Shoes Tied, Dog Waiting

I managed to get my shoes tied this morning without Boxnoggin’s “help,” for which I am eternally grateful. He absolutely loves being useful, and longs to mouth at my shoelaces in order to taste where I’ve been and get himself under my hands, which means the prospect of a chest-rub or two.

I can’t really help myself. If a dog’s throwing themselves at my feet wanting to be petted, who on earth am I to say no?

Yesterday was a Monday in all senses of the word. It wasn’t bad, it was just… there were so many things I had to get done, and none of them were pleasant. None were actively bad, either, just time-consuming, stealing minutes away from the writing I’d rather be doing.

I would absolutely love to get back to zany squirrel stories and typing tales of gore, heartache, and redemption. Unfortunately, the world has other ideas, both in pandemic and fascist coup.

Because oh yeah, that’s still going on. That orange blivet and his criminal cabal are still squatting in the White House, still ramming through federal judgeships, still doing their best to maim, destroy, kill, and line their own pockets to the max. Even massive protests aren’t slipping their bony fingers from our throats.

I’m just so tired.

Despite all that, the dogs need walking, and I need a run. I’m slightly sunburnt from yesterday’s run, and glad that I didn’t actually get heatsick. I suppose the time spent inside air-conditioning while catching up with correspondence and other admininstrivia was actually a good thing. Go figure.

Days when I don’t run, the sharp annoyance cresting under my skin is ever so much worse. It’s not exercise anymore, it’s a bare necessity for keeping me from exploding with frustration. Today is going to require a virtual bath of sunscreen; the marine layer that normally keeps me safe is burning off earlier and earlier.

Summer is definitely not my most productive time–not enough rain–but it’ll do. There is a squirrel very upset about something in the backyard, and since Boxnoggin has been denied the pleasure of chewing my shoelaces while I try desperately to tie them, he is now in the kitchen, supervising whoever’s making their breakfast out there and hoping, I suspect, for a snack. Someone is cooing, telling him what a good boy he is. Every room he enters now, if it has a human in it, is full of pats and praise, and occasionally a treat or two, and he utterly glories in it.

As well he should, being a Very Good Boy. Miss B accepts the pets and praise as her absolute due, befitting the fuzzy little queen of our hearts, but Boxnoggin is constantly amazed. You mean it’s ME? You mean I am the prophesied Good Boy? Why, that’s GREAT! And he wriggles with the deepest possible glee each time, throwing himself on his back and combing the air with paws no longer too huge for his limbs.

He’s grown, the little weirdo. I can’t help but laugh, which pushes the frustration down and away like nothing else. I suppose I should finish the last of this rapidly cooling coffee and get out the door. They won’t wait for walkies forever.

At least swallowing several toads yesterday means there’s far fewer croaking at me today. I might even get some work done despite the load of pain and terror swirling in every corner. There’s the copyedits on Finder (which long-time Readers will know as Finder’s Watcher, inching its way towards publication) and wordcount waiting to be done, as well as paperwork from the accountant to sort and prep for its final destination.

Aye, no rest for the weary or wicked, as my writing partner would intone with a twinkle in her eye. As long as I’m breathing there’s work to be done.

Best to get started.

Foot-Stomach, Home

I could barely see this lovely stomach-foot clinging to a rain-wet tree trunk. The dogs crowded my knees, interested in whatever Mum was looking at–is it sniffable, is it snackable, is it something to chase? Boxnoggin put his paws on the trunk and stretched, aiming to get his nose close.

Fortunately, he’s not quite tall enough even while sploot-stretching, so the little gastropod was saved. Not that I think Boxnoggin meant any malice, but he is hardly the most delicate of dogs, and stands a real chance of crunchy-smashing the thing he’s interested in. Miss B could carry an egg in her mouth for miles at a dead run, did I ask it of her (I would never, because why on earth would we need to?) but Odd Trundles was untroubled by any sort of self restraint and Boxnoggin, though just as sweet and loving, is similarly untroubled.

I feel rather like this snail, actually, wishing to blend in with a handy trunk and get some rest. I wonder if they know they’re hiding? Carrying one’s home on one’s back only seems a burden until one longs to curl up somewhere safe, I suppose.

Happy Juneteenth, my friends, and I wish for your health and safety. I’m glad we’re due for a weekend; after finishing proof pages yesterday I could use one. We’ll see if I can actually settle enough to rest.

Over and out.

