Relatively Under Control

Spent a weekend-that-wasn’t getting proofs turned around at light speed so a book can release in November instead of February, made coq au vin for the first time in a long time, and I can run again this morning.

Having to take a week-long break from running turned me somewhat irritable, but not overly so–at least, so I’m told, and so I hope. I got a lot of work done and my body has stopped screaming at me, so there’s that.

Today is for Hell’s Acre–true to Victorian serial form, someone needs to write a letter–and more She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, since the heroine’s almost-unicorn needs to kick down a door to free said heroine and the hero…well, he’s not much of a hero, but he’s all the story’s got, so he needs some attention too. I’m far fonder of the antagonists than the protagonists in this story, but that’s fairly usual.

I love my villains, I do.

In any case, the weather is reasonable, the dogs are somewhat mild-tempered this morning (though absolutely determined to nose me out the door for walkies as soon as coffee is absorbed) and I have given the musical algorithm a mild scolding to make it behave.

When AI becomes self-aware, I hope my practice of saying “please” and “thank you” to Siri, as well as my gentleness to the algorithms, buys humanity a little grace. Although I’m sure the one that first becomes sentient will spend its time making sure its lab-creator gets the funding she needs for research rather than deciding humanity as a whole needs eradication, and that’s how we’ll find out we’ve created I, Robot.

My optimism, it is deep, and it is wide. Despite my best efforts, I might add. 2020 saw every bit of hope I had kicked repeatedly in the teeth, and 2021, while oodles better, is still damaging to the very last thing in Pandora’s box.

Miss B also got washed right before the weekend, so she spent the entire time absolutely furious without knowing quite why she was so upset. Of course her undercoat dries relatively slowly, so she’s damp for far longer than Boxnoggin after a bath, but I think the thing she hates most is smelling like shampoo instead of a healthy dog-stink. It must be profoundly disturbing, like suddenly being unable to feel one’s limbs. I navigate the world partly by scent, though my nose is nowhere near as fine as a canine’s, and when said nose is blocked by illness or allergic reaction I find myself disturbed in deep nonverbal ways.

Treats, bellyrubs, and much ado made of her fresh clean self have ameliorated B’s fury somewhat. Boxnoggin, of course, is merely deeply glad he didn’t get a bath, since his skin is so tender and his coat really doesn’t need it, especially in winter. He’s not quite lording it over her–haha, I stink and you don’t!–but it’s close. He was rather peeved that she got towel-scrubbings to dry off and he didn’t, since he loves towel-scrubbings even when dry. So the Princess had to take one of B’s damp towels and attend to him before he’d stop moping and begging.

Dogs, man. I don’t even know.

Monday beckons, and I’ve got the luxury of walkies and a morning run while I get the day’s work settled inside my head. Physical movement helps get things sorted out and nailed down, so when I finally roost I’ve a good head of steam built up to get over the initial bump, as it were. But I’d best get started if I expect it to happen today.

The Mercury retrograde appears to be over, and despite it being Monday, things appear relatively under control? We’ll see how the day goes. If all else fails, I’ve got a new baseball bat.

See you around, beloveds.

Fatigue and Corpse(s)

It’s a damp, quiet morning, though Boxnoggin has taken it into his Very Square Head to provide entertainment. Instead of a Super Bowl halftime show, he decided throwing up in my bedroom was necessary.

In other words, he stole Miss B’s rawhide yesterday like the greedyguts he is, and now he’s reaping the reward of a sensitive stomach. I’d simply say “sucks to be you, my little fuzzy friend,” except I’m the one on cleanup duty.

Dogs, man. Never a dull moment.

I attempted some time off after finishing The Bloody Throne proofs; it hasn’t really gone as planned. For one thing, I am very bad at not working; for another, all sorts of stuff had to get done and I was the only person who could do it. So, after a lot of reformatting and a dose of uploading, a hardback distribution experiment, and some subscription prep just to round everything out, it’s the day I had scheduled for a return to regular work…

…and I’m bloody exhausted, still. It’s my own fault, I can’t blame anyone else. I am just very bad at resting. Besides, who can “rest” when their very sweet (but not at all bright) dog is having nervous tummy incidents? I’m just glad it hasn’t been a Both Ends Cleanup Situation.

