Atlas Break

The longest night is over. There’s a band of grey in the east, and the cedars are dancing on a frigid wind. The weather folk say snow today, with an additional helping of freezing rain. The moisture shouldn’t move in until afternoon, but already things are frozen solid–I had to move the birdbath’s dish so it can drain when the polar stuff is done.

We don’t often get snow here (or we never used to, thanks, climate change!) so people are losing their minds with preparations on top of the usual holiday ruckus. I’m sure kids are thrilled at the prospect of a Christmas looking like a Currier-Ives tin. I heard Fred Meyer’s (Kroger’s, for my nonlocals) was out of deicer and rock salt. Even though I got out of the house early yesterday, there were still too many people out and about, and all in various stages of deep stress.

I didn’t put out a vigil candle this year. Just didn’t have the spoons, and I figured others could do the observances to bring the sun back. Intellectually I know that flaming ball of nuclear hydrogen will handily outlast our species, but spiritually it’s a different matter. Ah well, I’ve carried the world on my shoulders long enough. Even Atlas needed a break every now and again.

The revisions are finally gathering steam–4k in new text added yesterday, even with significant deletions in the mix. I have a few bad-tempered things to say at this point in the process, but professionalism means keeping those under wraps, downing another quad-shot (or cuppa) and simply getting back to work. Illness and holiday scramble have put me even further behind schedule, but that was only to be expected. I knew that jury duty nonsense would cost me serious time and annoyance; there should be some sort of recourse for being forced to sit near maskless mouthbreathers.

You can tell I’m in a bright, cheery mood. Relief is just as exhausting as tension, after a certain point.

Boxnoggin wants his morning walkies, but he does not want the cold wind. Our ramble will be severely truncated since I don’t want either of us freezing to death; naturally, he will blame me for the weather since I am In Charge, and clearly the immortal creature he lives with–who produces light with a flick of her fingers and food at will–is capable of dealing with little things like rain and ice. He seems to think I have ineffable reasons for such misery, and bears with it patiently, grumbling only the minimum amount.

For all that, he took forever to find a place suitable for peeing this morning. I can perhaps be forgiven for wondering aloud, “I got out of a warm bed for this?”

He gave me a look of hearty agreement, yet could not unload until he found the precise perfect spot. This doesn’t bode well for our midmorning constitutional, but maybe the idea that a certain amount of prudent haste is advisable will work its way through his thick skull. A subzero wind chill does tend to concentrate the mind wonderfully, at least in the initial stages.

Ah, yes. One more thing I wanted to say. Some of you have reached out with kind words; thank you very much, they are appreciated. I cannot respond to every single email in detail, but please know your missives are attentively read, and cherished.

I suppose I’d best get some toast, find my gloves, and prepare for a polar trek. It will make returning home even nicer than usual, which is saying something. We’ve gone through one more wicket; only a few remain until the new year.

Stay warm, my beloveds.

Attempting Peak Garlic

I’m fighting off some kind of respiratory ailment. No doubt I was infected at the courthouse, since only one county employee and five-six of the sixty-odd jury pool (including yours truly) were wearing masks. This irritates me almost beyond belief. So far the only silver lining is that my digestion is fine and I can still smell/taste, so it doesn’t seem to be Covid. It’s probably one of the other two plagues swilling about. Right now my money’s on RSV.

I’m all right in the mornings, but as the day wears on the symptoms get more marked and the cognitive mud thickens. Rest and hydration are helping, and yesterday I self-prescribed allium overdose. That’s right, folks–we achieved Peak Garlic here at the chez. Double-garlic chicken soup (more properly triple, since it was made with garlicky homemade bone broth, minced garlic, and roasted garlic), along with a head and a half of oven-roasted garlic (using fresh bread as a carrier mechanism), went down the hatch in large quantities. More bone broth and roasted garlic will follow suit today, along with sauerkraut brine and gallons of cinnamon tea.

This ailment, whatever it is, has picked the wrong goddamn meatsack to invade.

I’m also attempting easy runs in the mornings, on the principle that exercise endorphins will turbocharge my immune system into a juggernaut of unstoppable, unspeakable voracity, leading it to consume whatever this is wholesale. It’s worth a shot.

In other news, the Winter Portal Fantasy sale is still going. (Check that page, it’s been updated with the Smashwords End of Year sale discounts too!) We just had a re-release of two books, and I think the paperback editions have already sold out. (Which is AMAZING, you guys, you are awesome, thank you.) The only paper versions left at the moment are overpriced third-party money-laundering ones on Amazon, for which I am very sorry, but I as a writer (and the publisher) have no control over that. It’s purely and simply Amazon not doing their due diligence, along with them trying to squeeze reputable publishers by prioritizing third-party sellers and allowing this nonsense. So please, don’t yell at me or at the new publisher. This isn’t us.

The coffee is almost finished, but Boxnoggin is not prancing down the hall to nose me out the door. We had our first real below-freezing night here, and he wants none of that nonsense. Too bad–we’ll be out in the cold as soon as I get some breakfast down. Which will be a bit of a bother, since I don’t want to slow enough to choke down anything, even toast, if it’s not slathered with alliums. I’m sure my attempt at running today will be uncomfortable, too. I’ll either break this sickness or it will force me to nap, and though I am an advocate of naps I don’t tend to like them much for myself. There’s just too much to get done.

