Quiet Island

Took yesterday completely off social media, and it was so nice I may simply crawl back into the cave today as well. I lack any desire to look at the news.

The weekend involved a lot of yard work. The grapes are trimmed, so is the Japanese maple. A whack was taken at the pampas, but that’s going to be an ongoing campaign, not a single battle. Some dahlias have proved they were not, in fact, murdered by squirrels, so there’s that. I’m moving laurel and lilac volunteers to along the back fence, for reasons best left unspoken, and I suppose today is the day I get back to actual work instead of floundering and almost-procrastination.

There was also a great deal of housecleaning going on. Entirely necessary, because I’ve let a few thing slip between the weight of grief, the line edits, and recovery from both. (Not to mention the bloody news cycle.)

Fireworks were outlawed within city limits a few years ago, and with the pandemic there were few places to buy them locally this year. As a result, our street was somewhat of an island of quiet surrounded by artillery last night. Boxnoggin huddled against me shaking for most of it; we fell asleep, both trembling with stress despite sedation. The Mad Tortie went into hiding at the first mid-afternoon boom, as is her usual practice on the Fourth and New Year’s.

I hate this time of year for pets; they get so scared. This morning’s ramble with Boxnoggin will be a matter of patiently coaxing him into the open, and probably being knocked down and dragged if some asshole lets off a morning M80. I don’t quite wish maiming on everyone who wants to blow up a piece of native soil to “prove” their “patriotism” or some bullshit…but it’s close.

In short, I am locked in a great glassy ball of calm that might simply be emotional exhaustion. Whatever it is, it’s a relief, and I would very much like it to stick around for a few days so I can get some work done. Line edits for Duty just landed, so I have to stick those on the schedule along with work on Hell’s Acre, the second Tolkien Viking Werewolves book, and Ymre #2, which has been languishing somewhere around 40k for a while. The heroine and her stray beast really do need to get to the Temple and start unraveling the big mystery.

Someone’s running a leaf blower; at least it’s not fireworks. I’ll take it. And I suppose I really should run my own weary corpse today as well. I’ll feel better after a few kilometers’ worth of sweat.

Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Survival is a gat-damn victory right now, so if you’re reading this, good job! Proud of you! Don’t let the barstids grind you down, and all that.

See you around.

Pink Blackberry

Peekaboo.

The blackberries are having a wonderful time, between the rainy June and then the heatwave. We’re back to cool mornings and warm afternoons, which they also like.

This morning was taken up with a plumber’s visit, which went off so well I am now a bundle of nerves waiting for Something Else To Go Wrong. I am not used to things going smoothly. You’d think I’d be able to relax, but noooooo.

Ah well. Time for some breakfast. And Boxnoggin has behaved very well despite New Things Happening, so he might get a treat after walkies. I am trying desperately to rise from a morass of despair; maybe some toast will help.

Here’s hoping the weekend is quiet and safe, my beloveds. At least the blackberries know what they’re about…

Green Fire

Tender? Yes. Weak? No.

The rhododendrons suffered badly under the heat dome last year. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) I was afraid we’d lost fully half of them. They straggled through the winter, and the only reason I didn’t take them out was because suppleness still lurked in their limbs instead of the dry-bone feeling of dead wood. That, and my stupid, persistent kindness, the willingness to see if things will get better, to whisper “do what you must, I’ll help all I can” to maybe-dead plants.

Now, in a wet spring, fresh growth covers them. On my low days, I wonder why they’ve bothered. And there have been a lot of low days lately, what with All This.

It also makes me wonder if it hurts a phoenix to burn. Renewal is at the end of the fire, certainly, but it never comes without cost. Does the fragile, sticky, delicate new growth ache as it bursts free? Does the phoenix feel a sweet pain, cold air hitting wet wings as a butterfly struggles out of necessary confinement? Will I endure long enough that this agony becomes simply something that was instead of it hurts, it hurts now, it hurts so much?

I don’t know, and the rhododendrons aren’t saying. I touch their trunks, feel the living weight of their branches, examine the raw, downy leaves. For a bare moment the pain lessens a fraction, and I take a deep breath. Sometimes, simply enduring is the only courage possible–or necessary.

Gods grant me strength to sing through this fire, and to cover the scars with green when it’s over.

From Cold Blood to Hope

Monday again? I would demand a recount, but I know it’s useless. One can’t argue with time. Well, I suppose one could, but being incarnated in flesh makes it a losing proposition, and I already have enough of those.