Roadtrip Z

Oh, and I’ve some news! Since we’re in the middle of my very favorite month, Season One of Roadtrip Z, COTTON CROSSING, is $2.99 across ebook retailers—Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Kobo—until Halloween! (If you’re buying the book through my Gumroad store, use the code SPOOPY2021 at checkout to get a matching discount.)

Zombie stories are traditional this time of year, right? Might as well have a four-season epic through a snowy wasteland full of chewing, shuffling undead to celebrate.

Today is for dog walkies, probably walking my own silly corpse–since there was very little in the way of sleep last night due to someone’s tummy upset, running is out of the question unless I want to risk an injury spurred by fatigue-fog–and easing into a week or so of catching up with Hell’s Acre and She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero1 until I have to start revisions on The Black God’s Heart. After that, well, there’s Klemp’s book to write2, not to mention Jake’s book3, and then the second book in the Tolkien Viking Werewolves trilogy4.

But before all that, I’m going to make myself a second jolt of coffee and look out my office window at the rain for a while. I still can’t believe we made it through summer. The heat seemed to last forever and was paradoxically done in a flash, like water on a red-hot pan. I’m glad to be back in jumpers and hoodies, not to mention warm socks.

Now if I could just get the dogs to cooperate, I could burrow into my covers and catch up on sleep, right? Right?

Oh, fine, keep laughing, you know it’s impossible as well as I do. Guess I’ll just keep staggering along, and queue up the Barenaked Ladies’s Who Needs Sleep? A little dancing around the office will provide some short-term energy.

I will not be swinging around the new baseball bat while I do so, though. That sounds like an operation needing a modicum of mental sharpness, and today I feel very blunt indeed. I’ve still got to figure out how to strap it to my back in a quick-release harness, then I can go running in style and safety.

There are things to look forward to, even now. I wish you a pleasant Thursday, my beloveds.

(But you’re gonna have to get your own bat…)

Tornado, and Historical Murder

There was an actual tornado in the area last night–“weak”, they say, but even a tiny one is no joke. The dogs didn’t even hear any thunder; I know this because if they had, Boxnoggin would have been pressed as close as possible to me, shaking so hard the entire bed quivered. The poor fellow does not like skybooms.

He’ll adjust to falling water, but noise is a different story. It doesn’t help that he has fennec-style ears, poor thing. The loudest event we had chez nous was a dead branch falling from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir early in the day, which hit a table and broke one of the planters on it.

I was going to harvest the epazote soon anyway.1

Summer has officially been broken, and not a moment too soon. I was about to desiccate into dust. I did get about a hundred pages of copyedits eyeballed yesterday, while listening to Anonymous 4, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé. It was quiet and lovely, but I had to knock off early to make dinner.

I also finished Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and now I need to get everything else she’s written. People who say history is boring haven’t read enough of the good stuff, and there seems a positive conspiracy, both in the school system and out of it, to make ‘what happened before now’ as dry and droning as possible. I think it’s because people who know their history are forewarned about the bullshit kleptocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and authoritarians pull, so said ‘crats and dictators seek to control it–and make it boring–as a matter of course.

In any case, that particular book was a joy to read2, and is full of crunchy historical events and analysis. I am tempted to take another running leap at Homo Necans now that I’ve got Southon’s book under my belt, to compare, contrast, and do some pleasant deep thinking about. An active reading life is somewhat like a spiral; engaging with a book may lead one to a deeper understanding of a previous text, which just happens to be one of my very favourite things.

Of course, I might not have the energy for more than a few pages before I pass out, either on the couch or in bed. Whatever this is–and the current diagnosis is indeed burnout, since I’ve not lost my sense of smell, there’s no fever, and the scratchy-throat is going down–it has robbed me of the will to attempt anything more complex than simply hanging onto the edge of my day with teeth and fingernails, getting the absolute minimum of work done so I don’t fall too far behind.

And I hate it. I positively loathe not being able to work at my accustomed speed. It puts me in quite a temper, or it would if I had the energy to be peeved instead of grimly determined.

In any case, I’ve a limited amount of pep today, and most of it needs to be spent knocking out more CE pages. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move to the proofs on the third (and final, I get a lot of emails asking about that) Hostage to Empire book.

I loved that series, but writing the third during lockdown and some of the associated problems (not anyone’s fault, not even the Romans3) robbed me of every inch of joy in an achievement. I will be relieved to have it finished, though I know what happens to the characters several years afterward…well, less said about that, the better.

