Nadir, Recovery

Yesterday was the nadir as far as physical recovery; I spent most of it in bed. The release of tension, knowing that I don’t have to walk into the sea just yet, is almost as painful as illness itself. I’m still shaky and raspy, still coughing every once in a while, and there’s still so much work to be done.

At least now I can work without obsessively refreshing the election websites, staring through a screen of fever and physical misery, expecting the worst. I know this is the most dangerous time, that the malignant narcissist and criminal cabal squatting in the halls of power are well into the discard phase1, I know that they’re going to break everything and smear ordure everywhere, I know that even in the best case scenario this gives us a mere four years of breathing room I should use for emigration.

For the moment, though, I’m crying with relief at some moments, laughing with mad relieved glee at others, and generally feeling as one might when one is let out of unjust incarceration or realizes, for the first time, that an abusive “family” member isn’t coming back and one is free. The only thing I can compare it to is when the realization I never had to go back to my childhood home, not ever again, truly sank in on more than an intellectual level.

So. I have coffee. The dogs need walking, and since I have to ease back into running (just when I got my mileage back up to a respectable place, dammit) it’s time for Boxnoggin to learn how to keep in his ‘sector’ while jogging with Mum. It shouldn’t take too long, because it uses the same instincts pack hunting does, but I’m so used to running with Miss B instead we’ll have to go very slowly. It wouldn’t be fair to be frustrated with poor young untrained Boxnoggin because he doesn’t have the years of trust and work B and I developed on near-daily runs.

So today will be a good day for me to deliberately be gentle with myself, and with others as far as I can. The adrenaline crash from the last five-six years of constant retraumatization is not done yet. I have some work on HOOD planned today, a little revision on Moon’s Knight, and scheduling/looking at revised wordcount goals for The Black God’s Heart.

Before the election: Chop words, carry words. After the election: Chop words, carry words. But maybe at a slightly reduced pace for a short while. Everything inside me feels breakable, slightly too-stretched, frangible, friable.

Don’t think it’s over, because it’s not. Don’t think everything is fixed, because it isn’t. Don’t think it’s hopeless either, because even with massive voter suppression and the attempt to sabotage the Census, the USPS, and literally everything else, we still sent a ringing defeat to Papaya Pol Pot. We’re all tired, goodness knows.

So take a deep breath, dearies. Get those shoulders down. Hydrate, get a snack if you haven’t in the last few hours, and remember that while it’s not over, we did something great and should celebrate it. We’re not going to erase four years of fascism overnight. We won’t erase it with four years of a “centrist” caving in to regressives’ violent demands, either, but at least said “centrist” has a sense of shame and can be pressured by public outcry.

The big thing is that we’ve all been traumatized, violently, over and over again for multiple years. The release of tension isn’t going to start with relief, it’ll start with the feelings we were too deeply in survival mode to acknowledge, swamping us wholesale. Just… be ready for that, okay? You’re not crazy, you’re Feeling A Lot that you weren’t safe enough and didn’t have energy to feel before. Extend to yourself the same grace you would to a beloved friend–after all, who else do you spend 24/7 with? That’s right–your own damn self, and your own body. Be kind to both of them, beloveds.

And with that, I’m going to go see if I can’t follow some of my own advice (for once). I’m braced for the next disaster, of course, but I’m also going to use this peace to the fullest.

Boxnoggin’s nose it at my knee, and his big soulful brown eyes are weapons of mass cuteness. Time to walk, and then haul us both through a short, easy learning experience of a run.

See you in a bit.

Not the Plague

Five days or so of intermittent fever (my body likes to cook itself at the slightest provocation), coughing (fortunately that’s going down now), body aches (somewhat of a misnomer, I feel I’ve been beaten with a truncheon), postnasal drip (though fortunately I can still smell when the decongestants work).

Pretty sure it’s not the plague, as my digestion (for what little I feel like eating) is ticking right along and like I said, I can still smell. But still, it’s unpleasant. I think my body is in revolt against the bullshit it’s been asked to endure the last four years, let alone the last few months.

