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


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.

Torrent, Not Stream

Rain! Glorious, beautiful, tapslithering, life-giving rain. My soul is expanding again, the trees are regaining their turgor pressure, the gutters are full, and the gardens are drinking.

Miss B is unbothered, save for the fact that rain is a Change and All Change Is Questionable. Boxnoggin, poor thing, hates falling water and is curled up tightly on his bed in my office, staring mournfully at me. Not only has his human allowed such a thing as skywater to happen, but the window is open and he can hear it.

He adjusts to the rainy season a little more quickly each year, he just hates change worse than Miss B does. Any shift in the status quo is regarded as deeply dangerous, and requires him to either bark madly or glue himself to my side while he figures out what the hell. I’m sure the deep joy with which I greet the damp puzzles him as much as it soothes.

Walkies are going to be interesting today.

This week marks rather a change for me in other areas. I’m shifting things around so I’m not looking at social media so much. I don’t know whether this is a temporary fast or a long-term solution, I just know I’m exhausted and I cannot keep staring at the trashfire. I’ll still be around, don’t worry about that. But…I just can’t function with *waves hands* all that, all the time.

I seem to have discovered a hard limit. My capacity for endurance, while great, is not infinite. It’s looking more and more like my physical symptoms are burnout rather than The Plague™, which is…well, at least I haven’t lost my sense of smell. The scratchy throat and full nose have retreated somewhat, but the exhaustion remains. I could easily go back to bed and sleep another twelve hours or so.

Yet another reason to back off social media. It’s odd, but with The Plague™ and lockdown, this is the most social I’ve ever been. Video calls and checking in on folks has consumed a great deal of my energy, and I’m approaching the point where it’s unsustainable, especially with the kind of workload I’m having to engage in to keep the mortgage paid. Someone else will have to do the check-ins for a while; I just can’t. I’m tottering under a heavy load, and my emotional knees are starting to go.

But at least there’s rain. Winter is my productive season, and when the rain starts it’s a sign that the words are about to become a torrent instead of a stream.

There is an avocado ready to be smushed onto toast for brekkie, and by the time that finishes there should be a short slackening in the falling water so Boxnoggin will only have to deal with drizzle instead of outright monsoon. Then I get to run, in the rain, finally, at last.

Things are looking up. I mean, the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head is still deep and wide, but there’s work to be done and the sound of drops hitting the roof to ease my soul.

I wish you a pleasant Monday, my beloveds. I hope you’re having something as pleasant as falling sky-drops are for me.

Tiny, Stripey Friend

Ohai, little one!

This lovely stripey friend rode my shoulder all the way up the hill, while the dogs trotted alongside us, and then kindly posed for a snap. They didn’t speak much, being wholly occupied with their work, but I think they gave me a kind glance before diving into the heart of the flower.

Of such small things hope is made, I suppose. Neither of the kids are ill, I can still smell and taste, and nobody’s running a fever. So it’s probably not The Plague™. It’s becoming more and more likely, in fact, that my body has simply had enough of me working myself to exhaustion and is registering a protest the only way it can.

Said body does signal service carrying my silly self around, poor thing; I should be gentler with it. Of course it likes running–once the running’s done, of course, and I do try to give my corpus the nutrition it needs or wants with very little trouble or bitching.

But the constant fear and agony of hopelessness is wearing upon my poor physical self, I think. I don’t know how to make that go away, because it’s saturating the very air.

Yet my heart keeps on beating. My lungs keep on working. The stories still leap and gambol inside my head, demanding to be told. I keep trying to love without reserve. And a small piece of terrestrial life rode my shoulder this morning, basking in early-autumn sunshine, before hopping off to make a fine meal in the very depths of a flower.

Maybe it isn’t all just hopeless bullshit. Maybe.

Be gentle with yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. Above all, mask up, wash up, and get your jab(s). You’re important, and we need you.

See you next week.

Running Body, Rewards Chosen

This morning’s mood is best summed up by, “give me the coffee and nobody gets hurt.”

Not that I’d actually hurt anyone (without severe provocation) but the threat has a few salutary effects. One takes what one can get.

The weather watchers say we’re going to have another heat wave–not as bad as the recent dome, but it won’t cool off at night like it usually does, which is a recipe for disaster in this part of the country. Very few people have air conditioning and we’re used to opening up windows overnight to keep the houses livable. The cumulative effect of hot days and nights bearing no relief stresses the very young, the very old, and the chronically ill.

I’m upping my running mileage too, so this will mean getting out the door early, for whatever variety of cool can be found. I’d forgotten how an alteration of the running schedule makes the entire body feel different–my legs feel a lot longer, for example. And different parts of my arms ache because running is a whole-body effort and if your trotters are tired concentrating on your arms can provide the last bit of help needed to keep you going.

I suppose I’ve been running for a bit now, and it’s completely reshaped my body. I’m pretty sure even my bones bear the marks, with muscle attachments pulling at them in specific ways while I jog along. A lot of people don’t realize just how dynamic one’s bones are; they respond like muscles do, changing shape and reinforcing areas of high stress.

Pretty sure mine are mad at me right now, but it can’t be helped.

I feel at once taller and more compact when my mileage goes up, especially when intervals are added to the mix. Running also requires a very particular brand of kinesthetic attention, like dance, combat, or climbing–knowing where one is in time and space, thinking a few moves ahead while staying loose and ready for surprises.

Maybe that’s why I like all those things; they make my brain stop eating itself for short periods because the whole mass of walnut-folded grey matter is busy making sure I don’t accidentally dart in front of a bus or tumble off the damn wall.

If I fall in front of a bus, I want it to be deliberate, you see.

Someone’s started messing with a leaf blower, which means the neighborhood is officially awake and the day has begun. The dogs got a handful apiece of yesterday’s party Cheetos in their respective bowls; the Prince had his vaccinated friends over to play video games, eat pizza, and watch Miyazaki movies. It was a roaring success, though a little strange to have people I didn’t give birth to in the house again.

And with that, it’s time to walk said shaggy beasts, then get out for that increased mileage. There’s Hell’s Acre to write today–the heroine is about to pay a call which will alter her entire life, though she doesn’t know it yet–and maybe a little werewolf erotica, since I’m done with that difficult revision.

My reward structure is all messed up. “You did good! Here, have some anxiety-thumping caffeine, go out and run until you think you might throw up, and write some monsterfucking–you’ve earned it!”

What’s even funnier is that I choose those rewards. I don’t know whether it’s being a writer or just being wired strangely. Ah well, I’ve been a weirdo for 40+ years, there’s no point in stopping now.

At least by the time I find out where the leaf blower noise is coming from the coffee will have sunk in, providing its tranquilizing effect. Small mercies, the only kind we ever get around here.

Happy Thursday, my beloveds.

Stop, Whoops


This happened a while ago, but the picture’s too good to leave languishing. I call it “Whoops.” Looks like someone had an awful night.

I’m still in recovery. Having a book slide out so easily does not, unfortunately, mean the recovery process is shorter. If anything, it’s longer, because the flywheel takes more time to spin down. Or so it seems.

Be careful this weekend, my beloveds. There’s a heat wave on, and tempers are short this time of year. I’ll be hiding in the dark cave of my office, sucking on ice cubes or limeade, trying desperately not to develop heat prostration or a rash.

Ugh.

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.