Frost, Fog, Head

There’s a thick layer of frost on every roof–well, it is still January–and a heavy fog is closing over the neighborhood at eerie speed. We’re having some sort of weird weather event to match the summer’s many record-breakers; there’s a stagnation warning that bodes ill for running and the fog is coming in waves as the air thickens, clotting like cream.

It’s not rain, and I can already feel some heaviness in my lungs. I’m unamused.

My weekend started out well enough, but halfway through Saturday I was struck with the worst headache I’ve had in literal decades. It might’ve been a migraine, though I haven’t had those since before the Princess was born. It certainly had the pre-strike aura and associated vision problems, which of course irrationally convinced me I had caught the plague and micro-clotting had stolen my eyesight. I crawled hopefully into bed with a posset of self-medication, which seems to have worked.

Despite that, much of the housework was accomplished Sunday while I was still weak and shaky, and this morning I’m at about eighty percent fighting trim. Better than nothing, and enough to get me started on the day. I am no longer deadly convinced I have the plague, which is a blessing since there are no tests to be found for love or money and the pittance of them coming from state and federal authorities, even if they had arrived (three years into the pandemic, wow), would need to be reserved for a greater emergency–like one of the children coming down with something impersonating a bad head cold.

I can still smell everything, and could during the maybe-migraine, which was a mixed blessing indeed. I am hesitating to call it an actual migraine, because the gods know the last thing I need is those coming back. I’m going to choose to call it just a really severe stress reaction, like the burnout I had last year which sent me to bed for eighteen hours a day, sleeping as if I was being paid to be unconscious.

The mist is still attempting to smother the world, thickening as I type. The dogs don’t really care for it; Boxnoggin walks as close to me as possible when it’s foggy, and B is only restrained from circling us by the leash, which makes for fun times.

Once they’re walked they’ll settle, and I can go back to Hell’s Acre. There’s a foundry fire and a burgling of the villain’s house to write, then a rooftop battle and perhaps a trap to spring. The Muse is being cagey about the latter, but soon it’ll reach the point where she has to pony up or simply live with the decisions I make on my lonesome, and heaven knows she doesn’t like that.

I did watch the new Tragedy of Macbeth, and it was very good. No surprise there–Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand are always worth the price of admission. I am not a giant Coen brothers fan–I find them very hit and miss, though when they hit it’s a resounding one indeed–so I was surprised and relieved that the staging was so simple, direct, and such a love song to silent film. The many Bergman, Artaud, and Fellini callbacks tickled me positively pink as well. All in all, I found it thrilling, and very much worth the time. The first half held me during the ramp-up of the terrible headache, and that is an achievement.

So it’s off to the races on a foggy Monday. Every once in a while a crow calls through the gloom. Probably Carl, keeping track of Sandra and Jerry. If the dogs and I get out the door before ten-thirty or so they’ll no doubt shepherd us, fearing we might lose our way as dumb earthbound things often do.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my beloveds. And treat the fog with caution. We’ve all watched the horror movies, you know…

Boostered, and Well-Filling

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The Princess, being a frontline worker, had her booster appointment on Tuesday; the Prince and I went along to ask if they were doing walk-ins as well. Fortunately, it was one of the few pharmacies in the area offering them, there was nobody else in the store, so all three of us got our booster and flu shot at once.

The relief is immense. So immense, in fact, I’m not sure how much of being absolutely wiped out yesterday (and frankly, almost totally wiped out today) is psychological, and how much is my immune system pitching a gigantic fit. Either way, it’s far, far better than suffering the plague or influenza, so here we are.

The kids both had mild arm soreness and a wee bit of fatigue. So far their side effects are very small, which I am unendingly grateful for. I am logy, still a bit feverish, and brain-fogged, but the fatigue has gone down a bit. I will say, whether it was the relief or the fever, I had hypersaturated, very odd dreams.

None of them were worthy to turn into a short story, let alone a book, so that’s a bit disappointing. But I shall persevere. Gods know I have enough material to keep me busy, even after shoving three books out the door and into the wild, wild world.

