Back Into the Cave

The heat finally broke late last night; I was up at 2am to open some windows and staggered back to bed. It will take time to shake off the lethargy from broken sleep and overheating, but at least I might be able to get a decent night’s rest soon.

It’s the little things.

Yesterday was the first time in what felt like ages I could actually get some real work done, and it was lovely. I suppose it helped that I shut the house early and it became a dark, relatively cooler cave, and further helped that I turned on the social-media blocker. (I use Freedom at the moment.) I simply can’t handle the firehose of the world’s pain right now, and especially not after screaming my head off warning people for years and…being ignored.

I know there are some people who did not ignore, and am very grateful for them. I suspect they’re feeling much the same way I am at the moment; I’m hearing a lot of exhaustion. There’s only so many times one can be proven absolutely correct about the oncoming rocks before one lowers one’s expectations to personally and quietly preparing the life boat and saving whatever one can grab. I learned this lesson in my second marriage, which culminated in my second divorce, and you’d think by now I’d simply shrug and move on when my warnings are dismissed.

Largely, I do! But when I see a disaster coming for millions of people, I (perhaps stupidly) think I have some kind of duty to alert those at risk. And I end up getting ignored at best, or kicked in the teeth at worst. It’s profoundly disheartening, and leaves me wondering why the fuck one should bother.

Maybe it’s only temporary weariness, and once I administer some self-care I’ll be ready to re-enter the fray. But…I’m so tired, so drained, and my contributions appear to be regarded as valueless.

Anyway. I have deadlines. Hell’s Acre is going along, the second season is planned out, and come July I’ll be getting That Damn Werelion Book proofed, not to mention starting the second Tolkien Werewolves Book. I begin to sense that last will have a difficult birth, for various reasons, and now I’m behind on Sons of Ymre #2. So the pro-wrestling space werewolves, as healing as I find them, may have to go on the back burner, and I might have to simply shut off all social media and leave the world to its own devices for a while.

It feels like abrogating responsibility. Yet extreme responsibility without corresponding power to fix problems is a recipe for burnout at best. I did everything I could, I wrote a whole-ass book and screamed my head off for literal decades, and…crickets. Now the bitter fruit of that rancid tree is ripe and stinking, and a great many people have the temerity to act shocked, shocked that the whole thing reeks. The deliberate disingenuousness is maddening.

…I’m not saying anything I haven’t said before, but I suppose I’ll let the above paragraph stand. At least there’s a reasonably cool breeze through my office window, the coffee is warm and good, and Boxnoggin cares not a whit for any of this. His Majesty van der Sploot is focused on the upcoming ritual of toast crust in his bowl before setting out on walkies. And then he’ll snore on my bed while I am forced to drag my corpse through a run. No doubt I’ll feel better after exercise, now that the weather’s finally cooperating again.

Are you as tired as I am, my beloveds? I think it’s quite possible. Take a break if you need it and it’s at all possible; nothing will be served by us working ourselves to death. Survival, no matter how bare, is an unqualified victory under these circumstances. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Time to get the toast made and the dog walked. See you around.

Gin, Saviour?

Of course it brings forth juniper berries, it’s a juniper bush!

I really do have to watch Life of Brian again sometime soon. (Follow the gourd, the Holy Gourd!) Every time I see a juniper, I have to at least smile. And since I’m turning my attention to Hell’s Acre next, and that’s in an alt-Victorian setting, I’m thinking about gin. A lot.

I could also be thinking about gin because a little intoxication might be nice on my shattered nerves. It’s a bloody joke on the universe’s part that I’ve started breaking out in hives whenever I drink. Of course, edibles are legal in my state, so at least there’s that–a door closes and a window opens, so to speak.

I finished the line edits for The Dead God’s Heart yesterday, sent them off, and spent the rest of the day doing other work here and there, not to mention hopping out for bread and milk. At least some people are still wearing masks; the proportion seems to be ticking up a bit. I will admit I was unprepared to see how many of my fellow humans are selfish gits who won’t cover up their disease-holes to help keep others alive and safe. It is a great shock, and I’m still–still–reeling from it.

But the junipers are fruiting, my peonies are still blooming, the foxglove is still lovely, and I’ve a run today after I walk Boxnoggin, who has found out he somewhat enjoys being the only canine in the house but is still unnerved because to a dog, Even a Good Change is Change, and Any Change is Bad, Bad, Bad. There’s also Tea with Lili to consider today before I can turn to the task of rewrapping my nerves and maybe getting a little rest.