First, Pleasant Coffee

That first mouthful of coffee, first thing in the morning. I can feel the caffeine soaking in the moment I raise the cup to my lips, though I’m sure it’s merely psychological. Very little is as pleasant, even the fact that I got a great deal of the proofs out of the way yesterday and consequently have somewhat less to do today.

Somewhat. Not a whole lot, but somewhat.

I also have a new monstera plant. It was left over, looking sad and lonely and shaggy amid racks of brighter, better-trimmed, much smaller species, and my heart just cracked. Now he’s in my office, basking in a bigger pot under bright indirect light.

Yeah, I know. I can’t do much about the state of the world at large, but I can get a plant and nurse it back to health. It keeps me busy, I suppose. Attempting not to look at the news in the morning is good for me, I know it’s good for me, but I suppose I’m afraid the world will end and I’ll be the last to know.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, once I think about it, but the fear doesn’t think so. In fact, the fear, irrational as it is, tends to intensify if I don’t distract myself with work or… well, more work. If–and it’s a huge if–I can just drag myself out of bed in the mornings. Thank goodness for the dogs; they don’t give a damn about the state of the world. Their concerns are more immediate: breakfast, a good wee in the yard, walkies at the accepted time and along the accepted habitual route.

Heaven forbid brekkie or walkies change in even the slightest; the dogs, especially Boxnoggin, are creatures of strong habits and dislike any tiny deviation. He even gets miffed when the squirrels don’t show up at the same places he’s seen them before. I imagine him very much as a stage director tearing out his hair over some particularly enthusiastic and experimental actors.

I’d talk about the state of the world at large, but you probably already know and in any case, I’ve said what I’ve said and I stand by it. I am extremely disappointed that the media seems to be doing its best to elide ongoing protests, but what can one expect from corporations owned by one or two super-rich?

Anyway, there’s walkies to accomplish, a run to get in, and hopefully, if I am very disciplined today, the rest of the proof pages to knock off. Normally I do these on paper, because I don’t “see” the errors as well on a vertical screen. Fortunately I have a tablet and pencil, so I can pretend it’s paper while playing with something penlike. Which seems to be just enough to fool my brain into thinking I’m working in the accepted way, so it clicks over into “critical reading” mode. I don’t know how readers will like this book, but at least it’ll be the best I can make it before it toddles out into the world.

In between, when I’m taking breaks or before I really get going, I’ve been poking at Moon’s Knight. Of course I have other projects sitting and simmering, but that’s the one filling in the cracks while most of my bandwidth is taken up with Poison Prince. I’m deeply worried I won’t be able to pull off half of what I want to with Bloody Throne or Black God’s Heart, which is pretty usual at this stage of the game.

Part of the frustration is that I am not working at even close to my usual pace. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic, fascist coup, and massive protests seem to be giving everyone a smidge of trouble in the concentration department. I’m trying not to feel bad about it, but there’s that strange anxiety thing where the ability to cope with disaster is never good enough. At least I’m feeling more relaxed than I was–finally, finally nobody is telling me I’m “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

Sooner or later I’ll be back to my usual speed. Or, you know, catastrophe will mean I’ve other problems. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, all I can do now is continue as I’ve been. I hope you find a little peace and self-care today, dear Reader.

We need all we can get.

Usual June

The coffee is particularly nice this morning. I got the perfect proportion of cream to bitter, and I am sipping it while not watching the world at large shred itself to pieces. Later today there will be gallons of tea while I mark up proof pages, always a fun time. The kids are looking forward to pizza if I spend all day doing that; finishing a zero, looking over CEs, or proof pages mean Mum might not have enough oomph by the end of the day to attempt anything like cooking.

We’re having usual June rains for once, which is grand because of drought. It also means I’m productive, though not in the way one would think–I spent most of yesterday on a trunk novel instead of on three paying projects and proofs. Sometimes one just has to give the Muse what she wants, and apparently she wanted a harpy attack on battlements.

Go figure.

It’s been two weeks, and the dictator is still in power after gassing and shooting peaceful protestors for a photo op. The military is still deciding which damn way to jump and the dictator’s cabal is still stuffing the federal judiciary. The media is deciding not to cover the huge ongoing protests, no doubt for a collage of reasons including the risk to reporters1 and the fact that a few in the ruling class now own most of our media outlets. The violent repression will probably go all but unremarked now, and come November voter suppression and other dirty tricks will put the seal on it.