I spent a quiet, rainy weekend cleaning the house, taking walks with Boxnoggin, and generally just trying to adjust. And writing space werewolves, for some reason.

Intellectually I know I’m distracting myself from grief. It might be a mistake to use the werewolves to do it, since when the pain fades I might not be able to open up the story’s file again without being reminded of the hurt. On the other hand, pouring the agony of missing my shadow, the fuzzy little queen of my heart–because that’s what she was–into a meant-to-be-fluffy story is far from the worst way to handle something like this. At least it’s a manner of creation, and if the story distracts me, it might distract a Reader or two from the current trashfire in the news or even a more personal tragedy. Who knows?

It’s the little things that hurt most. Cleaning off her brushes–she was a long-haired pooch with a lovely undercoat–for the last time. Getting two bedtime treats out of the bag, and having to return one because there’s only a single dog waiting for the usual nighttime snack. Tucking my feet under my chair at the table, since she liked to lie right in front, both for closeness and for the occasional scrap. I’m unable to move the pillows on the couch because she never liked them on “her” end, and would toss fat decorative things onto the floor with a sideways glance if we dared to rest any there. Getting down two dog bowls in the morning, and having to put one back while my throat closes up and my eyes prickle.

I do want to thank you–all of you–for your kind words and condolences. Thankfully, not a single person has said, “but it’s just a dog.” They are never just dogs, or cats, or fish, or birds. To have a pet is to share the most intimate moments of one’s life with another creature, to be responsible for them in all ways, to have a companion in every sense. We share our hearts, our homes, and the deepest bits of ourselves, and when they’re gone it hurts dreadfully.

And that’s all I want to say about that right now.


I finished reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood this weekend. I thought I’d read it before, but apparently I haven’t–at least, not since I started keeping a reading log. (I actually keep two, one in Airtable and one in my book cataloguing software, since the latter doesn’t list ebooks.) It’s a fascinating time capsule, and also interesting to see how he took the conventions of true-detective magazines and married them to a few journalistic ones, plus a literary device or two, creating standards for an essentially new genre. I’ve read a lot of true crime, and it’s fascinating to see one of the seminal works. Capote also took the chance to write about aspects of the crime that, while sensational, are also important–both Smith and Hickcock showed signs of sociopathy; Capote almost instinctively zeroed in on them–while he pushed the boundaries of “acceptable” language at the time.

I can see why Capote was famous, and can also see how he could have been bloody insufferable. I wonder about the effect Harper Lee had on his work, and indeed if she wrote some things for him, content to shy away from the spotlight but still keep producing work. I freely admit that last bit could just be projection on my part; I can’t imagine not writing once one has gotten into the habit.

With that finished, I turned back to Anaïs Nin’s diaries. I might as well finish the stack, and there’s a great deal in there that speaks to my current situation, both on a meta and a micro-level. She felt it was her job to love, to bring life back into the world, to resurrect what was murdered. She certainly lived in the right timeframe for it, and her unquestioning faith that such things are possible both pains me and fills me with longing. I wish I could believe half as hard as she did.


All that aside, though, it’s the drop-dead date for starting the line edits on The Dead God’s Heart. Long-time Readers will recognize the story–I’ve talked about the two books as “American Gods meets John Wick“, and subscribers have seen bits and pieces of them. They’ll be out next year, I think? When I have preorder links, believe me, I’ll let you guys know.

Work goes on, even through heartbreak. My first quad-shot of the day is almost absorbed, then it will be time for toast and maybe a few paragraphs of Nin before walkies. Boxnoggin likes the longer rambles, and we’re slowly working up to a different route, about twice the distance Bailey could comfortably handle near the end. He’s a sensitive fellow, and I don’t want to overwork him. So it’s slight changes, one by one, with a lot of rests in-between. Then I run my own tired corpse, putting together the day’s work inside my head while I do so. I might be able to sneak away a bit, perhaps after dinner, and work on space werewolves.

That’s the thing I’m looking forward to most, other than bedtime. Crawling back into bed and never coming out is a seductive thought, but as always there’s work to be done. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and today I’m both.

May our Monday be as pleasant as possible, my beloveds. Even though it’s, well, a Monday, we can view it as a fresh start to some extent. And there’s a bit of hope in that. Not much–I do not have the capacity for much at the moment–but a little.

Which will have to suffice, and gods grant it’s enough.