All my engines can turn to Hell’s Acre for a short time now, then I can give Ghost Squad #2 a bit of a shake and a towel-down before sending it off to beta readers. At the very least I have to get all of the brackets out.

Song that never ends, no rest for the weary or the wicked in our benighted world, and all that.

Before I forget, a huge shout-out to everyone who told me what movies, books, songs, and the like they’re using to refill their wells right now. You guys are a very eclectic bunch! (Feel free to add what you’re reading/watching/loving right now! I always love hearing about it.) I’m reading Burkert’s Homo Necans (because that is my idea of fun) and have been talked into watching the Wheel of Time series on Amazon.

I knew a few WoT fans in high school, and their behavior over the book(s) convinced me I wanted nothing to do with the entire thing. Later, I shelved them during my many stints as a bookstore worker, and the behavior of the male fans there just deepened my conviction. But, as one of my friends pointed out, misogynistic neckbeards are up in arms over the Amazon Prime adaptation being “diverse” and “woke”, so it’s probably worth a try.

I like the costuming (I am Team Suspenders, and some of the sweaters delight my inner knitter) and the CGI is great, not to mention Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney. (The latter sparked one of my favorite characters in the Livi Talbot series.) So, all in all, it seems pretty awesome and I might give the books a try, though that Rand guy irritates the living DAYLIGHTS out of me already and I can’t wait for him to get stabbed by a giant trolloc or eyeless thing already. I’m only a couple episodes in, so we’ll see. I might even give the books a whirl, who knows?

So today is for gently getting back to work–only for a few hours, there’s no use in courting burnout–and getting subscription stuff out the door. Not to mention walking the dogs and prodding my poor bewildered corpse through something approaching a run. I haven’t had a run in days and it’s beginning to wear on my nerves.

I never, ever can get the hang of Thursdays, but one must suffer them all the same. Time to strap some shoes on, grab some toast, and get the dogs walked.

See you around, beloveds.

Brain, Overrated

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There are days when having a brain, let alone sentience, is overrated.

Yesterday was for administrivia and grocery shopping–the latter is always a joy since the pandemic arrived, isn’t it. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) Thankfully the vast, overwhelming majority of people are now in masks, and the few covidiots who swan around with their face-holes open and breathing contagion everywhere are, one hopes, roundly shamed for their lack of empathy, common sense, and just-plain-kindness.

I ran across a Twitter thread the other day explaining Trumpists, maskholes, and covidiots from the standpoint of caste, and it explained a lot. (I don’t normally link to hellsite from here, but in this case, the thread’s so good I’m making an exception, as is my prerogative.) Particularly the bit about “the dominant caste being forced to go out of its way to protect people perceived as lower in caste is a supreme violation of caste rules.”

It’s sad. Among other words, but all I’m feeling nowadays is a great, deep sorrow.

Well, that’s not all I’m feeling, though it is the greatest component when I think about how the US refused to handle the first year of the pandemic, sinking us into a hole we still haven’t found a way out of. Hard to get out when some asshats just keep digging.

The rest of what I’m feeling is the usual post-revision slump. I got three whole manuscripts out the door last Friday, so the feeling is at least tripled, though I feel there’s a solid case for its strengthening exponentially with each book ushered through the gates of Editor’s Email. Consequently, I’m on a rollercoaster of emotional flailing. My brain keeps insisting its absolute inability to settle on anything means I’m broken or lazy, while the faint voice of sanity (or something like it) keeps insisting that I sent three goddamn books out in one day and it’s a miracle I’m still coherent, much less attempting to work.

I know this is just the usual post-revision stuff, dialed up to eleven as a function of scale. The cure is simple, though not easy; it consists of both getting all the stuff I said “I’ll get this done when I send these books in” actually done, and stuffing a great deal of fresh content into my head to refill the artistic well.

There has to be grist for the mill to do its job, after all.

Now it’s time to finish chewing on peanut-butter toast and walk the dogs. They won’t like me leaving to run other errands–lockdown was absolutely fantastic for them–but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Even in pre-plague times it was very rare for them to be left home alone, and they like that rarity reduced to zero. Alas, things aren’t quite so simple. They’ll endure.