Off I go, then. Peak Garlic 2: Electric Boogaloo is about to commence. Be kind to yourselves, my beloveds; this holiday season is turning out to be a right nasty one in some ways…

Flood-Time, Back Into Joint

Working through the weekend means Monday arrives a little before one’s ready. Though I did take half Sunday off to do chores, bake bread, and get a coq au vin in the oven–which made the house smell glorious indeed. An evening on the couch listening to gamelan music and reading the back half of a Murakami novel (Kafka on the Shore, the subject of last week’s Reading with Lili and Great Chapters) was exactly what I needed, too. I hadn’t visited that particular book since 2014, and a lot of temporal water has gone under the bridge since. It’s been a recuperative experience and I’m looking forward to polishing it off entirely tonight.

But first I need to get through a full day’s work, what with the serial and Cold North revisions. The latter need the bulk of my time now, since I should turn them in before the new year.

In the “very good news indeed” column, the recuperative period for running injuries has passed and I can start building mileage again, which is a gat-damn blessing. I need those endorphins. It’s the dark half of the year and holiday strain is mounting; balancing all that out with some sweat and purging of the unpleasant stress chemicals will help me keep my footing. Plus it’s nice and grey and gloomy, so the sidewalks and road-margins are largely mine again.

Oh, there are other people out even in the worst weather. Some dog walkers, plenty of other runners, the occasional bicyclist or seven1. But the aggravations of summertime–ambling middle-aged men taking up all the space and attempting to stop me to chat about the weather, assholes with unleashed dogs making problems for everyone, Karens sashaying from one side of the space to the other while yelling into their phones–go elsewhere when the rains descend. Every year I breathe a gusty sigh of relief when the weather turns, and not just because it’s my most productive time but also because the road clears.

There’ll be a glut of new exercisers on the path just after New Year’s, slowly trickling down to those who have managed to make an actual habit somewhere near the end of March. But for now, as the year wends to its darkest point, I’m often alone while running.

And I like it.

In a few days we’ll haul out the tree and decorations. I have not been Whamageddon’d yet, but when I go for last-minute feast prep and to pick up some cheap crockery for smashing2 I run the risk. Either I’ll get to Boxing Day having won Whamageddon or Whampocalypse3, so it doesn’t matter. My writing partner and daughter are already well in the latter, and enjoying it muchly.

Speaking of Boxing Day, the Winter Portal Fantasy Sale is still ongoing. After that I’ll take a break from sales for a wee bit.

I’ve had a great deal of synchronicity lately; it seems like the universe and timeline are attempting to heal, plucking at seams and Franken-stitching stuff together. Another blessing, frankly. I don’t think I could handle much more of everything being out of joint, as it were.

The coffee is at its dregs, my office is cleaner than it was before the weekend, Boxnoggin has not yet trotted down the hall to roust me for breakfast but that will certainly happen before much longer. I suppose I must embark upon the week. It will happen whether or not my coracle is caulked, so I might as well commend my soul-craft to whatever gods look out for weary writers and push away from shore.

Here we are, my beloveds, and time floods onward. Let’s check the wind, set our sails, and get to it.

Belly Medicine

Feeeeel the relaxation.

Sometimes one just has to slither to the office floor, let the dog know you’re ready for a good skritching session, and laugh when he throws himself on his back to demand you get that one spot right under his armpit. He ended up drooling while I gave his undercarriage a thorough dry-scrubbing, and by the time I stood up to dust myself off both of us had immeasurably improved moods.

Well, my mood was improved. Boxnoggin’s holds rather steady all day, except for when there’s something cat- or rodent-sized to chase. Then he becomes all business instead of hundred-percent goofy good nature. Unfortunately letting him chase anything ends in heartbreak, broken fencing, injury, or just an almighty mess, so he doesn’t get to do it that often. (Unless it’s inside with a small stuffed toy impersonating a victim.)

Anyway, I managed to use my free hand to take a snap of his utter, drooling joy, and thought I’d share it with you. May the relaxation and enjoyment beam out of the picture and get you through Friday into the weekend, my beloveds.

See you next week.

Boxnoggin Bartleby

Woke up with the Decemberist’s Yankee Bayonet playing in my head. It’s on the Gallow & Ragged soundtrack, but the sea-shanty aspects of it also always make me think of HOOD. It’s the sort of song Alastair Crenn and Jeremy would hum while on the rails, and Alladal would play with for a performance in one of Sharud’s many kultur-dives. I think Ged would know it, certainly, and might even think of it while dreaming of resting in Marah’s arms.

Some songs make lateral connections between stories for me, a type of musical connective tissue. And there’s no doubt it’s a catchy tune.

It’s the first day of December, so holiday stuff is in full swing. Which means I’ll be hiding at home for the foreseeable future unless absolutely forced to go somewhere. The amount of unhappiness and tension swirling around scrapes against all my nerve endings, mixing with childhood trauma. When I was young, this time of year was always mounting, deadly anticipation of the worst until the inevitable explosion, and I still can’t fully relax.