Over and out.

Adieu, Miss B

Snug and sound, on her penultimate day.

Her name was Bailey; Miss B was her nom d’internet. I came down the hall at the shelter, looked into her cage, and the instant our gazes met we belonged to each other. Can we go home now, she asked, and I said, through the lump in my throat, “Oh, God, darling, yes, I’ll handle it.”

The first night she was home, she was woozy from the spaying anesthetic, and I carried her outside for bathroom breaks. There were accidents all night, and she would give me a soulful look as if to apologize, while I hastened to assure her that it was just fine, laundry was easy, she just had to rest and get better.

She loved running with me, and herding. She loved snuggles, and being rubbed right above the base of her tail. She adored peanut butter, and hated visiting the vet. She was smart, and fierce, and fast, and loyal. She was the very best. She herded squirrels and cats, outfoxed Neo!Squirrel more than once, longed to make closer acquaintance of Phred the Coyote, bossed her humans and cats and packmates into good behavior, slept on my bed every night, and was my familiar, in every sense of the word.

She greeted Odd Trundles, mothered him, and missed him so badly when he passed on that we had to take her to the shelter so she could choose a companion–Boxnoggin won that contest, and she supervised him relentlessly.

He did not mind.

Dogs get old, naturally, and her body started to break down. She could no longer run with me, but that was all right because there were walkies. But age is relentless, and wore away at her. I knew when May began that we didn’t have much time left. Each week I thought, “well, at least this isn’t the week I lose her.” But last Sunday came, and her body was failing, and she was in pain. She told me she was ready–in a few days.

I didn’t quite understand why she was so insistent about that part, but I think she was waiting for the rain to stop. It never bothered her much–she was an all-weather dog–but her joints ached a bit in the damp. And so today, the first gloriously sunny warm day of real spring, Bailey got up early and insisted on walkies. She sniffed everything thoroughly, and marked at the bottom of the hill and at the top. She waited patiently for the appointed time, greeted the traveling vet like a queen bestowing favor on a visiting ambassador, and laid down in my lap.

And then she left us. She left…me.

She went into the clear rational light of What Comes Next on our deck while the birds sang, surrounded by her people, with Boxnoggin keeping guard. She had her way to the very end, and her very last taste of the world was her favorite bacon grease on her favorite type of biscuit. I told her what a good girl she was, how much I loved her, that I hoped after a rest she’d want to come back because I would miss her so, so much. I told her to carry my love to Odd Trundles–Max–and I told her that I didn’t deserve her but I loved her, loved her, love her so much, love her still.

The children grieve, of course–she was the first dog they ever really knew. Boxnoggin knows she is gone; he nosed her body gently and said his goodbyes.

I am undone.

I keep looking around for my shadow, my faithful companion, my Constant Girl. I keep listening for her footsteps in the hall. She was my girl, and she’s gone. The pain is the price of having her for those glorious, too-short years, and I pay it gladly because I was the human she chose. She had every reason to distrust humanity, but she chose and trusted me. There was nothing she would not have done for me, and vice versa.

If you enjoyed her stories and wish to honor her, please give your furry companions some extra love. Be gentle with yourselves, and remember to bask in the sun a bit, eat something nice, and take a nap. If you like, you can donate to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, who rescued her and let me take my beautiful girl home. (They also saved Boxnoggin and the Mad Tortie; they’re good folk.)

I know it was for the best. I know she was hurting, and it was time. It would have been selfish of me to ask her to stay longer, though I wanted to, oh how I wanted to. I know, I know, I know it all, but the knowledge brings little comfort.

She was the best, and now she is gone, and I am undone. I am blessed to have had her as long as I did, and I hope to see her again someday.

Sooner or later, gods grant. Her memory–like the rest of her–was, is, and will be a blessing.

From Roof to Dementia

So I’ve been fighting with the mortgage company, which decided to insert itself into the claims process–remember that freak snowstorm that damaged the roof, the deck, and our fences? Well, the insurance company won’t pay out what’s required (they are not good neighbors, let’s leave it at that) but they did pay out enough to defray the cost of a new roof, so that’s what we’re doing.

The fences and deck, well, they’ll have to wait their turn. We could already have the roof repaired if not for the sodding mortgage company. It’s taken six phone calls–four of which “customer service” or the phone tree hung up on–over the last two days to politely but firmly insist they get their asses together. I’ve been dealing with bureaucratic phone trees and judo-ing institutions ever since I knew phones existed, so this is simply annoying, but the very last bit threatens to fill me with actual anger.

