Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Thursday Treachery

Yesterday I walked to Ye Local Auto Parts Shoppe to pick up a new battery for my ailing chariot. I was saved a bit of bother by the fact that I’d written down all particulars and taken a picture of the battery in question; the one they’d ordered for me was the wrong type but they had the right one on hand, thank goodness. I apologized for the trouble, but the Helpful Fellow laughed and said they’d sell the ordered one in a heartbeat, it was a kind that they should have had in stock anyway.

So that worked out. I got a rideshare home (Uber is nasty to their contractors, I much prefer Lyft) with a nice fellow who had a hybrid and offered to carry the battery up the stairs for me.

I told him it was good exercise and lugged the damn thing inside.

After dinner, the kids and I gathered around our mechanical patient. All told, since I’d prepared so thoroughly (including testing the ratchet on the connectors) it took about twenty minutes to wrestle the old one out and put the new one in. Most of that time was swearing under my breath trying to lift the old battery out while the kids held flashlights and wisely did not offer help until I paused to glare at the thing.

Anyway, I finally got my fingertips underneath it, and the kids both marveled at how heavy the damn things are. And now they know how to change out a battery, as well as where several life-giving fluids go into the engine.

Mercury retrograde, while finished, has not given up completely. This morning I got a frantic text from the Little Prince, who had forgotten a thank-you card for one of his teachers. (Long story, but it needed to go with him today.) I held my breath, turned the key, the starter coughed and spun…

…and hallelujah, it started.

I’m still not sure if there’s a problem with the starter or alternator. I think the problem was old battery and loose connectors. With a brand new electrical heart and all the connectors tightened, it should be fine.

We’ll see this afternoon, when I have to pick the Prince up from afterschool activities. It’s a nice day and he could walk home if all fails, or one of his fellow club-mates will give him a ride. If the car doesn’t start I’ll have to get creative, and make an appointment at a mechanic’s.

I did drive around a bit this morning so the battery should have recovered from its maiden voyage. The dogs are pretty pissed that I left suddenly, but some still-warm hash browns (they love the greasy, crunchy little things) effectively obliterated the memory of my treachery from their tiny little heads.

B is under my desk, ready to leap up and follow should I stir a step. Lord van der Sploot is pacing the house on his usual morning ramble, preparing for the walkies he hopes and longs for. I might even take them to the park and yell at asshats who have their dogs unleashed.

Fun for everyone.

Anyway, I even managed some work yesterday. A scene with an apothecary fell right out of my head, and now I have a handle on the other scene, the one that was bugging me and needed to marinate a while longer. Maybe I’ll get this damn book done on time after all.

But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll save that for every time I start the car for the next six months.

*rolls up sleeves* Okay, Thursday. You got the first punch in, but I’m no quitter. Only one of us will be alive come midnight.

Spring, Cartoons, Sprung

Saturday was rainy, Sunday sunny, which worked out well since I ran on the former and could lock up the house on the latter. I hid from the day-star and watched a chock-ton of Looney Tunes.

In the old house, I would fold laundry and write while several DVDs’ worth of cartoons played on the telly. The kids and I didn’t watch much else during the day, and when the Princess got older we’d have the subtitles on. She would, without prompting, correct errors in the subtitling.

She might be an editor someday, that girl. Anyway, the kids would play, and every few cartoons we’d all get up and perform a task. (If you’ve never tried hoovering with helpful toddlers, let me tell you, it’s a trip. )

Anyway, the dogs were quite happy to have me rest in one place between bouts of housework yesterday. And at the end of the day, every blessed creature in the house except the cats had dessert in my office, laughing at antics and gasping “oh, no,” at various points.

It’s been a long time since I heard those musical cues, and it took me all the way back to the good things about the old house. There were a few, but as things got worse by increments it felt more like a trap than a home. I was glad to move out, I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t endured a bad divorce or two knows how glad.

But last night there was cheesecake, gasps of recognition and laughter, and I remembered what it was like to sit cross-legged on the old papasan chair, typing furiously while the kids played and Bugs or Daffy or Tweety scrambled across the screen. In those days, the living room was the center of the house. Nowadays, here, it’s the kitchen.

