Summer Shot

Well, I shut down Haggard Feathers, and I’m waiting for the fact to hit home. It’s always sad when an experiment doesn’t work out. I’m taking some comfort in the fact that it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just *gestures wildly at world events* all this. Retracting in this area will give me more energy for other work, not to mention keeping the newsletter and giveaways alive.

Summer appears to be firing a shot over our bows. Yesterday it was 80F, today it was 74F by 10am and there’s no sign of the mercury halting its rise. At least it’s cooling off overnight, but with both dogs attempting to sleep on me, rest is at somewhat of a premium and the morning walk was one episode of temper after another on the part of my furry, four-legged charges.

Miss B is simply a cranky old lady, but Boxnoggin is young, springy, and what my grandfather (may the gods rest and keep him) would call “nervous.” People look at Lord van der Sploot and see a big black dog; what they don’t see is that he’s scared half to death by a single leaf falling from a tree, or a droplet of rain. He’s just tuned to a really high pitch, and managing him is a fine line between firmness and mercy.

So the morning walk was a constant stream of “mind your manners”, “you know better, that dog barks every time and literally nothing happens”, and “no, eating bees is not the answer, eating bees is NEVER the answer.”

I don’t think he quite believes me upon that last point, but progress is being made.

One of my tea-tankards has developed a crack, but I never quite liked the glaze on it anyway and might patronize the small pottery place I bought it from for new ones. Silver linings! And I have a soy-almond-vanilla creamer that does good things for black tea, so that’s pleasant too.

Tiny victories, tiny luxuries, are getting me through the end of May. It feels like this year has taken forever, doesn’t it? And yet I have to smile, because both dogs are sacked out taking advantage of cool hardwood and AC–another small luxury. We don’t get awful heat often enough for it to be a large one, but when it hits, I am ever so grateful. The decades spent in places without central heating or cooling have given me a deep appreciation for that technological wonder, I can tell you.

I wish you luxuries and victories today, dear Reader, of whatever size we can manage.

Over and out.

Love and Failure

I had to make the painful decision to close down the writing Substack lately, and this morning the notification went out to subscribers. I’m in mourning, I suppose.

I really wanted this experiment to work. It didn’t because pandemic, which nobody could have predicted, and the absolute mess made of pandemic response in the US, which anyone with two brain cells could have predicted when the election was stolen in 2016. It was never a question of if, it was only a question of when a giant disaster would occur, killing swathes of American citizens and enriching the criminal cabal still busily entrenching themselves in power and looting the public treasury.

I love doing writing advice. I love mentoring and helping fellow writers, I love sharing my expertise–such as it is, of course, since each path to publication is unique. And who knows, once all this calms down I might try the experiment again, with better results.

Failure is never comfortable. I keep reminding myself that if not for the pandemic and its associated cognitive load, if not for the terror lurking in my house, under my skin–because I am absolutely terrified my kids will get sick and need hospitalization we can’t afford–I would have energy for all my projects and experiments on the side. I hate the persistent feeling that I’m letting readers down by not being a superhero immune to fear.

Maybe I am a superhero, just not high-powered enough to do all this. I don’t know.

It’s a lovely grey morning outside, misty and perfect. Despite heartbreak and failure, the dogs still need walking, dinner still needs to be planned, and the paying projects still need to be nibbled at. I keep telling myself, like George Burns says, it’s better to be a failure at something one loves than a success at something one hates, but I still wish there wasn’t a bloody pandemic and I had a better chance at being a success at sharing writing advice. I’ll still do the occasional writing post here, but not for a while. Keeping all the other plates spinning is about all I can handle right now.

If you’ve had to shut something you love down because of all this bullshit, my heart goes out to you. It’s uncomfortable as fuck, and it’s all right to mourn. It’s absolutely natural and normal to grieve a project or experiment you had high hopes for. (And if you suspect I’m giving this advice partly because I want to remind myself, you’re absolutely right.) Let yourself feel it, if you can in a safe space; the only way out is through.

