The Muse and the Spanner

I spent a long while on Cold North yesterday (that’s the Viking werewolves/elementalist story) though I really should have been working on HOOD. But the latter has some things it needs to cogitate upon if it’s not going to take the ending I had prepared for it.

Goddamn Muse. If she thinks I’ll let her off the hook now, she’s dreaming. She can fight all she wants, but we are finishing this goddamn serial. And if she wants to throw a spanner in the works now, she’ll find out I have a bigger one to bounce off her pretty fairy-dusted skull.

I do hold the Muse in some caution and an appropriate amount of reverence, but we’ve been working together for decades now and sometimes one (or both) of us need(s) a brick upside the head. Pretty sure when the Viking elementalist realizes she’s surrounded by werewolves and the first troll shows up, the Muse will decide I am the one who needs said brick.

Mutual application of head trauma is a certain sign of affection between a writer and her angel, I should think.

Time is still doing strange things, stretching like taffy and yet slamming into me over and over like machine-gun spray. Intellectually I know it’s the trauma of the last four-five years (because it started well before the 2016 election) plus pandemic messing with my brain’s wiring, but that knowledge doesn’t stop the strange sick feeling when time begins to get all wonky or I realize that something did, in fact, only happen a week ago instead of months, or a month ago instead of years, or a year ago instead of yesterday.

At least I have a few more chapters of the serial to send to subscribers, so that’s good. I was beginning to think I was either going to have to pause all subscriptions and take a week off or have another nervous breakdown, but things have eased a little. Only a little, but I’m using the pause for all it’s worth.

The news is zany, but not as malignant as it was two weeks ago. I know the damage isn’t anywhere close to being fixed and work is needed holding elected officials’ feet to the fire, but it’s so nice not to be checking hellsite over and over and getting punched in the gut by the sheer malignant sociopathy in power each time. I’ll take it.

It’s about time to tie my shoes and get the dogs out for walkies, though neither of them is particularly excited about the notion for once. Miss B is sulking after being caught in the compost pile (long story) and Boxnoggin keeps looking at me like “Are you nuts? It’s cold out there!”

He’s from Texas, after all. Things were a bit different there, and though he’s been with us for YEARS he won’t let us forget it.

At least I’m still able to run. And it’s probably during today’s workout that I’ll find a solution for the spanner that damn Muse decided to toss into the works. It might be that I’m struggling against finishing because HOOD‘s been one of the things keeping me going through the last year-and-change of hell, and I might not be quite ready to let go of the characters.

But I think I have the next story lined up, which is nice. I can’t wait to share this one with you, too. But first, the dogs and I both need our ramble.

Be gentle with yourselves, my beloveds. Healing takes time, and our survival is still resistance.

Over and out.

Bit Up and Down

I started yesterday by taking the dogs out, feeding them, then returning to bed with the iPad to watch the inauguration. Balancing the electronic on my chest, I clutched a smaller electronic–my trusty phone–in my free hand and was almost too scared to glance at either.

It wasn’t until the poetry that I began to breathe again. I didn’t relax until noon EST had passed and it was official, Sunkist Stalin had no more usable nuclear codes. I can’t describe the depth of the relief and fresh pain sweeping through me. Relief because there hadn’t been an explosion of violence at the last moment, because the worst of the nightmare was finally over, because some of us have survived. Fresh pain because of all we’ve lost, the amount of work still waiting for us after the earth-scorching and looting of our public weal, and how many didn’t survive to see new hope at all.

I had meant to get some actual work done yesterday too, but… yeah, no, didn’t happen, I shouldn’t have even tried. The Princess was off work too, so both the children were home and we took the day very, very easy indeed.

I’m still on a rollercoaster of emotions. I dreaded (and thought quite likely there would be) fresh violence on MLK Day, and even more on Inauguration Day. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. I’m flat-out ecstatic upon that point, while also struggling with huge waves of feelings I couldn’t give any time or energy to for the last five or so years. They’ve burst their bonds and demand to be sorted right-bloody-now, thank you very much, while I would much rather they just kind of… vanish.

But feelings don’t vanish, especially ones shoved aside during trauma. They will lie in wait like gat-damn tigers, like Jawas looking for ships crashed in the desert, like writers searching for an unwary word. They will demand their time to be processed.