And don’t even get me started on the pandemic. We’re seeing the result of Memorial Day’s “whining for a haircut” gatherings, and it’s just as anyone with any sense feared.

The body count is entirely to be expected with regressives and a criminal cabal made up of malignant narcissists and sociopaths in power. This is the system functioning as designed. It’s not a breakdown, it is the logical endpoint. In short, as many (including yours truly) broke our lungs and throats screaming in warning for decades, this was their game all along.

As usual, though, there’s the dogs to walk and a run to get in, laundry to fold, work to accomplish, voices to boost. The dogs were quite active early this morning, despite the fact that my alarm had not yet rung; maybe it was the rain overnight. Anyway, Boxnoggin was determined to crawl under my covers–probably because he thought the roof wouldn’t shield him from falling water–and Miss B, having decided she was up and wanted attention, was on my other side doing her level best to keep me from seeking solace in unconsciousness when she desired ear-skritches, dammit.

Boxnoggin will hate the morning’s walk, because his precious wee paws will get wet. You’d think he’d be more of a wash-and-wear bruiser, this dog, but instead he’s Nervous and Delicate. Miss B is the smarter and more dangerous of the two, but nobody seems to think so. They see the shape of Boxnoggin’s head and freak out, thinking “pit bull” instead of “oh hey, boxer-terrier mix, that’s no nanny dog.”2 I can’t count the number of people who have said “aren’t you scared?” while looking at him.

The dog can barely find his own paws; the only thing I’m concerned about is him tripping and hurting himself, frankly. But I just smile, because if they’re afraid of my big black doofus, it means I’m safer. Especially since most of the people who cast longing gazes upon him are the middle-aged white men who selfishly want me to stop going about my business to service their random emotional needs, and tend to get aggressive and violent if ignored. *eyeroll*

Meanwhile, I have to keep a sharp eye on Miss B if I’m accosted, because she is done with any bullshit at all and will lunge to nip if someone decides to intrude on my personal space. It’s the cranky old lady one has to watch out for, not the gangly youth in his black coat.

Much time has passed while typing this, mostly because Boxnoggin has been very insistent that he needs tummy rubs and needs them now, thank you, what on earth do you mean Mum might want to tie her shoes or finish a piece of writing first? Clearly my priorities must be readjusted. And of course I should probably take down the rest of this coffee if I expect to have anything resembling clarity of thought for the rest of the day.

Meh, maybe clarity’s overrated. I suppose I could just stagger along without it, the gods know seeing some things clearly has given me nothing but an incipient ulcer and trouble sleeping.

Happy Tuesday, dear Readers. I hope it’s less like Monday, although so far 2020 has seemed a year of bad Mondays.

Over and out.

Progress, Perfection, Rope

I’m deep in copyedits for The Poison Prince. Normally I’d be almost done with them by now, but current world events are slowing me down. I’m a bit upset; I didn’t think everything was affecting me this much. I thought I was doing rather well keeping my balance, but it appears I was borrowing trouble.

I’m trying not to feel too bad about it–these are extraordinary, historical times, and there will be a few bumps on the road of rising to the occasion. Aiming for the person I want to be is sometimes difficult–like this morning, when I arose from my bed in a deeply cranky, stab-everything mood.

Coffee is helping. For a stimulant, it certainly soothes the inner rage-monster. I had decided this year was one for serious inner work anyway, it’s just my luck that I set myself that goal doing a fascist takeover and worldwide pandemic.

I never do things the easy way.

I’ve been watching some trash TV lately, and one of the things I’ve been thinking about is being a better person. Plenty of my stories revolve around people making choices under high-stress conditions–Jill Kismet springs to mind, natch.

In an episode I watched yesterday, a character made a comment about fighting an enemy with no honor, and being ready for that. Which led me down a series of interesting mental paths.

Just fighting isn’t the important thing, though there comes a time when one must absolutely make a stand. The older I get, the more I think the important bit is how one fights. Just because an enemy is ruthless, honorless, and fascistic doesn’t absolve one of the burden of behaving well, especially while fighting.

Part of the problem is that human beings can talk themselves into “end justifies the means” with such great ease. It’s a waterslide to hell instead of a primrose path. People know when they’re doing wrong–when they’re being bigoted douchewads, for example. The ones who behave badly simply don’t care. It’s easy to think that if you’re facing people who just don’t care you should borrow from their playbook. Fight fire with fire, right?

