear him out during hot weather. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, and all that.

Some canines mature as they get older; Bailey was born old, I suspect. Others remain puppies, at least mentally, all their life. Max was, and Boxnoggin is, the latter. Lord van der Sploot will always be a puppy, mildly baffled when his body doesn’t cooperate. Just this morning he forgot he’s adult-sized and almost rolled off the bed–I wasn’t even giving chest skritches, for heaven’s sake, though he gave me a reproachful look as if I should have telekinetically moved him back from the edge.

Little weirdo.

The sooner I get started on the rest of the day, the sooner I can settle in the cool dark cave of my office and return to folding in proofreader changes. I don’t often talk about this part of the process because I suspect it’s intensely boring for readers to know about, even though it’s crucial. But so many people seem to think books just…appear, without grasping the months (if not years) of hard work that go into them. Or these people pretend not to grasp the truth so they can steal ebooks (that’s what piracy/torrenting is) without consequence.

Thinking about that will only make me upset, and I spent most of yesterday in a hole of “why bother, you should quit this gig anyway, so many asshats are going to steal, it’s a losing game.” I have no desire to return to that mental space.

Off I go to finish coffee, choke down some toast, and take Boxnoggin on a ramble. It’s not chasing the hose, but he loves walkies almost as much, and his joy will dispel some of my sadness. We don’t deserve dogs; it is a miracle they love us so.

Gods grant I become even close to the human he thinks I am. And that’s a good prayer for a Tuesday, indeed.

Worlds and Vessels

Woke up with a great silence inside my chest instead of pain. I think it’s emotional exhaustion; I would worry over it, but I can’t scrape up the wherewithal.

Boxnoggin is adjusting to becoming the only canine in the house. He seems to like it more than Bailey ever did. I’m watching carefully, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong. Certainly it’s a rather large change and he’s no longer being directed by a bossy Aussie with far more mental horsepower than he could ever dream of–Box is very loving, and sometimes cunning when chasing a squirrel, but otherwise his brain is two wet sticks, occasionally finding each other long enough to rub together and produce a thin curl of smoke. It’s not a bad thing, he certainly doesn’t seem to feel any lack.

It’s just…different. He likes the longer walks, he eats with gusto, he does his best to remind his humans of the more important things in life, like chest-rubs and toy games. He cuddles up to me at night and won’t let me out of bed in the morning without some solid cuddle-time, either. It helps both of us, I think.

I’ve got to get back to work. A skeleton-scene in Hell’s Acre was done yesterday, but it needs something, I’m just not quite sure what. I know what the point of the scene is–the overt antagonist is both fishing for information on the heroine and also looking to rub another character’s nose in some rather ugly personal history, while said other character’s aim is to unsettle and irritate the overt antagonist enough that he doesn’t clue into the fact that the heroine is, in fact, not merely a penniless schoolteacher from Gaul with an uncanny resemblance to a certain long-dead lady. So there are competing agendas here, and the scene needs another whack to get the dialogue settled, the exposition trimmed, and the bloody plot advanced.

Not only that, but a hundred pages of line edits were merrily taken care of. Startlingly, the books undergoing this last pass before CEs are…not terrible? The last time I sent them in to the editor I devoutly hoped never to see them again, but they’re not so bad as all that. In fact, one could say they’re rather…well, they seem good, which is a distinct relief. This is part of the process when bringing a book to publication. It’s a relief on the one hand–feeling that one’s work is stupid, useless, and janky after one’s gone through several editing passes is awful even though I know it always happens, it’s just a phase–but also sad, because it means the book is moving away from being one of my own private worlds, going out to become part of others’. There’s almost a mourning in it, though I know that in the end, when the book is out and I pick it up years later in order to refresh my memory or chase down a particular reference, I will find out that plenty of it remains entirely private and personal. There’s so, so much Readers never see–they only get the part of the iceberg that shows above the waterline. The rest, the vast mass underneath, is all mine, always.

So while I’m numb I can get some work done, though I have to push relatively hard to get through the internal static. Everything takes thrice as long when I’m in this state, because I have to be very careful I don’t just throw up my hands and say, “Fuck it, good enough.” That would be a disservice to Readers, let alone to the work itself. At least while I’m in another world I’m not thinking about the pain and mess in this one. Certainly it echoes, and those other worlds are crucial vessels for transmuting said mess and pain into other things, but I get a break from the suffering. A momentary escape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Tolkien’s assertion that it’s our duty to escape reality sometimes, and to take others with us. As a writer I’m unable to look away, and I’m also unable to stop transforming the world I see, at least in fiction. Between those two paradoxical poles is the balance any creative has to keep.

Like riding a bike. The knowledge never goes away, echoing in the body, but it’s also a gate to memory. A gate one is shoved ruthlessly through when one climbs aboard, naturally.

In any case the coffee is finished, brekkie needs to be scorched and consumed, and there’s walkies as well as a run to drag myself through. Then I can slither into the work for a while and find some relief. That will be nice.

Let’s hope Tuesday behaves rather as Monday did, for once. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but…here we are.

Onward and inward, I suppose. Excelsior, and all that.