Finally, Sleep

Nobody was setting off fireworks last night, and I was exhausted from the Mike’s Deck Affair. (Suffice to say one of my neighbors was engaging in what sounded like demolition or incredibly enthusiastic home renovation and I lost half a tumbler of whiskey in the calla lilies, with bonus squirrel… look, maybe you just had to be there.) What I’m trying to say is that I actually slept, and so did the dogs. They are bright and bouncy this morning, while I am logy and wishing I could go back for another round of smothering the pillow with my face.

Instead, I have coffee, and the dogs need walking, and I should haul my carcass through a run. I’m sure by the end of the last I’ll feel somewhat energized, and ready to tackle a full day’s worth of work.

Or, you know, I’ll simply be mildly exhausted and wanting a nap, but settling for tea instead and yanking words out one at a time as I chip at the coal face in my mind.

At least The Bloody Throne is proceeding apace. What I thought the book’s shape would be turns out to be close but no cigar, as they say, which means frequent pauses to stop and feel my way in the dark. I know it ends in the same place and I know the major handholds, but that’s somewhat like five different people trying to describe the elephant from constituent parts, as in the old tale.

The book keeping me alive right now is The Black God’s Heart, where a flying seventies-era van just carried the protagonist over a lot of water and to a skyscraper to meet a particular sorcerer from folktale. (Aw, come on, lemme see you saucer, Bugs Bunny crows inside my head, and I’ll have a hard time not putting that in the book, let me tell you.)

I can tell that someone’s going to ask me to make parts of this book clearer, but I am not a writer who hand-holds much if at all. So I’m already anticipating the editorial give and take on this one will necessitate much self-searching–am I refusing to change something because I’m selfishly resistant to altering my word-baby, or do I really have a point? Finding that balance will be difficult, but at least I’ve been through the process enough that I can spot a hurdle or two ahead of time.

Apparently I’m going to be messily mixing and mangling metaphors today, too. If that’s what a little sleep does to me I might as well stay awake.

…just kidding. I’m over forty and have had a lifetime of insomnia, I will always choose sleep. Whether or not I actually get it is another matter.

And with that, it’s time to get out the door, for the weight of a canine stare upon my right shoulder is absolutely crushing. Boxnoggin is near the door, looking very much like an ancient Egyptian statue with his nose pointed at me and his ears all the way up. He is READY for a walk, thank you very much, and as soon as I hit “publish” and bend to tie my shoes he’s going to be nose-deep in my shoelaces attempting to “help.”

Heaven knows I need all the aid I can get today. See you around, dear Readers.

Off the Ground

I can’t quite seem to get off the ground this morning. (Morning, I say, though I’ve had a spot of lunch and settled with a cuppa.) I blame the lack of sleep from some douchewads setting off fireworks at midnight again. It’s past the “maybe they’re just confused” point and well towards “it’s a good thing I’m not pyrokinetic.”

A very good thing.

On the bright side, there was actual rain this morning–not very usual for July, but I’ll take it since it means most people stayed off the road. A Fed Ex truck did follow the dogs and I for most of our walkies–not the driver’s fault, he had a schedule and a route, and the overlap was purely coincidental.

Just try telling the dogs that, though. Boxnoggin was convinced the big vehicle was Up to No Good, and Miss B has never met a delivery truck she didn’t long to chase down and capture. I don’t know what she’d do if she ever actually caught one, kind of like her (mostly unfulfilled) desire to catch a squirrel; nor does Boxnoggin. But damned if they aren’t both going to try.

So that was amusing, and so was the snail plague over half my run route. It was more like an obstacle course or a fast dance than actually running, since I don’t want to crush any of the poor gastropods. The mild spring fading into a damp summer is doing them no end of good; I haven’t seen this many in years. Of course my hostas and some other tender plants are a little worse for wear, but I suppose that’s what happens when one hosts a buffet and suddenly guests show up.

