Rest, Little Friends

Little friends.

I am brim-full of the world’s pain, and can’t look at the news or anything else at the moment. Consequently, I’m taking a social media break; I’ll be back on Monday (though probably not for a tea-and-gossip session, you can find old Teas with Lili here). I just…I was looking at something online, and I felt something inside snap like an old chickenbone wrapped in a thin towel. I realized I had to step away for a bit.

So I have. From the smallest to the mightiest, we all need a rest sometime.

Be gentle with yourselves and each other, my friends. I’ll see you soon.

Perpetual Endeavors

A hazy dawn is rising, and I woke up with Hell’s Acre moving and shifting inside my head. Looks like the serial will be two seasons after all, because the last lingering bit I needed for the back half just dropped into place and it’s a rawther elegant solution, if I do say so myself. Pulling the story off Vella did a great deal of good–I still have an experiment lingering there, though not under my real name. The platform treated me so dreadfully over a support ticket I don’t want my name associated with it.

In any case, it’s a Thursday, and I had a run planned but what with one thing or another it will have to be some yoga instead. The dogs are eager for walkies–Miss B in particular is attempting to get me on her schedule instead of the other way ’round. It is a perpetual endeavor, one she has been engaged in for well over a decade (we’ve been together a while) and I think her baffled spite when it doesn’t work is part of the reason she’s still in such good shape.

Spite is a wonderful motivator. Keeps one young at heart, and all that.

I have to feel out the dimensions of the gap in the VC Andrews/Cat People werewolf story, because I know what needs to happen but I don’t quite see how to get there yet. And in Sons of Ymre #2 I have left the heroine feeling rather badly now that she’s discovered a few things about her monster-hunting protector, and I don’t quite know if she’s going to try to wriggle out the window before the other monster hunters get there. She’s seriously considering it, I think it’s a bad idea, and we’re hashing it out. The process takes time.

I was able to settle in bed last night and knock off a respectable bit of Fire in the Lake. I’m gutting it out; it’s slow going, especially with the stress of current events. After this I have some of Anais Nin’s diaries to read. I splurged a bit (call it research, that’s what I’m doing) and bought a set. I’ve always wanted to read them, and now is a good time to cross that off my bucket list. Once I wend my way through the set I’ll see if the itch is scratched. At least there’s no shortage, Nin was prolific.

Still trying not to look at the news. The world’s pain is prowling just outside my mental doors, eager to rush in and consume me. Of course I feel terrible that I can’t do more, that I’m sitting here writing my little stories as the burning intensifies. It’s all I can do. On my better days I tell myself that people need stories, need escape and catharsis, now more than ever. On my worse, there’s nothing else I can do anyway so I might as well get some work done while I’m waiting for the mushroom cloud.

The worse days predominate lately. Any optimism I might have been able to lay claim to has been severely strained.

So I just keep swimming. Gary Moore is playing inside my skull this morning too, while the plot-building machine whirrs and jolts. I’m also thinking about tomorrow’s tea–we’ll talk about the difference between the Inner Editor and the Internal Censor, always a fun time. I’ve finally reached the point where I’m exporting old teas to YouTube, where they can live after they drop off Twitch’s two-week cycle. We’ll see how long this experiment lasts. My agent tells me I’m witty and personable, but all I feel in front of a camera is doltish, atavistic fear. At that point my most devout hope is that nobody is watching, which I suppose defeats the purpose of the whole thing? It’s irrational on many levels, but I trust my agent and if she says to try this, I suppose I should.

Well, frankly, she wanted me to TikTok, but that’s a lot of work for no return at all and I’m already in publishing, I’ve got enough of that, thanks.

I should bring this to a close and get toast underway. Miss B just perked up as I glanced at her–she can sense, with unfailing canine intuition, that I am about to cave and give her what she wants. Action! Adventure! A stroll around the block, during which she gets to sniff all her favourite things and be cranky at Boxnoggin’s exuberance! And finally, the pièce de résistance, a treat when we return home, because her owner is a sucker and she is, after all, an elderly statesdog who has turned in years of diligent work.

Have a lovely Thursday, my dears. Today’s subscription drop is prepped and scheduled, and I have plenty of work to keep me occupied. If the day behaves we might reach the end without having to get out the baseball bat.

Maybe I’m more of an optimist than I thought…

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

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

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

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.