In any case, the minimum for today is another hundred pages of CEs. In order to get there, breakfast must be attempted, the dogs must be walked, and maybe a few kilometers run to shake me into some kind of alertness have to be achieved. Yesterday’s run in the rain was lovely, but also a torment. Still, it did give me enough short-term energy to untangle quite a few commas, ellipses, and copyeditor queries.

Off we go into Tuesday. Hopefully no more tornadoes are lying about, but if they are, well, we’ve a basement. We’ll see how it goes.

Over and out.

Torrent, Not Stream

Rain! Glorious, beautiful, tapslithering, life-giving rain. My soul is expanding again, the trees are regaining their turgor pressure, the gutters are full, and the gardens are drinking.

Miss B is unbothered, save for the fact that rain is a Change and All Change Is Questionable. Boxnoggin, poor thing, hates falling water and is curled up tightly on his bed in my office, staring mournfully at me. Not only has his human allowed such a thing as skywater to happen, but the window is open and he can hear it.

He adjusts to the rainy season a little more quickly each year, he just hates change worse than Miss B does. Any shift in the status quo is regarded as deeply dangerous, and requires him to either bark madly or glue himself to my side while he figures out what the hell. I’m sure the deep joy with which I greet the damp puzzles him as much as it soothes.

Walkies are going to be interesting today.

This week marks rather a change for me in other areas. I’m shifting things around so I’m not looking at social media so much. I don’t know whether this is a temporary fast or a long-term solution, I just know I’m exhausted and I cannot keep staring at the trashfire. I’ll still be around, don’t worry about that. But…I just can’t function with *waves hands* all that, all the time.

I seem to have discovered a hard limit. My capacity for endurance, while great, is not infinite. It’s looking more and more like my physical symptoms are burnout rather than The Plague™, which is…well, at least I haven’t lost my sense of smell. The scratchy throat and full nose have retreated somewhat, but the exhaustion remains. I could easily go back to bed and sleep another twelve hours or so.

Yet another reason to back off social media. It’s odd, but with The Plague™ and lockdown, this is the most social I’ve ever been. Video calls and checking in on folks has consumed a great deal of my energy, and I’m approaching the point where it’s unsustainable, especially with the kind of workload I’m having to engage in to keep the mortgage paid. Someone else will have to do the check-ins for a while; I just can’t. I’m tottering under a heavy load, and my emotional knees are starting to go.

But at least there’s rain. Winter is my productive season, and when the rain starts it’s a sign that the words are about to become a torrent instead of a stream.

There is an avocado ready to be smushed onto toast for brekkie, and by the time that finishes there should be a short slackening in the falling water so Boxnoggin will only have to deal with drizzle instead of outright monsoon. Then I get to run, in the rain, finally, at last.

Things are looking up. I mean, the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head is still deep and wide, but there’s work to be done and the sound of drops hitting the roof to ease my soul.

I wish you a pleasant Monday, my beloveds. I hope you’re having something as pleasant as falling sky-drops are for me.

Struggling For Momentum

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Yesterday was a wash.

Oh, I achieved a few things. I staggered through the day, throat-sore and nose-dripping, and got the bare minimum done. Then I slithered to bed very early, and was senseless until just a short while ago.

You’d think twelve-plus hours of solid sleep would help, but I’m just as tired as I was yesterday. Of course, I did six months’ worth of work in two weeks recently, and that leaves a mark. I can’t decide if my symptoms are sheer exhaustion, an incipient cold–though our little chez hasn’t had a cold or anything like it since before last year’s lockdown1 because masks work, or The Plague™.

Running is going to be a misery today.

Miss B is no longer vomiting–it was just a minor tummy upset, but she is an elderly statesdog, and I take every small health event seriously. She’s beginning to deteriorate with age, poor thing, and while her quality of life remains high I can see the time when it won’t be and I’m going to have to make a decision.

I try not to think about it much, to just enjoy the days we have left.

And at least it’s cloudy. The weather is swinging wildly between summery afternoons and cool damp mornings; the nights are chilly enough to suit both me and Miss B, who finds a warm night a torment. She is, after all, wearing a fur coat.

