Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.

Tuesday Tuckerizations

They’re saying 95F today. I’ve already closed the house and turned the AC on. The ceiling fan in the stairwell is going too. Such as it is, we’ve got some remedy against the heat.

In plenty of the country, it wouldn’t be considered bad weather. But here, we are pale temperate mushrooms, and this dries us out. Even the moss in our crevices is cracking. (Hyperbole? Yes, but only a little.)

Of course it means I’ll be able to crouch in my darkened office and work today, since the holiday weekend is over. I managed double wordcount on Cold North yesterday, but only a pittance on Hell’s Acre. Which isn’t bad (just a reminder, you can read the first few chapters of the serial for free) and today I get to write a chapter where I Tuckerize some of my beloved subscribers. It will probably end in their eponymous characters’ gruesome deaths (Avery has a temper, and quite a bit of training in mayhem). I was kind of unprepared for how many people wanted to, erm, risk a violent end in the serial.

Sometimes the deaths are pretty neat–a certain character in Roadtrip Z got to be an end-of-movie hero, bit by a zombie and saving one last bullet in the chamber for himself. (Hullo, MM!) And since I’m writing a combat scene today I have a list of names to use now, and I think at least one is going to switch allegiances mid-fight.

In other news, I got a very nice letter from Reader B. L., who liked Steelflower very much and entreated me to continue the series. I do go back and look at The Highlands War from time to time. If I can open the file without stress nausea burning a hole in my gut I’ll put it on the writing docket.

Unfortunately, it remains one of my most-pirated series. The level of theft means I literally can’t afford to work on it, and the emotional cost is super high too.

But again, if I can get to the point where I can open the Highlands file without the stress nausea, I’ll consider it, because I really do need that arc finished. Originally it was to be a trilogy–the first book where everyone meets, the Skaialan book, and then Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan–incidentally, that last book was to explain D’ri’s scar, and tie a bunch of other narrative threads pretty neatly.

Best-laid plans and all.

In any case, I’ve got to get the dogs walked and my own corpse through a run before the heat mounts to an unlivable degree, so I’m out the door as soon as the last bit of coffee is swilled. Happy Pride Month, everyone, and I hope your Tuesday goes smooth as silk.

If it doesn’t, we can get out the machetes and the RPGs, and teach it not to mess with us.

Over and out…

Almost Royal


In late spring, there’s an explosion of color as the rhododendrons and azaleas flower. It’s short indeed, but very vivid, and I like this particular bush. It’s friendly all year round, being on our usual morning canine ramble route. The lithadora under it is apparently the source of many fine smells, so both Boxnoggin and Miss B halt there for a good long while.

While they busily untangle the day’s news, I often exchange pleasantries with this fine lady. She’s far taller than me, but very gracious and willing to speak at length about the weather. The dry spring is nice, most of the plants are saying, because it’s cut down on slug and snail production. Which means more vegetation.

I call this particular flower “almost royal” because it’s purple and quite majestic in its own way. There was an azalea I ran past yesterday positively loaded with white blossom, but I didn’t get to slow down long enough for a picture. That’s all right; this is just as good.

Here’s hoping for a pleasant weekend, my beloveds. I’ve lost almost a week to the immense psychological relief of being vaccinated; I need to get back to work in the worst way. But there’s always time to walk the dogs, and have a little small talk with an almost-royal almost-tree.

See you next Monday…

Shapechanger Relief

Relief takes different forms. There’s mine, of course–working on a story nobody but me will ever read, as well as planting a million seeds and finally having the energy to weed again.

Then there’s the Princess, who has celebrated the household’s second-vaccine-shot-accomplished status by painting her room. My little girl just…up and bought paint, masked everything, cut in, and is giving the first coat a chance to dry while she’s at work today before getting the second coat on this afternoon.

“Adulthood,” she says somewhat smugly, “is pretty sweet.”

The Prince’s relief has taken the form of sleeping a lot (some of it could be fatigue from his body learning how to fight off the plague afresh) and swearing at the Captain Tsubasa game on his Switch between distance-learning sessions to finish up his last year of high school. We’re still not sure if we’re going to attend the graduation ceremony.

Sure, we’re vaccinated and will mask…but is, or will, everyone else? *sigh*

The relief is palpable, though. Not a single dinner goes by that we don’t count down the days to full immunity for everyone in the house (ten, including today) and mention just how happy we are that everyone’s gotten the poke.