I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping since I fell ill. Normally I absolutely cannot sleep during my “daytime”, even if it’s in the middle of the night. (Long story.) It’s hard to let down my guard enough to nap, sleeping requires barring the door and starting a long slide of preparatory maneuvers impelled by habit.

It’s not that I can’t relax. It’s that I need to feel safe to sleep, or simply be so exhausted I don’t care. I haven’t felt safe since waking up in 2016 and realizing what I’d written had come to lurching, terrifying life.

Anyway I have all the subscription stuff prepped for this week. I had about two usable hours of energy yesterday, so I spent it getting that all done up. HOOD needs the end of its third season finished in zero form, Moon’s Knight needs a polish, and The Black God’s Heart is my NaNo novel.

I should set that last up.

I just wish I knew whether there was a chance at us saving ourselves despite gerrymandering and voter suppression (there are no “red states”, just voter suppression states) or if I should walk into the sea now.

I have coffee that I can taste in bursts, though. The dogs are both eager for a walk, though it will be in the rain. Jacqueline du Pré’s cello is coming softly through speakers; the hardest thing will probably be tying my shoes with Boxnoggin’s “help.” He longs to be useful, and doubly longs to be under a dextrous, gentle pair of human hands. It’s his favorite location, even better if he can chew on something.

So I wait to see if the sea gets me. My nerves are shot and my body’s breaking down under the strain. But at least I’m largely sure it’s not the plague.

Yet.

With that silver lining, my friends, I shall leave you. It’s time for a round of decongestants and the aforementioned shoe-tying. Stay strong, drink water, don’t be racist or fascist.

It’s amazing how many people can’t manage the last two, even with all their simplicity. If I was ever optimistic about humanity, rest assured I labor under no such misconception anymore.

That hurts more than the rest of it, but I’m too tired–and ill–to care.

Out of Season

Sunday chores mean my desk is somewhat better organized–not too organized, since a little bit of mess allows room for creativity to sneak in. Or maybe too-neat just stresses me out of any kind of proper work mindframe. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

The weather is turning, so there’s some sniffles and sneezes in the house. Every time one of us reaches for the tissues I tense up, wondering if it’s the plague, if it’s the moment I have to start making awful decisions.

Fortunately, it seems to be nothing more than the usual postnasal drip that happens along every time our damp autumn wanders in and settles down to. But still, my nerves twitch all sideways when I hear a sneeze. We’re still enduring lockdown and masking up whenever forced to leave the house, except for during outside exercise. When the rains start there will be nobody on the sidewalk to infect, either; I won’t have to hop out into the road when a middle-aged white man decides he’s going to take up the entire bloody walk with his waddling self.

The zero draft of The Bloody Throne, full of holes and bracket notes, is set aside to marinate–generally one of the hardest times to endure during project, since it’s still smarting and itching like a fresh scab. I have revisions on Damage and Moon’s Knight to distract myself with and get out the door, as well as continuing work on HOOD‘s Season Three and The Black God’s Heart. I forced myself to only write on things that do not resemble work over the weekend, which means there’s 8k of text I’ll probably never use–a mismatched pair of occult detectives who talk like an old BBC serial is great fun, but I don’t think it’s publishable, you know? Still, it was therapeutic, and bits of it might be used elsewhere, who knows?

The coffee tastes particularly fine this morning. I long for caffeine to soak in and finally give me a spark or two. Taking three days off should be enough to recover from an epic fantasy, right? I should be right as rain now.

Except I have the sneaking suspicion I’m not, and it’ll hit me in the middle of revisions. Normally it takes three times as long as one thinks to truly recover form the end of a project; unfortunately, nothing about the time is normal. It’s all out of whack, if not completely out of joint.

At least there’s no time to be lonely when I can sink into characters. Not that I ever feel lonely anyway; there’s generally so much to do and see and think about. I did have Midsommar flower-crown dreams, so maybe it’s time for me to poke at that one story with the wolves, the snow, and the flowers out of season. That sounds a lovely way to procrastinate, doesn’t it?

But no, the bloody revisions need attention. Whatever I’m going to procrastinate with will have to creep around the edges, stealing precious bits of sweet forbidden time.