Anyway, the dogs are sacked out after their Very Exciting Walk, and since I’m upping my mileage (it’s taken me forever to get back to the low end of my accustomed runs, injury and illness taking a toll) I’m very nearly there myself. The spot of last night’s homemade dal was very welcome, but I’m already hungry again and staring longingly at my tea mug as if it’ll magically refill without any effort on my part.

I’m 40k into The Bloody Throne, and it feels like I’m never going to finish this book. It never had a long run of easy days near the beginning, which I would have liked a great deal but coincided with the first flush of pandemic lockdown. Maybe the Muse will pity me and give me good wordcount when I finally get to the set-piece battles and the long slide down to the end. I know exactly where it ends and all the handholds I need to swing there. All that remains is to bloody well do it.

Which means I’d best get back to work. I’m taking the week off HOOD trying to catch up in however slight a fashion; I sense today will require a great deal of Hauser playing in the background while I stare disapprovingly at misbehaving characters.

On to Tuesday, then…

First, Pleasant Coffee

That first mouthful of coffee, first thing in the morning. I can feel the caffeine soaking in the moment I raise the cup to my lips, though I’m sure it’s merely psychological. Very little is as pleasant, even the fact that I got a great deal of the proofs out of the way yesterday and consequently have somewhat less to do today.

Somewhat. Not a whole lot, but somewhat.

I also have a new monstera plant. It was left over, looking sad and lonely and shaggy amid racks of brighter, better-trimmed, much smaller species, and my heart just cracked. Now he’s in my office, basking in a bigger pot under bright indirect light.

Yeah, I know. I can’t do much about the state of the world at large, but I can get a plant and nurse it back to health. It keeps me busy, I suppose. Attempting not to look at the news in the morning is good for me, I know it’s good for me, but I suppose I’m afraid the world will end and I’ll be the last to know.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, once I think about it, but the fear doesn’t think so. In fact, the fear, irrational as it is, tends to intensify if I don’t distract myself with work or… well, more work. If–and it’s a huge if–I can just drag myself out of bed in the mornings. Thank goodness for the dogs; they don’t give a damn about the state of the world. Their concerns are more immediate: breakfast, a good wee in the yard, walkies at the accepted time and along the accepted habitual route.

Heaven forbid brekkie or walkies change in even the slightest; the dogs, especially Boxnoggin, are creatures of strong habits and dislike any tiny deviation. He even gets miffed when the squirrels don’t show up at the same places he’s seen them before. I imagine him very much as a stage director tearing out his hair over some particularly enthusiastic and experimental actors.


I’d talk about the state of the world at large, but you probably already know and in any case, I’ve said what I’ve said and I stand by it. I am extremely disappointed that the media seems to be doing its best to elide ongoing protests, but what can one expect from corporations owned by one or two super-rich?


Anyway, there’s walkies to accomplish, a run to get in, and hopefully, if I am very disciplined today, the rest of the proof pages to knock off. Normally I do these on paper, because I don’t “see” the errors as well on a vertical screen. Fortunately I have a tablet and pencil, so I can pretend it’s paper while playing with something penlike. Which seems to be just enough to fool my brain into thinking I’m working in the accepted way, so it clicks over into “critical reading” mode. I don’t know how readers will like this book, but at least it’ll be the best I can make it before it toddles out into the world.

In between, when I’m taking breaks or before I really get going, I’ve been poking at Moon’s Knight. Of course I have other projects sitting and simmering, but that’s the one filling in the cracks while most of my bandwidth is taken up with Poison Prince. I’m deeply worried I won’t be able to pull off half of what I want to with Bloody Throne or Black God’s Heart, which is pretty usual at this stage of the game.

Part of the frustration is that I am not working at even close to my usual pace. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic, fascist coup, and massive protests seem to be giving everyone a smidge of trouble in the concentration department. I’m trying not to feel bad about it, but there’s that strange anxiety thing where the ability to cope with disaster is never good enough. At least I’m feeling more relaxed than I was–finally, finally nobody is telling me I’m “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

Sooner or later I’ll be back to my usual speed. Or, you know, catastrophe will mean I’ve other problems. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, all I can do now is continue as I’ve been. I hope you find a little peace and self-care today, dear Reader.

