Just Breathing, Blessing

It’s finally raining again, and I can run again. Between recovery from the massive, crashing relief of getting our second vaccine shot and certain other personal events, the weekend was a lost cause and Monday just about the same.

Fortunately, this morning I could run in the rain, always guaranteed to lift my spirits. The burst of endorphins and burning off of stress chemicals means some of my equilibrium has returned.

It’s a big week; subscribers get the unedited ebook of HOOD‘s Season Three (the edited one is still being proofread) and also a special surprise involving Hell’s Acre. When June begins, so will that new serial, and frankly I’m looking forward to it.

Other things are hanging fire. Publishing is always festina lente and everyone is congenitally behind and overworked. This could be solved by paying a reasonable number of people a living wage, including creators, but…well, there seems to be a great deal of resistance to that strategy in every industry, not just the one I work in.

I’ve also had a burst of frantic activity in non-work-related areas. For a very long while, I’ve been convinced I wouldn’t survive, and consequently some things have been of less importance than others. (Like, for example, weeding.) Now that competent adults are somewhat in charge and vaccination is available, I’m having to face my own continued existence in a different manner.

I’m technically on vacation this week–which only means I’m only writing what I care to, and I am unavailable for certain business inquiries–so I’ll probably be running a lot, weeding even more, and complaining about the Muse. Not to mention bitching that my recovery process seems to involve writing a lot of werewolf erotica I’ll never be able to publish.

Such are the drawbacks of this career, but they’re faint and fading indeed next to the satisfaction of being able to set my own schedule and behave largely as I please in my own office. Lying on the floor talking to myself and waving my arms while I arrange a combat scene inside my head might be frowned upon in other work environments, after all.

I don’t know how to even begin processing the last year and a half, let alone the complex bubbling stew of feelings swirling against my mental dams and canals once the second dose of vaccine was thrust into my willing flesh. Right now I’m just grateful my head isn’t being constantly shoved under the surface by the daily news cycle. Just breathing is a blessing at the moment.

It might irritate some people to hear me working through these feelings in public, but…well, this is my site, I say what I please here, and if being honest about the effects of truly historical events upon one’s mental health can help even one other person feel less lonely, I’ll consider it time well spent.

In other news, I’ve hung up the Yankee Squirrel Flipper once more, full of sunflower seeds. Boxnoggin has chased not one, not two, but three squirrels (or the same squirrel thrice) in the past few days, and I get the idea they’ve discovered how easy it is to taunt him. I get the further idea that to a squirrel, it’s a lot of fun.

This, I suspect, will not end well. But it’ll be hilarious, I’m sure, and I’m doubly sure it will involve me being shoeless and screaming.

The world could use a little more hilarity right now. I’d say “nature is healing” but I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m just going to await developments…

…and make sure I’m wearing shoes.

Blur Crocus

This photo would have been a lot nicer, but the dogs were yanking at my waist, eager to get on with things. But it’s nice enough, I think, for a sunny Friday. Spring is here (Spring is here, life is skittles and life is beer…)

We had snowdrops before (and after) the snow, jonquils hard upon their heels, and now there’s crocuses and daffodils. Cherry trees are beginning to bloom, except for the one down the street, which has been blooming early as it does every damn year.

I think that tree knows something I don’t. But that’s not unusual. The magnolias are full of furry buds, too. The hydrangea and clematis are bearing fresh green. I’m trying to be hopeful for the roses and the grapevines.

It should be a season of renewal, but I simply feel exhausted. Part of that could be working through the weekends, as I will have to do for the foreseeable future. But a surfeit of work is better than a scarcity, world without end, amen.

Next week there’ll be a cover reveal, and later this month a new release. The omnibus edition of HOOD, not to mention Season Three, is inching its way through the pub process. And Boxnoggin is next to my chair, with great sad puppy eyes, begging for the morning walk. He absolutely needs to get his snoot in a few more crocuses before they’re gone, and heaven help the hyacinths once they bloom.