Maybe another book will hash my wrists on its way out of my head. In any case, sunrise has strengthened behind the cedars, and the dogs are longing for me to finish my damn coffee and get to the real work, which is taking their fuzzy asses on a ramble. My human concerns are all very well, but they have actual business to conduct, or so they keep reminding me.

I’d best be off, then. We survived another weekend; I want to hide in my closet until after the election but I have to work. And my ballot needs to be dropped in a box instead of mailed; I’m taking no chances this year. So that will mean a short drive this morning too.

May we vanquish our Monday, dearly beloveds. I’m not anywhere near ready, but that’s why we have coffee, isn’t it.

Over and out.

Rested Monday

I’ve surfaced blinking into Monday, wondering what the hell happened. I actually slept last night, I have caffeine standing ready as I type, and the birds are going mad in the back yard. The smoke is gone, and weather-heads are using words like “fire-season-ending rain” for later in the week.

It can’t happen soon enough according to yours truly. I’ve missed falling water with a passion, as I do every summer, but the smoke just put a capper on the longing. Also, the dogs were exhausted from being on high alert for basically an entire week, nervously waiting for the fire they could smell to engulf us, so they barely moved all night too.

Consequently I’m starting Monday rather late but feeling somewhat rested, which is not at all a usual thing lately. And an idea for a new romantic suspense (Romancing the Stone meets Treasure of the Sierra Madre) crawled inside my head and doubled this weekend, too, though I didn’t write any of it–just dropped a sentence or two into a throwaway Scrivener file and let it go. If it wants its time at centre stage, it’s going to have to wait until the paid projects grind through.

I did spend some time with Seeker, Slinger, though. It was nice to poke at something solely for home consumption.

My email tells me a box of author copies will arrive today. I’m just not sure which book. Normally this would mean putting together a giveaway, but lockdown being what it is the less time I spend in public places (like the post office) the better. I do have some audiobook codes; maybe that will do for a giveaway. Or maybe I might skip this month.

Six months into a pandemic we could be dealing with effectively if there were non-fascist adults running the federal government, I am beginning to run out of both hope and energy. I’m told this is unavoidable, a sign of adjusting to a new normal. It makes sense, I just still don’t like it.

So today is for serious wordcount on The Bloody Throne and a new chapter in HOOD, which has just entered its final phase of its final season. Maid Marian, Little John, and Friar Tuck are off in a spaceship to find King Richard and bring him home, while those left planetoid are fending off Prince John’s advances, and poor Guy of Gisbourne is stuck in the middle. I do love a good villain redemption, as long-time readers will know.

I’ve been watching quite a few Donnie Yen movies lately. It’s extraordinarily healing to watch that man land a punch or two. Every time he kicks the shit out of someone on-screen, my heart gets glued a fraction or two back together.

Small pleasures, yes. But they’re mine, and on a Monday I shall cherish them. I wish you likewise joys, my friends.

Tree, Arc, Next Life, Climb

Yesterday was gasping-hot and utterly humid, although it did cool off at night. Still, that sort of thing wears on one’s body. I have become a temperate beast, and cannot imagine how people live in tropical greenhouses. I’ll probably spend my next life as a moss-hung tree on the Olympic Peninsula, gulping at rain and communing with the mycelium at my roots.

This morning is cool but still humid, and they say it’ll reach 94F. And I was just exchanging relieved emails with my writing partner earlier this week about how it seemed to worst of the heat had passed.

Ah well. It’s always something, and at least in this house we have AC. Take the small luxuries where you find them.

This week has been all about the epic fantasy. I need to reread to catch the rhythm before jumping in again; the zero draft has to be done by November. Plus the last half of the last season of HOOD is spiking for a finish. If I drive myself to bare nerves again I think I can get both done, which just leaves the question of deciding the next serial for my very dear subscribers.

If I think only about that–the sheer amount of work ahead of me–I can almost forget the conditions we’re all laboring under. I want to retreat into my writing cave and just not watch the world burn anymore. I can’t stand it; the number of people who apparently long to risk their own lives worshipfully licking fascist boots is far more than I ever imagined.

I have spent my entire life believing humanity is worth saving, and I suppose I still do. I just… have doubts, sometimes. We could end suffering in short order, if we refused to obey greedy bastards and their hateful henchmen.