We need all we can get.

Simple Creatures

It was a long weekend, but not a bad one. I felt quite guilty about taking time off, as usual. Still, I’m rested and relatively renewed, so at least there’s that. And I’m going to need it, there’s proof pages on the boil, not to mention daily wordcount to get in.

The dogs even got bacon grease in their breakfast, so their weekend is counted an unqualified win. And school is officially out, not just “work at home because pandemic,” so the Little Prince is quite happy; nobody will be bothering him to get his work done before faffing about.

Me? I’m fighting off the temptation to check social media before noon. If the world is on fire, it’ll burn just as well without me. I can’t work when I’m half sick with dread–though it’s never just half sick nowadays, is it.

The thing I can’t get over is how normal life goes on while I watch history happening. It never hit me this hard when I was younger–I remember seeing grainy television images of the Challenger disaster, of the Wall coming down, and the like, but since I had very little sense of history then, I knew only that it was important to watch and not look away. Being able to put what one’s seeing in some kind of context is terrifying.

Not that I wish I couldn’t–I’d rather know the context than be oblivious, I suppose. Regardless, I can wait until noon to induce more stress nausea. It’s not like it’s going anywhere.

All that being said, I’d love to be able to play with something just for me today–once the work is done. Maybe I’ll just do proof pages and reserve the evening for a trunk novel. I’ve been wanting to try something new lately, I might dig in the compost heap and drag a few old bits out, see what cross-pollinates.

As usual, there are the dogs to walk and a run to get in. Life doesn’t stop while the empire crumbles; it goes along, minute by minute, as if it can’t tell. I do notice the media seems to be ignoring the fact that the protests are still ongoing, which is… interesting, isn’t it. Certainly lets you know which side the bread is buttered on.

…there, that’s all I’m allowed to cogitate on the state of the world until I’ve finished coffee and had a run, in that order, with a slight break in the middle to walk these very excited canines. The bacon grease has filled them with optimism, hope, and quite a lot of energy. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be so easily pleased, then I take a look at my tea collection or the loaded bookshelves crammed in every corner of my house that can possibly hold such things.

I suppose I’m a simple creature in my own right. I wish the thought was as comforting as it could be.

Happy Monday, my friends. May we all have a little peace today.

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.

Over Coffee

I did a lot of prep work yesterday; Monday is becoming the day for it. It irks me because I wanted to be writing instead, but this frees up the rest of the week and I did get a bit of wordcount in on the serial. So there’s that, at least.

Being on the internet for as long as I have been, I see certain cycles. People are frightened right now, and frightened people bite. Hard. There’s also those addicted to the emotional jolt of indignation in the mix, and the end result is a flaming pile of wreckage I keep wincing at.

It’s a sunny morning. I’m waiting for the coffee to cool a wee bit before I can bolt it and get the dogs sorted. If all goes well Boxnoggin will run with me. He’s oddly calm this morning, probably because I was up late and rolled out of bed early.

I’m retracting like a salted slug on all social fronts. I just want to bloody well write. At least the copyedits for The Poison Prince don’t look bad, and the book is long and complex enough to keep me very occupied for quite some time. After that, it’s finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Three and The Bloody Throne, then there’s The Black God’s Heart to consider. I’ve a plethora of work, always where I prefer to be.

Still, I feel like I should be juggling more, doing more, being more, though. The idea that one is never quite doing enough finds fertile ground in any fault line, and nowadays, we’re all full of cracks and fissures.

…ah. The coffee has just reached the perfect temperature. There’s that moment when a hot drink is just on the edge of scorching, where it won’t hurt but still makes your teeth tingle. I can almost feel blessed caffeine translating across my gastric wall and into my bloodstream.

Certainly it’s a legal addiction, but it’s also a very pleasant one. I’m having to forego my jolts in the afternoon, though. I don’t sleep when I have espresso after noon. Fortunately tea is still very okay, and I have a neat chai powder mix that doesn’t make me vibrate. The latter is Spicy Enough, which is not usual–I like a lot more cinnamon, clove, and pepper than most. Plenty of chais just don’t have the taste kick I’m after, or, if prepared to spec like Tao of Tea’s variant, give me the shakes.