I suppose I’d best tie my shoes (with a dog’s help, of course) and get going. Happy Friday, beloveds. Get some sun if you can, and take a deep breath.

Maybe, just maybe, things are getting better.

Polite Raking, Sun-Mad

In the immortal words of Wesley Snipes, “some mothafuckas are always trying to ice skate uphill.”

Suffice to say I have been forced to polite raking of some people over glowing coals lately, using terms like “has there been any movement upon this matter yet?” and “I do not need or care for ‘explanation’, I fully understand how this happened, I simply require this checkbox filled and for this to NOT happen again.” Lockdown has made me even more icily formal with those who have Behaved Badly. It’s not even disdain, it’s that I don’t have time or energy for bullshit, so let’s just not have any, mmkay?

Anyway. The last season of HOOD is undergoing a hard proof pass at the moment, then I think it will be time for the whole shebang, in omnibus edition, to be sent off for a final proofing. There’s some trouble with earlier editions, but switching distributors should mend that. One of the things about serials is that I use their seasons to experiment with distribution and other publishing minutiae, and sometimes, well, it doesn’t go happily.

But I learn a lot, and it means a longer career, which means more stories for my beloved Readers. So there’s that, at least.

I took one look at the blue sky and bright sunshine this morning and decided, “…oh, hell no.” The sun seems to drive everyone in this part of the world mad, probably because we see it so rarely. I absolutely don’t mind sharing the sidewalk, but that’s just it–sharing, which doesn’t seem a strong suit for the sun-dazed. Also, on days like this there tend to be a lot of middle-aged white men letting their dogs roam offleash. The dogs absolutely aren’t a problem, they’re far nicer than their owners, but dogs do not make good choices and that’s why we have leashes.

…I just heaved a heavy sigh. It’s the third of the morning and I’m not even done with coffee yet.

On the bright side, this state of low-grade irritation makes me prickly and precise, and that’s exactly the right mindset for finding errata and tiny little typos. It lies cheek by jowl with a particular, very specialized form of performance anxiety, and once I’m done with this phase of this particular project I can switch to a different one that will ameliorate both my mood and said anxiety.

I’m going to be working through the weekend again, but this time it’ll be on The Black God’s Heart. And next week I have a cover reveal and preorders for a certain romance to post; subscribers will get a peek this week. All in all, despite the heavy sighs and prickliness, I have more work than I can handle and that’s my preferred state. Certainly it’s far better than not having enough.

So off I toddle to finish my coffee, and to maybe slay a few baddies. I don’t quite look as cool as Blade, but I will be wearing shades while walking the dogs.

It will have to do.

Unexpectedly Difficult

It was unexpectedly difficult to make coffee this morning. You’d think such a simple operation would be easily accomplished, but no. If it wasn’t forgetting the water it was forgetting the grounds, and if it wasn’t either it was staring in perplexity at the stove and wondering what the hell is this thing for?

…it’s gonna be one of those Mondays, I can just tell.

I finished a revise on Season Three of HOOD this weekend, and was going to continue working straight through but my body staged a revolt. I don’t think it’s the plague–though it would be par for the course if I came down with a bout right just before the vaccine becomes readily available–but still, curling up in a tiny ball Sunday afternoon was the best strategy, so I took it.

There’s no shortage of work looming on a Monday. At least I have a little wiggle room in the schedule for the second book of The Black God’s Heart. And at least I finally, finally figured out how to make coffee work and am grimly, grumpily sucking on the morning ration of java. I’m not used to this amount of brain fog and can only hope caffeine will scrape it away.

Part of the loginess might be that I was up at 2am, as has become somewhat of a habit, and there was deep cottony Silent Hill fog out my window. Which was pleasant, but then I went back to bed and the idea that suddenly a leering face might coalesce out of vapor and press itself against the glass just wouldn’t go away.

The problem with a vivid, well-trained imagination is that it doesn’t shut off. Ever. Just like the rest of my brain. So that was fun.