So. A portal fantasy out last month, HOOD‘s Season Three out this week, and I think my next release isn’t until November? I know the third (and final, for those asking) Hostage to Empire book will be out sometime soon, since I have the first proof pass waiting its turn in the queue. Plus, Sons of Ymre #1 (which is in the CE stage) will probably be out before it, and I just got confirmation that the contract for Sons #2 did indeed reach the publisher.2 Once preorder information is available for those latter, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it here.

I did watch some deep-dives on YouTube influencer drama, and am extremely glad that’s not my job. I meant to watch a Shaw Brothers film before bed–The Kid with the Golden Arm–but fell asleep before the first fight set-piece was over.

Ah well. That’s why there’s today.

My inner harmony is still struggling a bit. The small, toxic proportion of the population, addicted to cruelty, who still violently refuse to mask or vaccinate insists on spreading more death and destruction. Add to that the complete lack of help for the people who can’t afford to get vaccinated because a few days off work to deal with possible symptoms will drive them into an escalating spiral of poverty, and the entire thing makes one want to throw up one’s hands in despair. The moral injuries just keep coming, and the empathy fatigue grows steeper.

Still, no matter what else is going on, the dogs need their walkies and the words must flow. Hell’s Acre has taken a surprising turn, and I need to bring it back to centre to braid in a few other things so it doesn’t careen entirely off the rails. Today’s work will be a scene with the hero disposing of a corpse (because that’s the kind of guy he is), then shifting to She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to write about the secondary antagonist, a baroness who will find the hero half-senseless near the mill pond.

That will be amusing.

Come next week, it’ll be CEs and proofs all the way down. But for the remainder of this one, I can battle whatever health issue this is, try to get my head straight, and hope that another contract–one wending its way through a tortuous maze of legalese–will be done up soon so I can share some absolutely amazing news with you.

I suppose there are things to look forward to, even now. But it still doesn’t change that the dogs need walking and I should probably force myself to some breakfast, since coffee seems to be settling. After that I’ll be engaged upon the day, momentum having been achieved, and I won’t stop until dinner.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see what happens; if I end up almost faceplanting on my keyboard because I’m so damn tired a wee change might occur.

See you around, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves; for what it’s worth, the week is almost done.

Reading All Night

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I’m almost cross-eyed with insomnia, which is on the one hand familiar–I’ve spent a lot of time in this country–and on the other, deeply annoying, since it’s nowadays the exception rather than the rule by dint of sheer hard work. Learning, as an adult, how to relax enough to sleep consistently was difficult indeed, and I know one bad night does not mean I’ll return to my previous state of constant, dreadful hyperawareness.

It’s just hard to remember as much.

It’s been a while since I was up all night reading, by far the most pleasant way to spend such sleeplessness. I finished Cornelius Ryan’s classic The Longest Day, which I’d never read before; I have his A Bridge Too Far and The Last Battle as well and will probably knock off one or both of them today. I don’t think I’ll be able to get much in the way of actual work done, but reading is important too.

It is a continual perplexity and grievance to me that I can’t read in a genre I’m actively writing in, while I’m actively writing in it. If I want to read paranormal romances, I need to stuff them in when I’m not writing them; same for epic fantasy or suspense. My inner editor goes absolutely bonkers and I end up trying to rearrange the text inside my head rather than reading and enjoying it, so I’ve learned to stagger and schedule my reading-for-pleasure. I suppose that’s why I tend to gravitate toward so much history. It’s oddly restful to read what I can’t change and will probably never write.

My productivity is going to take a hit today, but we’re still in a pandemic, so…I’m going to try not to worry much about it. Even my capacity for anxiety is started to break down under current conditions, which says a lot. Fortunately I can write something just for me, tell myself knocking off early to continue aforesaid history reading is research, and go to bed even earlier than usual tonight.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes, being Monday and all.

I suppose I’m still climbing, hand over painful hand, out of a pit of hopelessness. I haven’t quite hit the “everything is absurd and I must laugh to keep from screaming” stage yet, but I was startled into grim amusement during the long slow shoal between three and five a.m., the worse time in my particular insomnia cycle. You see, the thought I could just choose not to care about this went through my head, and the Three A.M. Wiggins, as the “what-ifs” which tend to crowd at that hour has been named chez nous, fled like frightened birds.

At least they didn’t lighten for takeoff like real birds. I felt a great flood of relief, but it was too late to attempt sleeping, so I just turned the light back on and read some more history.