I liked writing in the living room. I liked having the kids right in sight, and being available to them. I liked having Looney Tunes on while I typed furiously; I could work for two or three cartoons then take a break for one to get up and stretch.

But I realized that never, in all my life, had I watched cartoons truly alone.

So, Sunday morning, I got my coffee and settled in front of my laptop, and I watched them for hours. Then, all that afternoon, I did two or three household tasks, then watched a few cartoons, lather, rinse, repeat.

It was just as glorious as I thought it would be. I thought of trying to keep the volume low on Saturdays or Sundays in my childhood, hoping for a few good cartoons and disappointed when my favorites didn’t show. I thought of folding mountains of laundry and writing hundreds of thousands of words while terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it, that I wouldn’t be able to create fast enough, well enough to feed my children.

And now I can take a whole day, press a button, and have cartoons playing. I can even go to the store, get doughnuts, and dip sweetened bread into tea or coffee while I roll around in every single cartoon I like. I can watch the same one fifty times in a row, if the mood takes me.

We value youth in our culture. We crave it. We glorify childhood, but all youth ever brought me was people fucking with me when they knew I was helpless–or when they thought I was. It was exhausting and terrifying.

It’s much better now. I fought tooth and nail to get here. I’m an adult, and coming up on female middle age. I don’t have to give a fuck, and I have my own bank account–such as it is–capable of absorbing a few charges for a smorgasbord of looney tune-age.

I’m listening to Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner while I type. Spring is here, and each time I’ve seen the same cartoon is a ring in my trunk. I’ve survived, and each seven or eight-minute cartoon reminds me of how it used to be, and how good it is now.

I never want to be a child again. But damn, I love cartoons.

Anxiety Bunny

The Princess brought home Kinder eggs from a pre-Easter sale. The Little Prince loves opening them, so he cracked mine for me, and cleaned out the sugar1 as a bonus.

This little fellow was inside. The Prince and Princess both had birds, but I got a bunny with a wheel in his head. Spin the wheel–you can just see it there in the centre of the picture–and different scenes can be viewed through a hole high on his back.2

I immediately christened him Anxiety Bunny, because that’s what it feels like–a multicolored wheel spinning inside one’s head, serving up the worst possible outcomes not only from tomorrow, but from years ago.

Spinning the wheel does give me a certain amount of peace, however. I’m reminded that the wheel is not me, and isn’t even particularly truthful most of the time. This tiny, cheap little toy helps me feel better, and that’s valuable to me.

May your anxiety bunny, whatever it is, grant you some peace.

Mission Creep, Squirrel Inquisition

Significant progress on a Sekrit Projekt this weekend, in between everything else–finishing up after the barrage of birthdays and houseguests, not to mention extracurricular activities, errands, and–always my favorite step–cleanup. Once again, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend, but there’s no relief in sight, just more work. It would be nice to feel like I could slow down once in a while without the risk of starving, but such is not my fate.

I love being able to work at a high, hard pace for long periods of time; I also like my infrequent fallow periods. Sometimes I wonder what will happen if, through illness or injury, I lose either.

Then I wipe away cold sweat, laugh somewhat unsteadily, and get back to work. Really, what else can one do?

At least I get to run with the dogs, and I get to sink into one project instead of spreading myself between two or three today. The Poison Prince needs more of my attention than it’s been getting, and I have a chat to accomplish between a sister and brother, both the babies of the family, marveling at how their roles have changed. Siblings are much the same the world over, but it still requires thought–and I also have a lady in waiting to get out of the palace and into trouble.

It would be nice if the world would stop burning for a little bit so I could concentrate. As it is, I have to ration my peering and peeking at certain social media. Empathy is a distinct handicap, living in these most interesting of times.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been wanting to read more romance lately. Sinking into worlds where there are happy endings, where work and virtue is rewarded and asshats punished instead of being given advantages the rest of us could only dream of…well, it’s a nice thought, and an anodyne. I have a Dostoevsky on tap, but I’m not sure I can take it without a romance or two to balance everything out. I’ve even caught myself going back to an unfinished Watcher book, wanting to tell a story I know ends relatively well instead of…well, other things.