So I’m off for dog-walkies. Canine joy is a balm, and will help mend the cracks in my heart. Dogs are too good for us. *sigh*

Over and out.

One Now, The Next

I wish you a very bright, kind morning, my dears. It’s sunny here, the dogs need taking out, and I woke up earwormed by an absolutely new band.

Well, Imagine Dragons aren’t new, but being earwormed by them is.

I spent my breakfast (or at least, the broth and coffee I can manage this morning, the stress nausea is very bad) with my daily Latin lesson, and I think I’m almost ready to get back to Pliny. I want to finish the damn encyclopedia by the time I’m fifty; it’s a bucket-list thing. I suspect it would go much more quickly if I just read the translation, but that’s not the point, I want the practice reading it in Latin.

Maybe I should finish Caesar first. He’s generally held to be a good introduction; his Latin is relatively simple and direct. Pliny is a recondite ass sometimes.

ANYWAY. I’m gearing up for the release of HOOD‘s Season Two next week; Season Three is now well underway. I’m already feeling the release-day nerves, added to a scrambling sensation because current events have put a dent in my work schedule liek woah, as we used to say on LJ.

It’s not a surprise that this month’s Haggard Feathers subject is self-care for writers. Also, last week’s and this week’s posts are unlocked for everyone, not just paid subscribers. Today’s post, dropping at 11am PST, will be about physical self-care.

I’m still looking at my Gumroad store to figure out what to offer for free or “pay what you want.” We’re going to be here a while, and when the first wave of cool stuff for free passes we’re going to need a second/third wave. I could say I planned it that way, but the truth is, I’m overwhelmed.

Interesting times to live in, I guess. Someone wished upon the Monkey’s Paw, or maybe the planets have aligned. (I’ve taken this quarantine as a chance to study some astrology; maybe I should do a post about that?)

I’m glad of the dogs during this. They have no damn idea about quarantine, virus, or paychecks. The kids are a little less sanguine, but what held true in their childhood is also holding true now–as long as I keep my cool, they can keep theirs. The pressure to keep calm and collected so people who depend on me don’t lose their shit actually helps keep me together–a fact which surprises nobody who’s ever read one of my books, I suppose.

…I meant to talk about the effects of social distancing and how close the virus is getting–we’re down to one degree of separation from an actual death–for posterity and all. But I just can’t. My diary is already full of it; I had to change the ink cartridge in my pen mid-sentence last night while scribbling. It’s only going to get worse, and while I am braced, nobody can ever be fully emotionally prepared for something like this.

I’ve spent most of my life vibrating with anxiety and the aftereffects of trauma. This creeping, constant fear feels like home. It’s like all the work done to get to a healthy emotional state and manage the anxiety is useless now, and was only a brief respite before we got back to the regular program. I know this is extraordinary, I know the disaster is fitting into the trauma footprint left on me by childhood and other similar catastrophes, I know the queer feeling of relaxation comes from this all feeling very, very familiar indeed.

Knowing doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Even my well-hidden but usually irrepressible optimism is MIA on this one. I’m trembling on the edge of “fuck it, nothing matters anyway.”

But the dogs need walking. Boxnoggin is sensing I’m almost finished with the morning’s work, and is performing a play bow in the middle of the office while I type this. Next will come him nudging my knee, hopefully, his large mild brown eyes wide with questioning and glee. Come on, he’ll say, focus on the NOW, and what is NOW is walkies for dogs.

It’s only Tuesday, and it feels like this week has lasted forever. I’m going from one “now” to the next like clinging to handholds on a traverse, hoping like hell my fingers are chalked enough. It seems the only way to survive this.

I’m curious, of course, and if this is the way through, we might be able to do it together. So, my dear Reader, if your eyes have traveled this far… what is your now like, and what’s the next now you’re grasping?

Which Habits to Toss

It’s the last week of February, so I’m changing things around a bit. By now I know which of the habits I fondly imagined starting in January are going to work, which need a little more tweaking in order to work–and which I can merrily throw out the window, happy that I gave them a good old try and even more satisfied that I can toss ’em.

