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.

Emotional Weather

I’m not allowed to look at Twitter until noon1–partly so I can get some damn work done, since the kids and I will starve if I don’t, and partly so the persistent pain in my stomach I thought was just stress anxiety doesn’t develop into a full-blown ulcer.

After all, I live in America, where healthcare is nonexistent.

The weekend was… rough. I kept refreshing various feeds–news, social media, et cetera–waiting for the other shoe to drop. Plenty of people are celebrating victories, which is great. (After all, someone has to.) But my gut–the same gut that’s aching with anxiety and tension–isn’t so sure it’s time for flying ticker tape just yet.

Growing up with periodically violent domestic abusers means I’m intimately aware of emotional weather patterns, and what are dictators, fascists, and the like but abusers writ somewhat larger? I can’t be the only one to have noticed they all play from the same thin handbook.

So I have a sinking feeling the current small gains in a few American cities are sops thrown by “authorities” attempting to defuse the protests and get everyone back under the boot, perhaps with the heel painted a different color but still crushing as usual. I fear what happens when an abuser of whatever stripe senses his victim slipping away–a honeymoon period, but if that doesn’t work, a massive escalation in violence to re-batter said victim into quiescence.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the gains, but now isn’t the time to relax our demands. Of course, with a worldwide pandemic on and unemployment at a historic high, there’s little chance of relaxation in any direction.

There are people who have been working for abolition and reform for decades, and they know better than I do. If they’re hopeful, so am I. There are also people like Sarah Kendzior who predicted this whole goddamn thing (and nobody listened, of course) and people who study or have lived under authoritarian regimes who are still sounding the alarm.

This isn’t even close to finished. It’s not even close to a tie, let alone a win. The wannabe dictator who attempted to declare martial law on June 1 is still in power, as are his criminal cabal and loyal apparatchiks, and the military is still weighing its options.

No wonder so many of us are sick with anxiety. I won’t even ask “what else can happen” because I’m sure the gods will show us.


I did finish Orlando Figes’s The Crimean War this weekend; Figes is problematic at best (due to his habit of giving gushing and pseudonymous reviews of his own books and scabrous ones of fellow historians’ on Amazon) but it’s a good overview of the entire affair. I did appreciate the first few chapters carefully and patiently giving a grounding after essentially stating “You’re not going to understand this without some background, so we’re starting a few decades before the damn war.” My understanding of the Crimean War was spotty at best, mostly gleaned from British literature, so it was good to see behind the curtain. I mean, it’s still spotty, but less than it was.

Next up is Lawrence James’s history of the British Raj and Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, both for obvious reasons. Since I can’t sleep worth a damn, I might as well amp up my reading time.

As for this morning, there is coffee to be finished, there’s dogs to be walked, and the day’s work to plan. Since I’m now juggling three paying projects at once, the morning planning and boiling inside my head has to be carefully structured so when my fingers meet the keyboard I know what I’m doing–at least, as much as I ever do. We’re coming up on the last half of the third and final season of HOOD, where everything I laid out in the first season comes full circle and little things I seeded throughout every previous season now show their effects. Also, the proof pages for The Poison Prince landed, and I have to address those while also catching up with The Bloody Throne–another third book, where things I’ve been foreshadowing and seeding since Book One finally show their flowers. There are also huge set-piece battles to write, which is going to be a certain variety of fun.

And I’m excited about The Black God’s Heart. Now that a few business things have been taken care of I can work on it in good conscience, which means the characters who have been champing at the bit can finally be allowed to canter. We’re not going to gallop just yet.

A surfeit of work is better than a paucity. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t thing, though–I feel guilty for having work, guilty for not being able to work because of current world events, guilty for not doing more, guilty for not doing better self-care, on and on. There’s no winning in this hurricane, so I’m just doing what I always have, putting my head down and doing the best I can with the stories crowding around me to be told.

It’s all I can do, I suppose.

I wish you a pleasant, peaceful Monday, my friends, despite the fact that it will likely be anything but. I keep saying it, but I hope to be wrong about what I see coming down the pike. I long to be wrong the way I’ve longed for little else in my life.

Over and out.

Perception, Proportion

I may have wildly overestimated my ability to keep up with the firehose of bad news.

Of course, I am ambitious when it comes to seeing how much punishment I can absorb, a habit left over from childhood when it became a point of pride to disassociate during bad events so I wouldn’t cry or give any sign of weakness.

It’s only taken me decades to realize this is perhaps just the slightest, the very tiniest bit unhealthy.

Anyway, I spent yesterday getting the week’s subscription stuff edited and scheduled, as well as hopping out to the grocer’s. I made it between two waves–retail and food service taught me the magic of “dead times”–and was pleased that most people were wearing snotcatchers (i.e., masks) but not so pleased at the visible signs that most of them also considered the worst to be past.

It’s not. Even I can tell as much. I’m not the brightest bulb in the marquee, but I am possessed of a professional imagination, and predicting is somewhat of a hobby. Of course, every human being is somewhat of an expert in predicting human behavior–we do it all day, every day, and our survival depends upon it. The trick is to trust your own perceptions while simultaneously checking them against trusted external sources for a sense of proportion.

So here I am on a Tuesday, feeling pummeled even though I’ve barely been out of bed for two hours. At least there’s coffee. Both dogs are all but prancing with eagerness to get out the door. I should spend some time deciding the next Quarantine Edition–Jozzie & Sugar Belle is pay-what-you-want until tomorrow; after that, it’ll probably be something else.

On the bright side, that leaves most of the day for actual wordcount. I just want to crawl into a book and forget everything going on outside my four walls. Anxiety is eating the energy I desperately need to get Season Three of HOOD and The Bloody Throne out. I’m trying to moonlight with a trunk novel and The Black God’s Heart, but making books jealous by working on other books requires the wherewithal to work in the first place.

I also have to stop reading The Body Keeps the Score until things calm down a little. There’s a whole lot of useful in that book, but underlining bits that resonate on almost every page is bringing up a whole lot of things I don’t have the bandwidth to process or think about right now. I should probably shift back to The Sailor From Gibraltar even though the narrator is a complete asshole1, because piercing nostalgia is better than quivering from remembered disaster.

So. Today at 11am the latest Haggard Feathers will drop; last month we talked about marketing, this month we’re talking about self-care. We’ve covered physical and emotional self-care, this week we’re talking about what burnout is, and next week we’ll go over strategies to ameliorate said burnout.

Regular readers will notice I’m blogging less; I have a few more balls in the air than I used to and the global situation has robbed me of a lot of the energy that went into the usual Daily Grind schedule. Right now I only have the spoons for Tuesday-Thursday updates; Haggard Feathers and the fiction subscriptions are eating up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday’s energy quota. If we ever get back to non-apocalyptic times, I’ll be back on my bullshit pronto.

It feels weird not to be blogging all the time. Peering back through the archives, I can see I’ve been at this for years. It’s a lot of content, and a lot of history. Reading some posts from years ago reminds me of things that didn’t make it into the daily updates, and sometimes those are pleasant. Other times… not so much.

I wish you a serene Tuesday, my chickadees. Remember to be gentle with yourself so you can be gentle with others–at least, the others who warrant it. I’m just ill-tempered enough today to bite back when That Fucking Guy shows up on my feeds.

I don’t know who made this, but I love it and use it all the time.

Off I go to walk a pair of Very Excited Dogs. See you in a few, dear ones.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.