Sure, in all my spare time, right? Maybe a slight refocusing of my work schedule is called for…

…but that’s next week’s job, when I’ve finished catching up and taking a deep breath for the rest of March. I feel like there’s been some mission creep here on the blog as well–how long since I’ve done a writing theory post, or told you another SquirrelTerror story?

Speaking of the latter, it appears the goddamn tree-rats have figured out my daughter is, well, mine, and heir to whatever invisible mark Neo and his damn crew put on me. The other day I came home from running the dogs and the Princess met me at the back door, looking somewhat puzzled.

“Uh…Mum…”

“What?” I snapped, untangling myself from leashes and pointing Miss B at the water bowls.1

“They were doing reconnaissance,” the Princess blurted. “Like, six squirrels. That I saw, at least. They were up on the porch messing with the front door, too, and a couple were on the deck at the same time.”

“You were sieged by squirrels? I mean, you are my daughter–“

“But I didn’t expect it!”

“Nobody,” I said gravely, “expects the Squirrel Inquisition.”

She gave me a look I can only classify as irritated and deployed an eye-roll that showed she is, still, much closer to her teenage years than I. “Go ahead and laugh.” She heaved a mother-worthy sigh at her gentle dam. “I sound like you.”

“A fate worse than death, I’m sure.” I grabbed my own water bottle and headed to the kitchen, expecting that to be that.

Perhaps my daughter was wiser, because she spent a little while watching the deck with anxious folded arms. She sensed something coming, and she was right…

…but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Soup Is Not Soup

The other day I wanted potato-leek soup. You can do it quickly, of course, but I like roasted potatoes in mine, and I have very definite needs for the leeks. The bottoms must be soft and the tops still a little crunchy-stringy, which means a multi-stage cooking process.

My ex used to make his own particular soup, one the kids adored. They like mine, but it’s not the same–and we don’t have it often, because the smell can remind them of the time of the divorce. It wasn’t contentious, they just don’t like that part of the reminder. There were good things about that process, too.

It isn’t just soup. It’s memory and survival, hope and endurance, bitter laughter and amazed tears, all in one pot. Food is rarely just fuel.

May you reclaim dishes you love, my friends; and may you look around the table and think, we made it, we survived. And may that thought fill you with peace instead of despair.

Over and out.

Birthday Month Snowpocalypse

Of course yesterday–the day I had to spend mostly outside the house–was the day it decided to snow. It didn’t accumulate, thank goodness, but the roads got super sloppy and everyone piloting a car was stressed out and consequently a bit wavering. On the bright side, I got through the grocer’s between waves of “OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO SNOWPOCALYPSE DIIIIIIE” people, and noticed only that the bottled water had been pillaged. There was still plenty of dairy.

Today I can rest a bit. But only a bit, since I have to perform yet more Birthday Month-related things. I also have a run to get in; the dogs need their fidgets worked hard. They get stressed during any excitement; Mum leaving a houseful of guests in their care for hours at a time (well, the Princess was home and entertaining, so the dogs weren’t entirely on their own while performing supervisory duties) has made them Nervous.

I should get out the door if that’s what I’m planning. I was allowed a bit of a lie-in this morning, thankfully dog-free since the Princess came in, set a cup of coffee on my nightstand, and dragged both canines out. For no reason at all, she said, except she thought I’d like it.

I have good kids.

If I can just get through next week, the birthday month craziness should die down and I’ll get a chance to breathe. That will be a lovely change, and I’ll relish it.

The enforced rest has done some good–I’ve been getting research reading in, and that always deepens the worlds I play with. I’m only getting bare wordcount, 200-400 words a day, since most of my energy’s going elsewhere. I get itchy and tetchy when I don’t write, but at least 200 words is a prophylactic measure. I’m only slightly annoyed with the world as a result.

So today is for running, listening to kulning (a new obsession) and being grateful to my Past Self for scheduling subscription stuff so I don’t get home today and have to engage in a scramble to get that done. Hallelujah and thanks, Past Self! I’ve almost forgiven you for that “[[put sex scene here]]” you pulled last week.

Almost