Before I go, though–what are you watching/reading nowadays, my beloveds? I know what I’m pouring into my head, but I’m interested in what you’re doing. Tell me all about it.

Cactus, Get Me Through

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Just get me through December.

Yesterday was a very bad brain day, full of brain-weasels. Which required the big guns–I retreated into Nabokov and spent the day with Lolita; I think one more time through Invitation to a Beheading (my favorite of ol’ Vlad’s) will set me relatively right.

Or so I hope. I’ve simply got to get this revision turned in, it’s been hanging in the “goddammit” category for far too long.

The winter cactus is blooming, and I woke up with Alison Krauss’s Get Me Through December playing inside my head. Last night was chilly, but I had the dogs to cuddle and didn’t want to slither out of bed at all today…yet I have. Canine bladders and my responsibility to the mortgage won’t wait. Some days I’m even grateful for the chainfall of duty dragging me free of whatever hole has swallowed the world’s light.

…it’s taken me a ridiculously long time to write this, since Miss B keeps demanding my attention for pets, a brushing, her morning treat(s), and yet another trip outside though she could have just peed when I let her out the first two times instead of standing on the deck and deciding it’s too cold. (The lady is wearing a fur coat, but she is delicate.) Boxnoggin, of course, has to be in on everything she does, except going outside.

He’s no fool, and it’s chilly out there.

I wish you a calm, pleasant weekend, beloveds, and I hope for one in my corner of the world as well.

Just…let’s get through December. That’s all I’m asking, at this point.

Over and out.

However Eventual

I heard the trains last night.

In summer, clear skies and prevailing winds mean we don’t hear them often; summer is mostly for distant airport-noises instead, on long breathless sunny afternoons. But when the autumn mists and cloud cover move in, late at night when the windows are closed, the cries of moving trains reappear with an eerie underwater quality.

Especially when one is up well past dark reading true crime, as I have been lately. The stories are horrible, yet the idea that somehow there’s a narrative structure–and an ending, however eventual, to every horror–is comforting in times of great distress and uncertainty.

And aren’t we having those now, my friends? You betcha.

Yesterday, curled up tightly on the couch with proof pages for The Bloody Throne, I took some time to watch the rain fall. Each drop was a welcome guest; the kids were home and the dogs quietly satisfied with the entire pack assembled. Miss B and Boxnoggin are most comfortable when all of us are within sight and smell–Boxnoggin, in particular, is excited when he senses a pack member is about to return. He has a positively unerring instinct for the moment just before a pedestrian who belongs to him (or a car bearing said human) will appear.

Today is for yet more proofs. Six hundred and fifty pages is a lot, and I have to consider each one separately, with a fine-tooth comb. It’s taken almost a week to get a hundred pages out of the way, probably due to massive burnout, but things should free up relatively soon now that I’ve found my groove.

Said groove is fragile. I’m still lying on the edge of the abyss, trying to breathe. The gasps aren’t quite as deep or close together, and my heart is beginning to come down from redline. Work helps, of course; retreating from social media helps even more. The tension between retracting for my own sanity and the necessity of some marketing (never my strong suit, though I’m trying like hell lately) is marked.

But at least I’m out. In a little bit I can get to hands and knees, and maybe even gain my feet with a particularly daring effort. Then comes walking away, probably to find another sinkhole. There’s never any shortage, especially with *waves hands* all this going on.

The season has turned. The windows are all closed, even at night. Switching to flannel sheets can’t be far behind, and Miss B is putting on her winter coat. Boxnoggin cuddles very close at bedtime, which is now a blessing instead of a sweating miserable curse, and the heated mattress pad is his new best friend. (Mine too, but that’s beside the point.)

It’s about damn time. I thought summer and its attendant discomforts would never end. The trees are shaking off heat stress, firs dropping damaged needles and rhododendrons damaged leaves as new growth emerges fresh and green; they’re scarred but vital.

Healing means they’ve survived.