There was that one time I was out with my writing partner, and we visited a Tao of Tea storefront with a teahouse attached, and I drank a whole pot of the 500 Mile Chai. For the rest of the afternoon I was sweaty and edgy, and not in a fun way. (I’m surprised the Selkie didn’t bash me over the head and roll me out of the car on the freeway, frankly. Girl has a lot of patience.)

OH! I meant to tell you guys about Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but that’ll have to wait a bit. It’s in there, it’ll just take me some time.

I’m almost to the bottom of the mug. Which means two things: The good chewy bits packing a bit more caffeine punch are about to be stuck between my teeth, and it’s almost time to brush said teeth and get out the door. Dogs aren’t gonna exercise themselves–or, they will, but not in a way anyone around here will end up being comfortable with.

It’s strange. Most of my daily life hasn’t changed an iota. The rest is unrecognizable, and not just because it’s wearing a mask.

Be kind to yourself today, dear Reader. People are everywhere afraid, and fear makes us do strange things. I spent a good twenty minutes screaming into a pillow yesterday. As meditation strategies go, it was strangely effective. I did apologize to the pillow afterward, but it said there were no hard feelings because it was doing what it was designed for and happy to help. Nobody was hurt and I ended up feeling a lot better.

Now if I can just get my heavy bag up…

Over and out.

Gotta Run, Gotta Dance

This morning’s walk was sunny, and full of other dogs–thankfully all leashed, and all moving away from us. Boxnoggin is slowly coming to the realization that he doesn’t get what he wants when he lunges to the end of the leash and sings The Song of His People to strange dogs.

Slowly. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but I have hope.

It was also highly fragrant. Most of the fir pollen has been washed out of the air, so it’s not difficult to breathe anymore. The dogwoods are blooming, the gallery of chestnut trees smells like pipe tobacco, the lilacs have come out in force, and dandelions with their bitter greenness have reappeared. In the park behind the elementary school, English daisies are going great guns, some with that pink halo to their petals.

It irks me to be upping my running mileage so slowly, but pushing it will only lead to injury. I’ll run for longer if I slow down now. Boxnoggin didn’t come with me today, because I’m staggering his runs–training him will go even more slowly than retraining myself. I’ll risk my own health, but not his.

A five-book series appeared in my head over the weekend, and wouldn’t go away until I’d written down the skeleton. Ideas are cheap and easy, you can find them in every junk drawer. They crowd the air like dust, or like that fir pollen collecting in golden drifts. What’s rare is the time and effort spent to bring them to fruition. So I might not ever write this series, but it’s there, and accreting. I’ve gone so far as to pick out a couple songs for the book soundtrack, but that’s more in the nature of procrastination than real work.

Also, copyedits for The Poison Prince have landed, so there’s that to look at. I suppose “vomiting from stress and running through the house screaming” isn’t a good way to handle ongoing work, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m awful tempted.

Another paid Haggard Feathers post drops today, about how to deal with burnout. Last month was Marketing March, this month is Self-Care April. I’m not quite sure what to do for May yet. Of course, not every month needs a theme. I could just hop around and do what seems juicy on any given week.

Today’s office jam is Portugal. The Man’s Feel It Still. Super kicky and catchy, and if I don’t listen to the lyrics I can bounce around the office without guilt. Dancing represses the urge to stress-vomit, at least while I’m moving. You’d think the running would work off all the stress chemicals, but these are extraordinary times we’re living in and I’d probably have to do a couple marathons to get it all out of my system, right before dropping dead at the finish line. Which, while it might be amusing, is not how I want to go out.

So it’s tea and deep breathing, maybe a few rounds with Latin to sharpen my brain (such as it is), and a to-do list, because otherwise nothing will get done today.

What a week, and it’s only Tuesday. I hope you’re well, chickadees, and that you and your loved ones remain that way.

Over and out.