It’s the henchmen that are the largest problem, seduced by the idea that if they just hate hard enough, if they’re just cruel enough, they too can be greedy bastards at the top of the pile. If not for helping henchman hands, the one percent could very well be forced to surrender their ill-gotten gains with relative ease and the politics of hate and disaster capitalism could be left in the dustbin of history where they belong.

But the rest of us are kept scrabbling too hard for survival, not to mention turned against each other, to do it. The arc of said history may bend towards justice, but I see precious little of it lying about right now.

I know there’s hope somewhere, I’m just not seeing it today. All I want to do is tell a few stories, maybe provide a few people with a little surcease from the agony. Sometimes even that seems impossible.

Miss B is under my desk, blissfully unaware of such things. To her, the world is simple–breakfast, walkies, pets, dinner, bedtime, and in between are naps and the supervising of her poor dim non-furry humans, who may be gods of the can opener and the den where we spend out days but seem not very bright when it comes to the business of noses, fur, and herding. Lord Boxnoggin is similarly blissful, though his duties include alerting when any damn thing–dog, human, car, delivery truck, stray leaf–wanders down the road before the house.

Neither of them care about politics; their sole concern is dinner with a soupçon of gathering their pack in one place so they can be certain all are accounted for. Sometimes I wish I had so few concerns. But I worry so they don’t have to, the way I do for my children. If there is an arc towards justice, it seems to lie there.

I try. But the worry grinds past my nerves, stripping the insulation and drawing sparks. There’s only so much one lone mad writer can do. My doubts sometimes rise like ghouls from the grave, slavering and ravenous-quick; the only hope I have is to run far enough, write fast enough, love hard enough to outstrip them.

So far I’ve managed. But I’m tired, my friends. I’m so, so tired. Even my usual pick-me-up of performing an act or two of care for others isn’t renewing me as much as it might. I feel like I’m trying to put out a five-alarm fire with an eyedropper of gasoline.

I know you’re probably exhausted too. It kind of helps to know one isn’t alone, even when one feels it dreadfully and is forced to put a brave face on things. I long to stop swimming for a few moments, but I can’t risk sinking.

So it’s onward, my eyes fixed on the next few drafts to finish, the next few hugs the kids need, the next few dinners the dogs require, the next few jokes I’ll spin for online friends, the next few steps in the endurance run called life. There’s a point in any climb when all one can focus on is the next few handholds. You can’t spare the energy to think about the finish, all you can do is perform the next few moves. You can’t even hope you’ll be able to solve the problems after that; there isn’t enough fuel.

Honestly, if I’m a tree next time, it’ll be a nice change. I just hope I’m put somewhere relatively inaccessible so the chainsaws don’t happen along.

Good heavens. I’m even pessimistic about my next life. I suppose that means I should get back to work.

Catch you later, my beloveds. I’ll keep climbing if you will; if you’re tired, rest for a bit. I’ve got the rope.

Sooner or later we’ll make it.

Cockroach of Hope, Plus Giveaway

Hello, Monday. We won’t hurt each other, will we?

I might have recovered from breakdown, portal fantasy, and release day all in quick succession. Might. At least I have coffee, though it’s too hot to drink just yet. And I’m not allowed to work on the next unsellable book–honestly, the Muse is pissing me off at this point–until I at least have the last season of HOOD‘s zero in the can.

I know exactly what I need to write, at least. So there’s that. Mornings for HOOD, afternoons for Bloody Throne, and evenings after dinner for The Black God’s Heart. It’ll be a fine schedule and will get me to deadlines intact if I can keep it.

Ay, as Hamlet would groan. There’s the rub.

I suppose if I don’t look at the news I might even be able to do it. The march of cruelty, stupidity, and fascism seems overwhelming in scope and durability. All I want is to go back to writing squirrel stories and violent kissing books, dammit.

In any case, at least one beta reader has informed me that the portal fantasy doesn’t suck. Which is nice, even though it won’t sell. Pretty sure the aliens-arrive-and-boy-is-everyone-pissed romance won’t either, but that one isn’t having thoughts of usurping my regular working time. It will have to be content with weekends and stolen bits around the edges, at least until HOOD‘s zero is in the can. You never know, the aliens story might have enough legs (ha ha) to end up as a serial.