So don’t be alarmed if your own feelings are a bit up-and-down today, dearly beloveds. It’s absolutely normal. Survival was resistance, now we take stock of what we’ve lost. We’ve emerged from the crash blinking and dazed, staring at the wreckage and patting ourselves down, not quite sure whether we’re alive and/or intact. Resistance becomes the work of healing and pushing those we fought so hard to elect in the right direction, which is another variety of thankless task.

All the stuff we said “I’ll deal with that when the bleeding stops,” about is still hanging around, wanting its turn. Be gentle with yourself right now. The pounding has stopped, and we need a breath or two. Yes, there’s a lot of work; no, we’re not done yet. But we need a moment (or two) of rest in order to run (or stagger) into the future.

At least we have a future to stagger into, now. Which means I have a scene revolving between Giz, Marah, and Robb to write today. If I burst into tears a few times during the task, it’ll just mean I use a few more tissues than normal.

Before hope, write words and carry water. After hope… write words, carry water. (To coin an aphorism.)

See you around.

Swimming, Smile

The morning has started with Boxnoggin jostling Miss B into punching Yours Truly in the mouth with her paw. Of course when I let out a short blurt of surprise and recoiled, both dogs realized their human was hurt in some fashion and scrambled to attempt aid. Which meant stepping upon my recumbent self, nose-punching me in the eye, scraping my shoulder with doggie nails, and then getting into a shoving match with each other. I had a swollen lip before I even rolled out of bed, and my eye is still watering.

This doesn’t bode well for Thursday, but maybe the day’s just getting everything out of its system early?

At least I have coffee. Some days the java just tastes better, and this is one of them.

I only got 450 or so words on HOOD‘s Season Three before dark yesterday. Once the sun went down, though, things got better and I ended up with a solid 2k+. Of course I’ll have to look today to see if any of them are good words that can be retained.

No silver lining without a cloud, naturally.

Once I get the zero of Season Three out, it’ll be time to cross that off my big to-do list and figure out the next six months’ worth of writing. Normally I juggle one serial, two trad publisher books, and one project Just For Me at a time, with small breaks for revisions, copyedits, and the like. With the loss of productivity due to pandemic, fascist coup, and related stress, I’m not sure if that’s do-able.

But if I don’t write, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. Not to mention I can’t go a day without writing at least something, or I start to feel diamond-tipped insect-feet itches under my skin.1 It’s just easier to continue pushing myself than to allow any sort of break.

It’s very… sharklike. Keep swimming so I don’t suffocate, and wear a smile.

So. Thursday is antsy, but so am I. My coffee has cooled rapidly while typing this, and the dogs are very eager for walkies. I find myself eager to get out for a run; getting rid of cortisol and other stress chemicals through sweat has been a real sanity-saver. Of course, it doesn’t balance out the stress-eating, but then again nothing’s perfect.

Except for dogs, that is. Even when they punch me in the face first thing in the morning.

All right, Thursday. We’re not going to hurt each other (any more), are we? Because I’m in a mood to lay some napalm if you get dodgy.

Over and out.

Last Monday, 2020 Edition

It’s the last Monday in 2020. I just read John Scalzi’s reflection on the year–my own is closely parallel. On paper, it wasn’t a massively bad trip around the sun. Our day to day life didn’t change much with lockdown, except for my son not going into the building for his last year of school. (Frankly, he likes home learning better. So would I, in his shoes.) I have a new agent, I sold some books. We’re largely still healthy here.

But that’s on paper. Out here where the rest of me lives, 2020’s been almost as stressful as buying the house, or the terrible Divorce Year. At least during Divorce Year and house-buying I had some kind of goal, I knew things would Get Better.

2020 has given me no such assurance. I’m forced to regard simply surviving the year as a badge of honor, and even if 2021 is worse we can be proud of surviving its predecessor.

At least, so I think.

I spent Boxing Day through the weekend doing what I could to refill the creative well, including a little bit on the Viking werewolf gothic story. It may turn out less “gothic” and more epic, but for right now I’m just playing, using it as a break from HOOD and Black God’s Heart. It’s always good to have an unsold book to make other projects jealous of.