The check they insisted they had to endorse as well? They’re attempting to send it back first-class. No tracking number, no insurance, nothing. Not only does this company try to nickel, dime, and squeeze “service fees” and everything else out of those unfortunate enough to have their mortgages acquired (without our consent, I might add), I have the sneaking suspicion they’re going to try to “lose” the insurance payout check. It’s as if they want to delay repairs until properties becomes uninhabitable, likely so they can scoop up said properties on the cheap and resell them at a huge profit.

I am THISCLOSE to publicly naming and shaming this institution. I don’t have much, if any, social media clout, but by the gods sometimes I’m tempted to use what little I have to teach nasty bullies and scammers the error of their ways.

Anyway. The news at large has also been dreadful, I have been unable to work with all the rest of this going on, and May is also historically a terrible month for me. I’m almost at the point of considering all this absurd and breaking down into screechy laughter, which will be terrifying for anyone in the vicinity but will also mean I’m focusing on the absurdity of suffering life under these conditions instead of the pain I’m witnessing daily.

On the other hand, I’ve gulped and put that damn werelion book up for preorder. Come June 1 it will be taken down from the serial platform, and my plan is to get the bloody thing out in September, though I’ve given myself all of October as well. It’s always better to be able to release a preorder early than to ask for more time to complete it; a padded schedule is just good practice. The book might be terrible, but it’s not unfinished, a few serial readers and beta readers have told me it was just what they needed, and I have to believe that even amid All This the world needs a few stories to just forget about the rest of the nonsense with.

I tell others “trust the work”, and I suppose it’s only fair life arranges things so I’m forced to do so as well. (What? You mean I have to take my own advice? Who came up with that rule?)

At least I’m beginning to see the funny side. Not of the news cycle–there is nothing funny about the cavalcade of horrors we’re forced to endure under late-stage capitalism and its attendant racism and misogyny. But my own particular fight with windmills does have its hilarious bits. My stubbornness has been engaged, and if you’ve hung around here for any length of time at all, you know that’s a recipe for mordant wit and sarcastic disaster.

So today is a toss-up between writing the space-werewolf-pro-wrestler erotica, or finishing formatting a certain other book. I have to believe that telling even my weird little stories has some value, that providing a few hours’ worth of relief for my readers can somehow ameliorate the pain. I have to believe it, otherwise…well, let’s not talk about otherwise.

But dear gods, it’s difficult.

At least this is not the week I lose Miss B. The time is fast approaching, but I have a few more days to spend with her. That’s a bright spot even if her doggie dementia is rapidly getting worse. She gets anxious if she “loses” me in the house, though she does accept Boxnoggin as somewhat of a substitute when I have to go for a run or a quick shopping trip. Fortunately, she doesn’t get violent at all, just confuzzled and attempting-to-herd, and Boxnoggin doesn’t mind her bossing him about. He treats it like play, and wears her out until they collapse in a puppy-heap.

When she chose him as a companion, she chose very well indeed.

So that’s the state of the Lili this Thursday, my beloveds. I hope your day is much more peaceful; barring that, I hope you can see the absurd side. It’s better than screaming, I guess. (If it’s not…well, don’t tell me.)

Over and out.

Deck Grin

Of course I anthropomorphize this.

It’s not much, just a hole in the deck where one of the massive fir branches knocked down by the freak snowstorm slid off the roof and punched straight through. It looks like a smiling mouth, and the glimpse of greenery below gives me a bit of the willies. I’m not precisely afraid of heights–I haven’t been terrified since I did my own form of exposure therapy–but I don’t like them.

All the same, I don’t want to hurt the deck’s feelings. So I smile back whenever I see the hole.

I should absolutely start getting estimates to repair the damn thing. Maybe once I get revisions done I can get on that, but I’m already dealing with the roof proper and…I’m tired. A boat is a hole in the water one throws money into, a house is a cave one…throws money into. At least under our current system of property rights, that is.

I do have a list of subjects for Tea with Lili today, so there’s that to look forward to. But at the moment I am absorbing coffee and looking at the revisions I also have to get done. It’s going to be a busy day.

At least the deck greets me with a weary grin, and Miss B is still holding steady. This isn’t the week I lose her, and I’m utterly grateful for it. We’ll see what the next one holds.

Over and out.