I do need to spend some time thinking about what story will go into the serial slot after HOOD reaches its end. I like to have a few months’ worth of chapters saved up so subscribers don’t miss a single Thursday of fiction-y goodness. Because life happens, and apparently, so does *gestures* all this.

I also have an announcement! The August Zombie Audio Giveaway is now live! Three lucky winners will receive free Audiobook.com codes for Cotton Crossing, first in the ROADTRIP Z series. Multiple daily entries are allowed, too. Newsletter as well as Patreon/Gumroad subscribers got first crack at the giveaway, of course. So if a free audiobook is your jam, just hop on over and enter.

Maybe Monday isn’t that bad after all. Of course, it’s not even 8am yet, so it’s far too early to tell. I have hope, even though I’d rather not because it’s so painful when slowly crushed by endless 2020 bullshit. But though fragile, that motherfucker is hard to kill.

Like, say, cockroaches. I’m trying to be a tiny little cockroach of hope.

And with that simply stunning (I’m sure) mental image, I shall bid you a civil adieu for your own Monday, dear Reader. May we all get through today without hurting each other.

It’s all I’m hoping for, right now.

Portal Fantasy Weekend

Spent the weekend reorienting myself, by which I mean “taking two days off and writing nothing but portal fantasy.” Subscribers will be happy to know Moon’s Knight is coming along nicely, and I’m almost ready to throw the heroine out into the Underdark to make her way somewhere very special.

I’m a little taken aback by the response to what was intended to be a throwaway few chapters of a story that would probably never gather steam. I suppose now I should finish it, but it’ll take a while since it has to fit around three paying projects. All of which I’m either behind on, or deathly afraid of becoming so.

Pandemic and fascist coup tend to put a spike in one’s productivity, alas.

The urge to retract into my shell–or crawl into a hole and tug the hole closed behind me–is well-nigh overpowering. Shutting off the wireless and just writing, fueled by tea, seems the best option right now. Looking at the news is a fool’s game. I’ve lost all hope of being able to turn any fraction of the tide. A vast mass of Americans not only wants to worship death and kill itself choking on its own jackboots and phlegm, but also wants to take the rest of us into the abyss as well. Fighting that current is exhausting.

But it’s a Monday, and today I start the last half of the last season of HOOD. Then I shift to The Bloody Throne, where two women are accosted by an Emperor in a garden and nobody gets what they want out of the interaction. Last but not least, I’ve dinner to think of, and finishing the day by getting the protagonist in The Black God’s Heart out of her city and well on her road trip to the West.

And Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped. At least I’ve my health.

At least I have music. Today is for Anonymous 4 and Alan Parsons Project. I don’t know why the Muse wants them in alternating order, but I’ve long since learned to just give the bitch what she’s yelling for and let it go. We work better together when I just feed her what she demands. I’m hoping she’ll let me listen to some Willie Nelson soon, I have an urge to put Red Headed Stranger on repeat once the church songs and synthesizers have scratched whatever is itching on the Muse’s back.

The dogs are eager for their walk. After Boxnoggin’s recent shenanigans he has not only his harness but two collars and a leash; the new, hopefully escape-proof harness arrives soon. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. And there’s a run to get in today.

If you’ve lost the ability to deal with *gestures at the world* all this, you’re not alone. I’m taking refuge in work, as I often do; I wish I had some advice that held even a glimmer of making any of this better. Alas, I’ve got nuttin’. All I can do is write, and gods grant it’s enough.

And who knows? If I get all my work done today, I might steal a few minutes for the portal fantasy. Stolen time is the sweetest and most productive, as we all well know.

Happy Monday, chickadees. Take care of yourself today. We need everyone, especially you, so do what you’ve gotta to re-wrap the insulation on your nerves. I don’t see this ending anytime soon–and with that cheerful thought, I’m going to finish my coffee and walk the beasts. Pretty soon Boxnoggin will be in a hamster ball for the daily promenades, just to keep him out of trouble.

And with that hilarious mental image, my beloveds, I am over and out.