Christmas was… difficult. There are good years and bad years, and this particular year was dragged over bare wires, the insulation stripped free.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be in-office before the official end of the year. I just want to hide in my closet, preferably with a bag of edibles, until 2020 is gone. I’m not the girl in a horror movie who comes out when she thinks it’s quiet, oh no. I’m staying in the bloody hiding spot until well after the credits. A final chase through the house might be in the script, but they’re gonna have to get another girl for that. I’m done.

The dogs don’t care about such things as calendars, and it’s a good thing, too. They know only that the Time of Ham (a blessed time that always happens in winter, its lore passed down from one dog to the next) is almost past and the Time of Running While Swearing At All These New People On The Road is about to begin. Things won’t calm down and get back to normal until the first week of March or so, when all the people who are going to continue running have found their routes and the rest have decided–probably wisely–to stay home. By then Boxnoggin will be used to running on my right side, and hopefully we’ll have less gravel to pick out of my skin.

Hopefully.

I have grand plans of wordcount today, but I’m not sure I’ll get there. I might celebrate it being the last Monday by continuing to poke at the Viking story. The protagonist has a very strong voice in that one, and I’m sure there might be a troll or two. In other words, big fun.

We’re in the home stretch. Be careful and hydrate, my friends. I’d hate to lose you now. If we’re trudging for the end of the year, at least we’re not doing it alone.

*wanders away muttering about standing stones*

Commended, My Running Corpse

What with video chats and stuff, lockdown has meant me being more social than at any other time in my life.1 Normally I don’t speak to anyone I didn’t give birth to for days at a time–except for on social media, of course, but text-based asynchronous communication isn’t nearly as draining as video chat or in person. The latter two are such a flood of information; there’s tone of voice, eye contact, microexpressions, body language, the whole enchilada.

Pretty sure the hypervigilance trained into me at a very young age doesn’t help.

Not that I’m complaining! I’m super grateful to be able to talk to My People. I just have to set strict time limits and give myself recovery days.

Lots and lots of recovery days.2

I spent some time reading Unfinished Tales last night, and I do really want to yell about The Children of Hurin. Mostly because all the V.C. Andrews jokes are just laying there, ready to be used; I know Tolkien probably had something more like Sophocles3 in mind but I am not a Very Big Brain Oxford Intellectual.

I’m more a Hilariously Niche Areas of Pop Culture Screaming Maniac.

Plus, Glaurung the First Dragon holds a special place in my heart. Smaug was cool, yeah, but he was a teensy fellow by comparison. Glaurung was Morgoth’s first attempt at dragonmaking and succeeded better than even that very powerful Ainur had a right to expect even though he didn’t have wings.4 BUT ANYWAY.

Today in HOOD the “fine, get snitty with me over being a girl writing sci-fi and I’ll do a whole chapter of Star Trek references” chapter goes out to subscribers, and I am unreasonably excited about this. I also get to take Boxnoggin on his first run since the whole Bus, Bolt, Drag Mum Over Pavement Incident, which is going to be a real barrel of laughs for all concerned, I’m sure.

Last night a part of Black God’s Heart I didn’t plan for fell out of my head almost whole, too, and I have giant plans for a Viking werewolf fantasy gothic heavily influenced by du Maurier and The 13th Warrior. It’s been a while since my head was full of neat things I’m excited to share; what with 2020 it’s been mostly stuffed with “the deep scrambling desire to find a hole deep enough to hide in because I see what’s coming down the pike.”

Anyway, it’s time to get out the door. I got up this morning and staggered around determined to find the source of a particular sound that was Not Quite Usual; you can imagine my chagrin when, after searching the entire house, I found out it was (are you ready?) the dishwasher, and my head was so stuffed it just sounded funny. But there was a pan of brownies waiting to be plundered for breakfast and if 2020 has taught us anything it’s eat dessert first, so that was fine. The coffee is almost absorbed, the dogs are circling restlessly, and there’s a long involved joke about Turin Turambar and Tuor son of Huor meeting on the road I want to get just right, though nobody but me will ever find it funny.

…that happens a lot.

Anyway, it’s Thursday, and I don’t have a single video conference today. I get to rest, renew, and shed my human form for a wee bit. After, of course, I run it into the ground with Boxnoggin’s “help.”

The urge to cross myself and commend my poor corpse to whatever god looks out for running fools is well-nigh irresistible. Put in a good word for me, if you’re the praying sort, I don’t think I should commit any more head trauma upon myself for a while, so I need all the help I can get.

Over and out.

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.