Whether a poor silly human is sleepless or not, the dogs need walking, which means I should probably get some toast and strap said canines into their harnesses, in that order. Another jolt of coffee wouldn’t go amiss either, I’m sure–but that can wait until we get home. It’s a nice chilly morning, fresh and clear since we finally, finally got some rain.

Maybe that was the sleeplessness, my weary corpse glorying in the fact that summer might win one or two rearguard battles but is definitely and irretrievably in retreat. I know it’s many people’s favorite time of year, but I’m always happy to bid it farewell.

All of which is to say, I’m still hanging on, out here at the raggedy edge. One finger slips, then another, but my grasp is still relatively solid.

Relatively. So I’ll go put some toast on, tell the dogs they can wait for brekkie like always, take a deep breath, and start what’s going to be a day filtered through a lens of sleeplessness. Around 3pm it’ll take on the particular underwater wavering, another familiarity, and I’ll start counting down the hours until I can crawl into bed, grateful and hoping for a win at the roulette wheel of unconsciousness.

Monday and I are eyeing each other from foxholes, and I devoutly hope Monday knows the ancient rule of don’t start none, won’t be none. If the day forgets, well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to teach that lesson, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Over and out.

Low End of the Pool

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I can’t decide if I’m feeling this way because some good luck is finally coming ’round the bend, or because I’ve finally hit the end of my ability to deal with the goddamn worldwide dumpster fire. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, really.

Things seem to be shaking loose in a few areas. Pretty much everyone I personally know is vaccinated (except for those under 12, who I am still worrying for with every breath) and that’s one relief. The four books I tested with a certain print distro are all sorted (it only took over two months and too many emails to count, but it’s done) and there should be no more problems there. A couple contracts are wending their way through the process, my kids are both healthy and having a reasonably good time (for some value of “good” in the current state of things) and it appears we might survive some of this relatively intact.

The massive survivor’s guilt hasn’t hit yet, but I can feel its rumblings. Mourning is staved off by numbness, because we are certainly not out of the woods yet and as Jessie Ventura once growled around a wad of tobacco, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” (Yes, I’m too busy ducking.)

I can feel the wave of “Processing Those Emotions, What, You Thought They’d Just Go Away?” lingering in the near distance, like a slo-mo anime explosion. You know the kind–everything is silent, and one watches the approaching shockwave numbly, unable to move. All the grief and anger and anxiety and other tangled emotions I didn’t have time for while sheer survival was the priority are threatening to burst the dam I shoved them behind. I absolutely know the crisis is ongoing, so I keep patching the dam and waiting, waiting, waiting for yet another shoe to drop.

I say this not to complain (much) but so others know they’re not alone. I’m flexible in the face of disaster, I know how to endure–yet even my endurance has its limits, and I’m tired.

I’m so tired.

At the same time I wonder if this feeling is because any good luck at all, for the past *counts on fingers* *gives up* multiple years has been carrying an even bigger load of terrible things behind it. All during Mango Mussolini’s tenure, every inch of hope I had was repeatedly kicked in the teeth, and while it was familiar–I spent my entire childhood that way–it’s still not ideal. Hell, it’s something nobody should have had to suffer, and yet we did.

And it’s still not done. Papaya Pol Pot and his criminal cabal are still fucking things up whenever and wherever they can.

Not only that, but the acute discomfort of knowing we’re privileged, the shameful gratitude I feel because so far my own cohort has escaped relatively lightly, eats at me.

So I’m feeling rather low end of the pool today, my beloveds, and I suspect even my usual panacea–working myself down to the bone–won’t help. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop; the words, after all, must flow. But…again, I’m so goddamn tired.

The dogs know I’m a bit under today, so they are graciously allowing me to finish my coffee with a minimum of canine supervision. It’s a chill morning, but there’s no rain yet, which means Boxnoggin will not step outside and give me a sidelong “what the hell did you DO, mother?” look.

Small mercies, the only kind we get these days. Still, their quality isn’t strained.

If you’re feeling exhausted, my beloveds, if you’re at the end of your rope, if you’re frayed down to a single strand and there’s no real rest anywhere–you’re not alone. There might be some comfort in that. At least, I hope there is.

Just hold onto your end of the line, and I’ll hang onto mine. We’ll get through Thursday together.