Except fire isn’t the best way to fight itself. Water, chemical foam, starving it of oxygen, removing fuel–we have options. We understand the nature of fire, and when we are honest with ourselves about the temptation to use it we’re all safer.

How we fight, especially how we fight fascist dickwads and malignant corporate douchebags, is the important thing. And further, that it’s incumbent upon each person to fight without becoming a dickwad douchebag oneself.

One of the hallmarks of Jill Kismet’s character is that she knows when she’s damned. She’s ruthlessly honest with herself about her motivations, her capabilities, her temptations. I was trying to express, in whatever fumbling fashion, that we all, deep down, know. We cannot be damned by some all-seeing Bronze Age sky fairy. The only one who can send you down the primrose waterslide is you.

The slope is steep and greasy, and hauling yourself back up is difficult. It is not, however, impossible, and it’s well worth the effort, the pain, the risk. (Dum spiro, spero, and all that.) I’m not talking atonement or redemption, though both concepts can overlap and feed into what I am actually talking about–which is the choice, moment to moment, to be a better person.

Even when you’re faced with those who don’t give a shit.

I believe there is deep, unavoidable, endless power in the work to become a better person. Even if we never get there, even if the climb is impossibly steep, it isn’t really the destination that matters. One never gets to the top and gets a prize, one never is finished and arrives at a state of static perfection. What we’re after is progress, is the effort itself.

I like the Equalizer movies with Denzel Washington, partly because of one crucial scene (nobody else might think it’s crucial, but it’s an invisible narrative “hook” that makes the whole story hang correctly) where Robert is coaching a fellow employee who wants to make security guard. “Progress, not perfection,” Washington says, and the way he calmly delivers the line has stuck with me since I watched it.

The point isn’t reaching some mythical state of flawlessness. The point is to keep trying, over and over again, hand over hand up the knotted, endless rope of life.

Even if, especially if the universe is set up so the douchebags win, it matters how we fight. I am reminded of Terry Pratchett’s Death explaining how children must be started out on the little lies–Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the like–so they can believe the big ones like justice and mercy. If there is no atom of justice or mercy in the cosmos, it is even more imperative we behave as if there is and hold ourselves to its standard.

Obedience out of simple fear is poisonous. Being a better person even when you know there’s no reward or punishment is a cure. There is nobody grading this exam, but that just makes it all the more important to take it the right way. I believe this with every fiber in me.

…I started out meaning to moan about copyedits, but I ended up explicating a core part of my personal philosophy. Maybe it’s the coffee.

What we do is important, but how we do it is even more important. There’s no one right way, but we know plenty of the wrong ways; sooner or later, we find inklings of our own individual right ways. Inside each of us is an abyss, thread-thin but infinitely deep. From it comes our worst impulses and also the means to turn them to our advantage, as well as the small, still, whistling voice that tells us how to avoid damnation.

May we all find the strength to listen, and to pull ourselves up the slope.

Over Coffee

I did a lot of prep work yesterday; Monday is becoming the day for it. It irks me because I wanted to be writing instead, but this frees up the rest of the week and I did get a bit of wordcount in on the serial. So there’s that, at least.

Being on the internet for as long as I have been, I see certain cycles. People are frightened right now, and frightened people bite. Hard. There’s also those addicted to the emotional jolt of indignation in the mix, and the end result is a flaming pile of wreckage I keep wincing at.

It’s a sunny morning. I’m waiting for the coffee to cool a wee bit before I can bolt it and get the dogs sorted. If all goes well Boxnoggin will run with me. He’s oddly calm this morning, probably because I was up late and rolled out of bed early.

I’m retracting like a salted slug on all social fronts. I just want to bloody well write. At least the copyedits for The Poison Prince don’t look bad, and the book is long and complex enough to keep me very occupied for quite some time. After that, it’s finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Three and The Bloody Throne, then there’s The Black God’s Heart to consider. I’ve a plethora of work, always where I prefer to be.

Still, I feel like I should be juggling more, doing more, being more, though. The idea that one is never quite doing enough finds fertile ground in any fault line, and nowadays, we’re all full of cracks and fissures.

…ah. The coffee has just reached the perfect temperature. There’s that moment when a hot drink is just on the edge of scorching, where it won’t hurt but still makes your teeth tingle. I can almost feel blessed caffeine translating across my gastric wall and into my bloodstream.