Last night there was chicken-garlic soup, with homemade stock and the remains of the chicken roasted in fennel I did the other day. Dessert was cinnamon rolls the Prince made, and in honor of his newfound baking achievement the Princess taught him how to make her special cream-cheese frosting, which is kind of a big deal in these-here parts.

It’s funny. The kids are still tiny toddlers inside my head sometimes, but here they are painting rooms, running the oven, graduating from high school, getting Real Adult Jobs. It’s like time is a gat-damn river ever flowing on or something.

Today it’s back to work, and I have a newsletter as well as subscription stuff to get out the door. But of course, coffee must be absorbed first, and the dogs are celebrating the prospect of walkies. The weather report has thunderstorms today, but we can’t possibly be that lucky and in any case, the dogs hate them.

I don’t want to think about how bad it still is outside our door. For at least one day I want to be relieved that inside these walls things are looking a little brighter than they have for years.

Of course some-damn-thing-else could happen. But right now, at this moment, I’m grabbing all the solace I can find and hugging it close. A single incidence of not being kicked in the teeth when I dared to hope has infected me all over again with the idea that maybe, just possibly, things might turn out okay in a limited fashion, somewhere on earth.

I’m sure by tomorrow I’ll be my usual pessimistic self again. But…tomorrow’s soon enough, and today is for that tiny sliver of hope which managed to survive 2020 when so much else didn’t.

See you around, beloveds.

Rest Aggressively

There’s so much to do, and yet the power to do any of it seems beyond me today.

This particular fatigue is definitely not from the vaccine, but it’s still deep and wide. The relief is so huge I think I need another twenty-four hours or so for things to settle. I’ll be doing as much work as I can today, but…that’s not going to be much at all.

I’ve been reduced to Barba Streisand’s Broadway album. That’s how ragged my nerves are, unreeling in sheer relief. I’m trying to aggressively rest, if there is such a thing–there are seedlings to start, and laurel volunteers to put along the back fence in case the fellow living over it gets another wild hare and tries to take out the rest of the cedars.

The dogs need walking, though Boxnoggin’s tummy is a little unsettled this fine morn. I suspect the weather change, as well as humans leaving the house not once but twice on Saturday, has made him briefly nervous. I thought he was excited to get out the door and see a squirrel or two this morning, but he was on a beeline to a particular place near the fence to vomit.

Get your excitement where you can, I guess. He’s absolutely fine, sometimes he just has a day where his tummy decides not to go with the program. By dinner he’ll be right as rain.

We were supposed to get rain, as a matter of fact, but everything is suspiciously dry. It may be time to turn the sprinklers on, but I know as soon as I do there will be a deluge. Fool me twice, and all that.

I’ll be starting mugwort and comfrey and moonflower datura seedlings, and probably a few other things. There’s a whole tray of nasturtiums, just waiting for the seeds to crack their tiny brown heads and release broad peppery green fans. The eensy grow light I bought is going to do so much work this summer; I might even get a second one for the violets proper.

I’m also looking at the next few years’ worth of work and feeling vaguely hopeful. Having to face the fact of my own survival is…odd. There’s been a few times in my life I’ve been genuinely surprised to find myself alive, and this year seems to be one of them. I was absolutely convinced the last administration’s malignant, aggressive incompetence was going to somehow snatch away the vaccine at the last minute. Now, home and safe, I’m looking at the damage and groaning slightly.

Cleanup is the worst part of any disaster. At least, for survivors.

It bothers me that we–the whole country, natch–haven’t had a reckoning, and probably won’t for a long while since *waves hands* all this is ongoing. The grief is going to be a real lulu, and that’s only the first step.

There are seeds to plant, dogs to walk (gently, at more of an amble than our usual brisk pace) and books to schedule. I’m hopeful to hear about Moon’s Knight soon, and if the answer is good, great! If the answer is not so good, well, I’ll need to pull together a cover from somewhere.

That won’t be bad. I’m surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing.

We’ve gone from bright sunshine to dark clouds while I’ve typed this; volatile spring weather, except it’s not dropping any real rain. Maybe I’ll just think really hard about the sprinklers, and that will fool the meteorological gods.

It’s worth a shot. Let’s see if it works…

Second Dose

On Saturday the Prince and I headed out to a local mass-vaccination site, having appointments for our second dose of Pfizer. It went extremely smoothly–we were on time, had all our paperwork, and wore easy-access sleeves. I was absolutely beside myself at the thought that the prior administration’s malignant incompetence would somehow reach out a skeletal hand and snatch the opportunity to get a vaccine from either or both of us, and I didn’t relax even fractionally until we were in the observation area and a quarter-hour had passed without incident.