Dogs need walkies, my corpus needs its (relatively) high-speed shamble, the proof pages need attention, subscription drops need to be prepped. Peace is tenuous, but deeply welcome. Renewal inherent in rain fills lovely cool grey days. My own survival seems a little more assured, a little more possible.

After all, I heard the trains last night.

A Frail Fence

It’s October, which means I’m on a true-crime jag. True crime books, while horrific, also have endings. One can pretend there is some kind of meaning or narrative structure to horrid events, or to life itself.

Given that we’re dealing with ongoing pandemic and fascist soft-coup, the idea of a neat ending, of some kind of sense to be made of all this, is comforting. It’s akin to watching horror movies for catharsis. At the end of a horror movie, one can go back to one’s own life–a little more cautious, perhaps, but still, one has returned.

It’s better than just looking at the mess, throwing one’s hands up in despair, and walking into the sea. At least, I think it’s better. Time will tell.

Anyway, I reread some Ann Rule this weekend, and a first edition of Michaud & Ayenesworth’s The Only Living Witness. Michaud did not like Rule, and seems rather upset that she had some success.1 Reading his jabs at her is super annoying. It’s also interesting to see how different editions of the book morphed.

Today’s work is all about the proof pass on the third (and final, yes, it’s the last one) Hostage to Empire book. When I have a cover and all that it’ll be posted. I’m hopeful that the proof pass will be light. It’s not the book’s fault it was written under such harsh conditions, or that I will be relieved to see the last of it.

I plan to submerge pretty hard to get a great deal of work done before the end of the (formal) year.2 The weather is cooperating, with a heavy veil of beautiful grey cloud. It will be nice to settle on the couch with a cuppa and the proofs, while the dogs cuddle close.

Sometimes I complain about this career, but never for very long. I suspect I am deeply unfit for an office job (let alone retail) anymore, since I have no patience for interpersonal bullshit and am very used to going at my own pace, whether the frantic bursts of six months’ work crammed into two weeks or the short dormant periods. A lot of what happens in formal offices is makework, very much like the security theater happening at airports. It doesn’t make anyone safer, but it does tighten the grip of a petty, middle-managing bureaucracy.

At least the physical symptoms of burnout are receding, slowly but surely. The few days of insomnia were a gauntlet to run, and I’m feeling much better.

Well, “much” is kind of relative, given where I started. But the scratchy throat and full nose have retreated, and the exhaustion is manageable. My running mileage has taken a hit, but short runs more frequently aren’t a bad thing. I’m in the game long-term, and the long game means small incremental gains are perfectly acceptable.

The compost heap also needs turning, and the garden to be readied for winter. Which will provide a nice antidote to the firehose of bad news. I feel terrible that I simply can’t stand to be hooked up to said hose at the moment; it feels like a betrayal. Still, nothing and nobody is served by me staring paralyzed at the horror of our current situation.

And with that, ’tis time to embark upon Monday. The dogs are extremely ready for walkies, coffee needs to be finished, a short run had, and the day stretches before me like heavy mist. There might be a little homemade focaccia left over from yesterday’s baking, which will be extremely welcome around lunchtime.

Small things to look forward to. I suppose they’re all I have at this point, but they’re enough. A frail fence against the despair, but a fence nonetheless.

Over and out.

The Value of Burrowing

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Morning fog is a welcome, soothing blanket. The damp chill means these fellows are making their yearly reappearance.

I have not slept for two nights. Insomnia is dreadful; I would wish it on no-one. I was doing quite well sleeping regularly before 2020 hit, but my body and brain have hit a limit and I am being warned, in the clearest possible terms, to get some real goddamn rest, willya?

I did watch Kurosawa Kuroshi’s Cure yesterday. It’s exactly the type of movie I like, a masterpiece with the exact right ending. The Criterion subscription is turning out to be a lifesaver, since I’ve decided I’m not allowed to work until I sleep, which could make for a very long weekend indeed.

Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. Mushrooms know the value of burrowing deep to ride out inimical conditions; so can we.

I’ll see you on Monday, my beloveds.