Consequently, I’m incredibly salty this fine cloudy morn, and have a deathgrip on my temper. The last thing I want to do is snap at someone who doesn’t deserve it, so I have both hands and my teeth firmly buried in the hide of my anger. A run will help, if I don’t collapse in the middle of it. I don’t know what I’d do without burning the adrenaline and stress off by hauling my silly corpse along at what passes for relatively high speed.

Anyway, here I am, and here Monday is. We’re eyeing each other like an action movie standoff. We know who’s going to win, or at least survive, but half the fun is getting there. (If “fun” is, indeed, what we can call it.)

The dogs don’t care what day it is, they want their ramble and I can’t blame them. Time to get my jacket and get out the door. We’ll tackle the week together, I suppose.

Excelsior, and all that.

Serial Fun, Deadlines

Hello again, beloveds. I took some time off after finishing an absolutely massive revision of The Bloody Throne1 and collapsing in a twitching pile of bare nerves.

It was nice to take a breath, even if every day of recovery irks me because it’s not spent writing.

In any case, it’s Thursday, I’m back at the wheel, and I’m excited because readers of my Robin Hood in Space serial get a scene that I’ve been building towards for the entire three seasons. I started deliberately seeding bits of a pretty big reveal back in Season One, and I’ve been waiting with varying levels of patience for us to get… here.

That’s one of the nice things about serial writing. You know where everything’s going ahead of time (mostly, I mean, as much as a writer ever does) and can see people discover the fun things almost in realtime. It also lets a writer practice highly contained narrative arcs within larger arcs, which is fun. Almost like juggling, I should think, though I don’t know how to juggle.2

Anyway, I’m really pleased with HOOD. We’re in the home stretch of the last season, so I’m about to start the process of revising, editing, and getting said season ready for publication.3 At the same time I have Book 2 of The Black God’s Heart to write, so the Viking werewolves will have to take a backset for a while. And the old, cranky mercenary story will have to take an even further backseat. That’s all right–I need to think more about the werewolves and the arc for a certain character in that trilogy, and the old, cranky mercenary’s quite happy to be left in peace for a short while.

I’ve decided that the next serial will be Hell’s Acre, so am prepping for that. I’ve wanted to write more alt-Victorian London for a while, since Bannon & Clare had to go on indefinite hiatus. And I’m going to have so much fun with rooftops, tea, dresses, manners deployed as weaponry, filth, and gaslights. There won’t be magic, though, unless it’s of a certain subtle type.

Anyway, the recent revision nearly broke me. Mostly, I suppose, because I finished writing the book in 2020 and that was uncomfortable. Reading what I wrote during some of the darker days of pandemic and ongoing slo-mo fascist coup caused deep, painful physical reactions during revision. Not only did I have the task of turning the last book of an epic fantasy trilogy into a 195k monster, trimming and tucking and making sure all the ends are nicely sorted, but I also had things I put off thinking about because everything was crisis, all demanding to be sorted, processed, and put in their proper place.

It was… uncomfortable.

But it’s done now, I took a few days off to try and get my head patched together, and now it’s straight onto into the next project. Keep swimming and always smile, that’s the ticket.4

It’s a sunny morning, in patches, which means the dogs will be beside themselves and other people will be out walking. The big yellow eye in the sky drives everyone around here mad. But at least once I finish the morning ramble and run I can hide in my office and get some work done.

That’s the plan, of course. Yet Thursday has a strange look in its eye.

Here’s hoping that’s not a bad sign…

Free (Sock) Elf

Earlier this week a package arrived, bearing this wonderful thing. A single sock.

You read that right. One singular hand-knitted sock.

It’s part of a pair knitted by a dear friend, but she thought it would be hysterical to send me one at a time. I promptly, of course, took to Twitter to shout “MISTRESS HAS GIVEN LILI A SOCK; LILI IS NOW A FREE ELF!” Which is exactly what she wanted.