Maybe.

We’re almost to the weekend, my beloveds. I hope it’s pleasant and calm for you, in whatever proportion of both you desire. And now I’ve got to finish absorbing this coffee…

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.

Flood Stage, Numb

Woke up to find out some Reply Guys had found my massive thread1 on watching the Netflix documentary about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. I really shouldn’t check social media before coffee; my patience for mansplainers, sealions, and red herrings is at an all-time low before caffeine works through my tissues.

Of course, it’s never really high to begin with, so…yeah. I used to respond patiently when I responded at all, but to hell with that. If you’re going to ask me for emotional labor or try to roll a barrel of bad-faith bullshit, you’re going to get ignored OR get the unfiltered response you deserve.

The rain has slacked off a bit, and the river is at flood stage. I think the numbness of grief has passed, and now I’m tetchy. The fact that I have to get back to bloody work doesn’t help. I mean, work is the only thing that’s going to save me, and it’s the only thing making me feel better now…and yet.

And yet.

I have those bloody line edits to get underway–I’m glad I asked for the extra time, good job, Past Lili–and Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention, loving or otherwise. The board is set and the pieces are moving there, and today I have to write Rexton (the overt antagonist) visiting the Greatfather of Taurrock. Neither of them are going to be happy with the result of that visit, I think. Of course I could not care less what Rexton feels, but the Greatfather is a tragic case.

Before that, though, there’s walkies and a run to get through, not to mention finishing the damn coffee. On the bright side, my cinnamon tea should arrive today, and depending on when it does I might be able to have a cuppa and see if I like it. And I spent most of yesterday doing housework and reading Way of the House Husband. It’s rare that I like an anime as much as I like a manga, or vice versa, but in this case I find both utterly charming. I can’t wait for Volume 8.

Oh, and Friday’s Tea with Lili is up on YouTube; it’s about hating your heroes and the duty to escape. I’m getting a flood of questions about the Valentine series lately, so I might answer some of those in the next tea. We’ll see.

…I suppose I should bloody well get on with it. The line edits won’t do themselves, more’s the pity, and I need to work ahead on the serial a bit in order to be comfortable. I would like to do a bit more in the Space Werewolves story, but at this point it’s procrastination instead of actual work and I’ve got to Be Responsible. (Bother.) Which means I shall bring this to a close, bolt the last remaining swallow of coffee, and get some bread in the toaster since running on an empty stomach isn’t allowed any more.

As it gets older, the body takes its vengeance. Poor thing, it’s had enough of my hijinks.

Happy Monday, everyone. May we all get through intact. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for…

Wise Fools, Everywhere, All at Once

I meant to get a chunk of the line edits done up yesterday, but the world had other plans. I ended up driving down to Molalla to get Bailey’s cremains.

It was a lovely drive, traffic was easy both ways and there were beautiful fluffy clouds in an achingly blue sky. Miss B got to return home in the front seat–always a great ambition of hers, she never liked to be in the back. It was entirely too much distance between her and her beloved human, even though said human insisted it was far safer for her royal self.

I suppose it was the last thing I was waiting for. Now she’s home, in a box of pressed mulberry fiber. Which is nice enough, and I’ll find a sturdier (all-weather) urn in a little bit. Once I can look at the container without bursting into tears.

Yeah. Did a lot of crying yesterday, and was useless for any kind of work. Ended up going to bed early and watching Everything Everywhere All at Once, which Skyla recommended. She said it was like the end of Hyperbole and a Half’s “Depression Part 2, which at once explains everything about the movie, gives nothing away, and also told me it was perhaps what I needed.

I ended up sobbing so hard my chest hurt. I thought I was having some kind of cardiac arrest. But Boxnoggin was supremely unworried, he just wanted to snuggle and lick my tear-wet cheeks. I figured that if I were really having a heart attack, he would be a little more perturbed. As it was, he seemed to consider what I was doing weird but necessary, so I just…went with it. That’s the difference between Five Years Ago Me and Present Me, I suppose.

It is a really good movie, and if you’ve seen it you’ll understand the humor of me snort-laughing through my tears and saying to my dog, “Oh, shit, *Boxnoggin’s Real Name*. I’m Waymond.”

Ever been crying so hard your ribs ache, laughing at the same time, caught between sorrow and absurdity, a rope between two black holes? Yeah. Like that.