There are bright spots. I’ll be busy, head-down in a revision I’d rather not do but it’s paid work so that’s fortunate. The Jolene, Jolene story may–may–have found a home, we’ll see. If I bring all my engines to bear I might also get the second season of Hell’s Acre to at least zero draft status by New Year’s, which will give me comfortable running room to prepare the next serial. And I have a really fun sale planned for you guys, going until Boxing Day–but more about that tomorrow, I’m slightly behind myself this morning. (Or ahead. Not sure.)

The forecast is muttering about snow, but that’s probably just up in the hills. Here we only get wintry mix, as a rule, and I should’ve named Boxnoggin “Bartleby” instead, because he would really prefer not to, especially while it’s raining. While he’s inside he cannot wait for walkies, but once we actually get outside he is incensed that I would force him “to do such a thing, Mother, how dare!” Then, when we arrive home, he goes to one of his (several, cushioned, very comfortable) beds (including my own) and curls up, giving me super reproachful glances every time I walk by. For the rest of the day getting him to go outside for loo breaks is a Grand Production of Preferring Not To, Mother, Thanks Very Much, and I am clearly the worst pet owner in the world for forcing him to unload outside and return to a nice warm house. By tomorrow morning the entire experience will have left his empty but surprisingly thick skull wholesale and the cycle will begin anew.

This dog, I swear. I will never lack for laughter while he’s around.

In any case, Boxnoggin Bartleby complained all during his first loo break of the day but has since forgotten it and visited my office twice now, eager to move me toward breakfast and walkies. He’ll realize his mistake as soon as we step outside, I’m sure. Right now he is ensconced at my office door, gazing intently at me. I can feel the weight of his expectations against my shoulder, not to mention the side of my head.

Off we go then, upon the merry-go-round of canine amnesia. There are even several leaf blowers hard at work in the neighborhood–the music of autumn’s ending, indeed. Most of the leaves are down, except for that one willow tree…

…but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

See you around.

Candy Scrabble

Might even be a bingo!

Our bowl of Halloween candy (just visible near the top of the photo) contained bite-size Snickers. Naturally, right about the time the first sugar rush hit I got a bright idea, started fishing them out and made a whole word. My daughter groaned–the game was afoot–then started digging. My son gave a chortle and dove in to help.

We’d’ve gotten more if we hadn’t been dipping into the bowl all afternoon. Still, the shout of joy each time we finished a word was inordinately satisfying. Four and three-quarters isn’t a bad score for this game, and we celebrated with pizza and another delicious, delicious sugar rush.

It’s been a helluva week, my friends. We’re on the downhill slide, and there might even be some candy left. Chin up, machetes out, chocolate on our chins–we’re ready.

Onward!

Knife-Edge, Smoke

A smoky dawn–not nearly so red as other years’ haze, and we’re not having the ash fall in this part of the county. Eastward it’s a mess, naturally, and we’re all watching the evacuation orders carefully. There’s not much risk in the precise place our particular house is, but we’re preparing to offer shelter if necessary.

I like helping people, but I hate that it’s necessary because of greedy corporate bastards frying the planet. At least there are some competent folks in disaster response, and at least this is happening after some of the infrastructure repair money has been applied. So here I sit, trembling on the knife edge of “thank the gods this isn’t happening two years ago.” And they say there will be rain by the end of the week.

Gods willing and the creek don’t fail completely, to coin a phrase.

Having to just sit and wait is a particular type of hell. Sartre covered the most common type, naturally, but I think a case could be made that having to hold oneself ready and braced for the next punch is just as awful.

In any case, I sent off the revised Cold North. Revision brain still has me in its mushy, Swiss-cheese grip. I’ll probably do some narration today, since I can get that done in 20min chunks and reading aloud doesn’t use any creation or revision muscles. I do have to get a thorough top-to-bottom reread of Hell’s Acre in, since we’re on the last half of the last book. That duology might not ever be published; writing it all through pandemic has done the story a bit of disservice. Certain passages remind me of how upset I was while writing them.

I should also get the monthly newsletter planned. There’s all sorts of things to talk about, from That Damn Werelion Book to this month’s sale(s) to the upcoming release. I’m fighting the imposter syndrome which always arrives after I finish a draft or revision, letting the wave pass over and through me. I know it’s just the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion of finishing a large project, and snapback is natural.

It sucks each time.

If I’m very good today, I’ll allow myself another episode or two of Love Like the Galaxy. Leo Wu’s cape game is on point the entire way through, and I’m low-key obsessed with the entire story. I have to set myself some arbitrary goal to accomplish before I can watch more, though. That way the work will get done and I’ll get a double dopamine hit of watching a drama and knowing I made it to a benchmark. Gaming one’s own brain chemistry is the only way to survive, my friends.

If I can just get through until dusk I’ll call it a win. At least it won’t be 80F today. Summer keeps attempting to burn, but the harvest goddess has probably had about enough of All This. I roundly concur.

Let us embark upon Monday, my beloveds. At least by evening we should have some breathable air…