I was surprised by a great burst of altruistic feeling for everyone else in the observation area. Not a single car bolted for the exit prematurely; everyone came out of the vaccine-administration area and parked with plenty of space left between individual cars to wait. A man two spaces away from us was playing a DS; when the breeze shifted and brought us faint sounds the Prince recognized not only the game he was playing but the dungeon he was in.

Before the plague he might have called between the cars; as it was, he was just pleased to see an adult doing something cool. “I have that game too,” he confided at least twice, bursting with pride.

I did cry, but only after we got home and I could lock myself in the loo for a bit. And I was useless the rest of the day. We celebrated with burgers, so that part was nice.

The Princess got her second dose well before ours, and is very relieved at us catching up. The Prince and I are in the home stretch before full immunity. All three of us had mild fatigue and arm soreness with dose two; I got an extra helping of fatigue and a very mild fever. Still, my body likes to cook itself at the slightest provocation, your mileage may vary and all that.

So I’m taking today off–if I owe you an email, I am very sorry, but it’s not gonna happen. I might get out in the yard and move some laurel volunteers since that takes only a hand shovel and can be done at infinitely slow speed. That’s why the image for today’s post is the zombie rhubarb–I feel pretty much like that poor plant. If it’s going to cling to life so hard, I might as well water it.

I did get a cheap grow light for starting seedlings and giving the African violets a bit more illumination. One of these days I’ll have a whole grow table for the violets, but that’s another story; I’m trying to keep my plant habit contained. I tend to rehab terribly neglected plants from the discount rack, then give them away when they’re recovered.

I might even write some werewolves today, or something just for my own delectation. It will be nice to go back to work without the specter of plague hanging over my head. I’m looking forward to my usual productivity, or something close to it.

Still struggling with the fact that I never honestly expected to survive 2020, though. Now I’m staring at the latter half of 2021 going, “I can’t die, I have deadlines, what is all this bullshit?” It’s not quite a letdown to find I’ve made it through one more gauntlet, but the survivor’s guilt is waiting in the wings. It’s going to be intense, I can already tell.

So today is for everything I like on the music queue, nothing I don’t, maybe moving some volunteers in the yard, possibly getting the leeks in the ground…and walking the dogs, because they don’t care about plague, coup, or anything else. Their breakfasts, walkies, and dinners always come at the same accepted times, so they’re content consigning every other worry to Yours Truly. It’s nice to see them so unburdened. Almost makes my own heart lighten.

The relief–that neither the kids nor I will need to visit the ER with the plague, not only risking being ignored while drowning in our own sputum but saddling any survivors with medical debt to the tune of absolute bankruptcy–is immense. World-shattering. I don’t deny my knees are a bit mushy at the moment just thinking about it. I’m still not sure what portion of the fatigue or other side effects springs solely from that consolation.

We’ll still be masking up and always, ALWAYS washing hands. They’re good habits, and the pandemic is still going on. Vaccinated doesn’t mean, “We’ve got ours so fuck you,” it means, “We’re still doing our best to take care of everyone around us, and this makes it incrementally easier.”

The coffee has cooled and the dogs inform me they are ready to go, for God’s sake. Before vaccine, laundry and walk dogs; after vaccine, laundry and walk dogs, albeit with a little lighter heart.

It’s about damn time; that fucker’s been heavy as a teaspoon of black hole for a while now. Over and out.

Good Luck


I was cleaning off the mantel (I’ve been nesting lately) and came across a whole sand dollar a very good friend gave me years ago (well before lockdown) as well as a horseshoe found I know not where. It seemed a good omen, especially after I dusted and arranged them in pleasing fashion.

Tomorrow the Prince and I go for our second vaccine jab. I’m almost beside myself with anxiety–not over the shot itself, but afraid that some-damn-thing will happen, there will be some organizational snafu, and we won’t be able to get them. The absolute lack of any competence during the previous administration left a deep mark; I’m overly nervous.

All signs are it’ll go smoothly, and I expect some short-term side effects like the first dose had. Today will be spent prepping everything in case those wipe me out for a day or two.

Still…I’ll take all the luck I can get, and share it with you. May we all be fully vaccinated soon, beloveds; and may we all have a quiet weekend.