Anyway, I turned off the light once the movie was done and commended my soul(s) to the gods, just in case it was some sort of cardiac thing. It was somewhat anticlimactic to wake this morning to a heavy marine layer, Smashing Pumpkins’s 1979 playing in my head for some reason, my heart continuing its weary work, and Boxnoggin grinning at me, demanding belly rubs.

See, he seemed to be saying, like the wise fool he is, I told you it was fine, you just needed a good cry.

So he gets a long-ish ramble today, and I swear I’m going to start those line edits. The last week and a half has been bloody endless, it’s felt like a year, and I am tormented with the sense that I’m months behind as well as the deep aching hole of missing my shadow. At least she’s home, where I can touch her, I can hold the box when I need another good cry now. It hurts, certainly. It hurts a lot.

But that pain is a measure of the love, and I would not trade that for anything. And she didn’t go alone–that would’ve been ever so much worse. Nothing loved is ever truly lost, thank goodness.

The coffee needs finishing. The ramble needs doing. I have to pull my own weary corpse through a run as well, and then, by the gods, I will open these line edits and go back into The Dead God’s Heart. And when I need to I’ll retreat to my bedroom, hold the box, and cry some more.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my beloveds. Everything is hard right now, but maybe…well, maybe it’s not all hopeless bullshit.

Maybe.

Songs, Handholds

The week continues. I woke up with Janet Jackson’s Nasty in my head, playing at jet-takeoff levels. It is indeed what the kids call these days a sick groove. I’d forgotten Paula Abdul was in that video, so I probably should listen to Straight Up and Rush, Rush this morning too. Not to mention some Pointer Sisters. Sometimes that’s how the day goes, using songs like handholds, working my way up the cliff face.

It’s very bright this morning; the sun rising in a clear blue sky but still trapped behind the cedars. A tenuous, fragile peace fills me; it could be simple emotional exhaustion. I think I’ve gone numb, to a certain degree. The hurt is still there, a slice from sharp rocks under ice-cold water, I just can’t feel the damage.

I did manage to get the line edits open yesterday, at least. It’s not bad, I’m just resisting reading the books again because they deal with grief and I have all I can handle sitting in my chest at the moment, a granite egg holding something horrific. Most of yesterday I was sunk in the space werewolves thing, occasionally stopping to yell “OH MY GOD JUST KISS” at the characters.

Not sure if this story will do what I want. They rarely do. I just wanted some fluff, but the characters are talking and both of them have goals and backstories hardly conducive to what I intended. I talk a lot about the balance between absolute control of and absolute submission to the work, but sometimes one just wants the bike to go in the direction one’s steering, goddammit.

On the bright side(?), there was a Jerry sighting yesterday during dinner. The poor fellow really is hapless, and I feel bad for laughing. Whatever was wrong with him, I suspect it happened before he interacted with Boxnoggin, and I’m glad his fellow corvids (especially Carl and Sandra) pitch in to help him out. And–not gonna lie–I feel somewhat of a kinship with him. God knows I bumble through life trying desperately not to crash into any trees, literal or figurative.

Yesterday there was a small earthquake in the area. Don’t worry, it was only 2.8 on the Richter, and I’ve long ago made my peace with living on the Ring of Fire. (And now I’m humming Johnny Cash.) I was at my desk, and my first thought was that the wood had achieved sentience and given a shiver. Then my heart exploded with joy because I thought it was Bailey was in the footwell, as was her wont sometimes, and she’d turned over or settled with a huff, shaking the entire piece of furniture. Then I checked, remembering afresh that she’s gone, and wondered if it was her ghost, or if I was telekinetic, or if I had finally gone ’round the bend and was hallucinating.

I’ve been told I’m crazy, or too imaginative, all my life. (Despite my intuition being right 98% of the time, I might add.) Funny, ennit, how we can be trained to disbelieve our own perceptions?

Yeah. Hilarious.

The coffee is almost done, so I should shuffle out to the kitchen for some toast. Today Boxnoggin gets a long walk, and he’ll enjoy that muchly. He’s taken to prancing when he leaves the house in harness, and clearly considers himself my protector even more than he used to. Getting it through his canine head that I’m the one in charge takes plenty of patient redirection, but at least when I’m doing that I’m not glancing to my other side to check on the empty spot that should be holding Miss B.

I hope the peace lasts. And I hope I can get these damn characters to kiss sometime soon. If they won’t, well…there are worse things, I suppose, and at least I’m being distracted.

See you around.

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.