Certainly it’s a legal addiction, but it’s also a very pleasant one. I’m having to forego my jolts in the afternoon, though. I don’t sleep when I have espresso after noon. Fortunately tea is still very okay, and I have a neat chai powder mix that doesn’t make me vibrate. The latter is Spicy Enough, which is not usual–I like a lot more cinnamon, clove, and pepper than most. Plenty of chais just don’t have the taste kick I’m after, or, if prepared to spec like Tao of Tea’s variant, give me the shakes.

There was that one time I was out with my writing partner, and we visited a Tao of Tea storefront with a teahouse attached, and I drank a whole pot of the 500 Mile Chai. For the rest of the afternoon I was sweaty and edgy, and not in a fun way. (I’m surprised the Selkie didn’t bash me over the head and roll me out of the car on the freeway, frankly. Girl has a lot of patience.)

OH! I meant to tell you guys about Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but that’ll have to wait a bit. It’s in there, it’ll just take me some time.

I’m almost to the bottom of the mug. Which means two things: The good chewy bits packing a bit more caffeine punch are about to be stuck between my teeth, and it’s almost time to brush said teeth and get out the door. Dogs aren’t gonna exercise themselves–or, they will, but not in a way anyone around here will end up being comfortable with.

It’s strange. Most of my daily life hasn’t changed an iota. The rest is unrecognizable, and not just because it’s wearing a mask.

Be kind to yourself today, dear Reader. People are everywhere afraid, and fear makes us do strange things. I spent a good twenty minutes screaming into a pillow yesterday. As meditation strategies go, it was strangely effective. I did apologize to the pillow afterward, but it said there were no hard feelings because it was doing what it was designed for and happy to help. Nobody was hurt and I ended up feeling a lot better.

Now if I can just get my heavy bag up…

Over and out.

Of All Stripes

I did it. I finished the line edit revise on The Poison Prince, book two of what the publisher calls Throne of the Five Winds and I call Hostage to Empire. This book fought me every. step. of the way.

Second books in trilogies are difficult. The throughlines have to be placed just so to get from Book One to Book Three, and certain choices made in Book One affect the range of choices one has available for the rest of the series. And being “orphaned”–switching editors mid-series-stream, for whatever reason–makes it even more difficult, even when both Previous Editor and New Editor are flat-out amazing.

I tried to take some time off, but with the pandemic and all, it was hardly relaxing. Now I’m in initial revisions for Finder’s Watcher (how on earth did we get to six Watcher books, my goodness!) and if I can just get these turned around by tomorrow, I’ll feel caught up.

For, oh, about two seconds before I take a look at what’s next on the schedule.

I was going to do a giveaway this month, but… well, you know. I was also going to take the week off from subscription duty because Season Two of HOOD is a wrap and the book is up for preorder. Unfortunately, I think my beloved subscribers probably need a thing or two to take their minds off the state of the world, so I’m foregoing any vacation at the moment. I’d say until things calm down but it doesn’t seem like they will, honestly.

So today is for laundry and for pushing on these revisions, shaking each sentence, turning it upside down, eyeing editor remarks, and just generally ripping out what doesn’t work and crocheting together what does. At least while I’m working I’m not thinking about the current shitshow, except as a rumble-mumbling background of anxiety.

And frankly I’m used to anxiety of all stripes. The current state of the world feels very familiar; I grew up holding my breath, walking on eggshells, in a constant state of low-grade tear spiking at random intervals. I could even view it as somewhat relaxing, in a weird way–at least people aren’t telling me to “calm down, it could be worse” or “calm down, it’s not that bad.” There’s less shaming of people with trauma-based or even regular anxiety because every reasonable person is absolutely petrified.

I also meant to read a few books I’ve been looking forward to, but instead I’ve crawled back into the well of true crime. For some reason Ann Rule and criminology textbooks soothe the anxiety, probably because the narratives either presuppose some small manner of justice or are entirely focused on doing something in the face of terror.

Maybe once I get this round of revisions done I’ll have some leeway to take a breath and read something else. My goal has shrunk to “ride the next wave.”

What are you up to today, dear Readers? How is your quarantine? If you’re an “essential worker”, how’s that going? Tell me everything.

We’re here for a little while; we might as well enjoy each other. So to speak.

It’s Tuesday, which means paid Haggard Feathers subscribers get a new post at 11am PST. This week, continuing Marketing March, the focus is on book marketing “ancillaries.” I’m wondering what the theme should be next month…