I am a free fuckin’ elf, mofos.

I also finished the zero draft of HOOD‘s final season yesterday. Which means this morning I am cross-eyed, absorbing coffee, and wearing a pair of beautifully hand-knitted slipper socks. They aren’t really socks, of course; they’re a friend saying “I love you.” Like little hugs for my feet.

The feeling is more than reciprocated, and very welcome. I hope you have a little (or a lot) of it in your life as well, my beloveds.

Have a good weekend.

Resentment, Body, Détente

So. 6k+ on HOOD‘s Season Three yesterday. The crisis is written–the apex of the season and incidentally of the entire serial–and now all that remains is a few scenes’ worth of falling action. I could have pushed through an all-nighter and gotten at least the scaffolding of those in, but it would mean more work later fixing fatigue errors. So I did the Reasonable, Adult thing and went to bed, resenting every moment of it.

There’s a particular state where I do indeed actively resent anything that isn’t writing. I’m still there this morning. Even this blog post is only glancingly acceptable because it involves typing. What I really want to be doing is writing that falling action, getting the characters to the new equilibrium.

Which means Guy of Gisbourne, Alan-a-dale, and Robin Hood have a scene that needs to happen, Maid Marian and Little John need to have a conversation followed by Guy’s visit to the woman he’s loved since childhood, and Robin needs to stand in the ruins of his own childhood home. I think I can do it in three scenes, now that I’ve gotten some sleep and food in my reluctant corpse.

I shouldn’t be so mean to my body. It’s hauled me around, largely uncomplaining except with good goddamn reason, for a very long time now. We have somewhat of an armed détente; we’ve both done things we regret. Parents, men, and society have tried to make me hate my closest and oldest friend, the flesh that carries me. Working against that current is difficult, especially when I’m used to escaping into worlds of my own creation.

The fact remains that my body is my ally, and when I stopped lobbing shells at her, she was more than happy to relax into a peace without negotiation, pettiness, or ill feeling. I don’t deserve that grace, but she offered it without rue or anger. Better than I deserve, I suppose. We can’t live without each other, so I should stop being cruel to her and myself.

I suspect that particular trick will take a long, long while; I’ve been working on it for about a decade. It’s hard to shake the first thirty-odd years of training and the constant cultural (and advertising) yelling to lose weight, be fuckable, you’re too old, you’re too ugly, buy this product, starve yourself, who do you think you are?

Patriarchy’s biggest victory is getting women to hurt themselves. Wrestling that weapon away from the grasping invisible hand of the market is huge, uphill labor.

I’m sure my body will like a few days off with the relief of finishing this zero draft. Before that can happen, though, I’ve got to finish absorbing the coffee both of us like, walk the dogs, and give the ol’ corpse the running it craves to purge stress hormones and stretch the lungs. Then it’s back to writing, where each word echoes in the secret hollows of my bones, the threads of my capillaries.

Writing is hard on the delicate structures of the wrists, it’s hard on the back; I don’t know about other scribes, but every combat scene or narrow escape hikes my adrenaline and fills me with characters’ pain or uncertainty. Ironic that the thing I long to escape into relies upon my body; every word is intimately bound with my flesh.

Even when I’ve hated her, she’s given her help unstintingly. She throws herself, often to the limits of endurance, at every task I set her to. She does her best, despite the ill treatment I’ve made her endure. Her complaints are always founded in deep effort; she never wants to betray me. I’m going to spend the rest of my life undoing the damage inflicted during the first few decades while she winds down, doing her absolute best to carry me while time, ill chance, and mortality gnaw at us both.

I wish I’d learned to treat her better earlier, but at least I have this opportunity now. Gods grant I don’t squander it.

In any case, it’s time to care for the corpse before I can achieve the end of the story we’ve both been working on for a long while now. Plus, the dogs are patiently (but energetically) waiting for their morning ramble. All of them are kinder to me than perhaps they should be.

May they teach me to be better, each in their own way.