With extreme prejudice, sometimes.

There’s a full day ahead. I long to be done with Sons of Ymre, and I think I have a shot at it. There’s the Tuesday writing post for Haggard Feathers to get finished and edited–it’ll be on proofreading, part of the “getting your book ready to debut” series. I want to do a series on marketing in March, but honestly most of my advice on that is “don’t, most advertised marketing services exist only to remove money from your pockets.”

So maybe I’ll ask subscribers what they’d like to see in March. Hm.

I’m seeing some people come to my site by searching for my name and “e-piracy,” so let me just put my statement out there: Don’t steal/torrent books. I’m not even going to add a please, I shouldn’t have to beg people not to fucking steal.

Miss B is draped over her memory foam, microfiber-covered office bed, signing heavily each time I shift in my chair. She wants her walkies, having had breakfast–and helped herself to no little part of Boxnoggin’s as well. They tend to switch bowls halfway through a meal, as if they aren’t given pretty much the same thing. B gets a little more wet food in deference to her age and dental status, and Boxnoggin gets more dry crunchies because he enjoys slavering and cracking them, chewing as loudly as possible.

But halfway through breakfast or dinner they mosey to each other’s bowls with the precision of Ziegfield girls switching marks on a brightly lit stage, and all the pleading or scolding in the world won’t stop them. I suppose the grass is always greener and the other bowl always more attractive.

That’s my Monday. I’ve recently had the kind of good news that, while enjoyable, upsets a number of other plans, so I need to spend serious time thinking about the fallout today. Which is going to be just as pleasant as peeling my own fingernails off, I suppose, but at least it’s for a net good.

Some more coffee would also do me a world of good, I suspect. I’m cranky enough this morning to crack the world in half with a sharp word or two.

The Free Agent February giveaway is still going on; there are three days left and you can enter daily. It will be nice to alert the winners once they’re drawn, and brace myself for next month.

Leap years. They never quite sit comfortably, and this one’s no exception. At least after the 29th we’ll feel more synchronized, right?

Don’t tell me if I’m wrong. I’d rather have a little hope.

See you around, Readers.

Perspective and Rescue

Good morning! I woke up with Hall & Oates singing about your kiss is on my list, and whichever one of you gave me that earworm, I will have my revenge.

Ahem.

Yesterday was super productive, mostly because I got a run in. I just work better when I can pound the pavement, for however short a period. Yesterday was also nerve-wracking–Haggard Feathers goes paid-subscription this month, so I was doing the last bit of prep for that. One free post per month, the rest will be paid-subscriber-only, and I’ll be doing an open thread every Thursday for paid subscribers to ask me about writing and publishing.

I figure I’ll try it for a year and see how it works out. I like Substack‘s terms way better than Medium’s, and the fact that the former makes a point of not “owning” my data/content and the latter makes a point in the opposite direction has a lot to do with my willingness to experiment.

I also spent some time procrastinating (after the productivity, of course) with Canva templates. Graphic design is so not my strong point, but I like playing.

Isn’t that nice? It’s something I say a lot–sooner or later, the muscle inside your head that sees good writing material gets hypertrophied (and there’s a great deal of hyperplasia, too, but that’s beside the point) and everything becomes material. Which is great when something hurts like hell–thinking this will be great material helps provide perspective and gives the pain meaning, which is a step in ameliorating it. It’s not so great when one is relentlessly questioning one’s own happiness, but I consider it a small price to pay.

Of course other people’s mileage may vary, but the warning still stands. Sooner or later, all things serve the work.

Anyway, I’ve more Sons of Ymre to get done today–one character is about to rescue another from a burning car–and I’ve got to get some characters in HOOD rescued in their little escape pod. Rescue seems to be the theme of the day, which might bode ill for the dogs’ walk. If all else fails they can drag me home, though.

Let’s hope it’s not necessary; I’ve got so much to do today.

I’d best get started then, hadn’t I.