Puzzle Dog

Good working days have been happening lately. I’m almost afraid to inhale too deeply lest this great fortune be noticed by the world, which will certainly snatch it away. Or at least, that’s the feeling. I’m doing my level best not to look at the news cycle, and not to leave the bloody house–I know, that last bit is me anyway, but I’m turning it into a requirement instead of a preference. All I want is to be left alone to write my horrid little stories.

We’ve also found a job for Boxnoggin. Well, another job, since he’s already responsible for things like holding down the floor, yelling out the front window any time there’s activity on the street, “protecting” me during walkies, and being a giant doofus. (All of which, it must be said, he excels at.) But he wanted more, so I dug out one of Bailey’s old puzzle toys.

Now, Miss B was a smart dog. She only needed once with a toy to figure it out, and to remember. Max, of course, used pure brute force on anything puzzling, so anything with parts smaller than fist-size had to be whisked away from his gaping jaws. Boxnoggin, however, lies between these two poles. He isn’t as bright as Bailey, but he’s also not as dim as Max–gods love that bulldog, but his brain was so occupied with piloting his unwieldy corkscrew body through space, there was little to nothing left over for any complex cognitive task.

All of which means dear ol’ van der Sploot is at just about the perfect amount of mental horsepower to get a lot of fun out of this particular puzzle. He has to get an upside-down plastic cup out of its socket in order to turn the top disc of the thing and gain the other half of the kibble inside, and so far he’s accidentally solved it, occasionally deliberately solved it, and forgotten the trick to the solution each and every time. The half-hour of crunching, slobbering, nosing, and pawing wears him out so badly he naps for the rest of the day, and when he finally solves this toy reliably I’ll switch him to another puzzle until he forgets the first.

It’s good to have a plan.

We’re all amazed, frankly. The Princess can’t get over how quiet and well-behaved Boxnoggin is after a session spent dislodging kibble from the damn thing, and he apparently loves it, to judge by how hard he begs for it to be filled and set on the floor. The Prince is fascinated, watching Box try to figure the damn thing out. (And helping a bit when he gets frustrated, because in this house we don’t let people flounder if we can help them.) I’m just happy for the peace and quiet; I thought we were going to have to do four training sessions a day with Bailey gone.

She kept Box corralled, and while he was thinking of weird things for her to herd him out of, he wasn’t getting into trouble. Much.

I suppose I should finish my coffee and get him walked–another important component of keeping him out of mischief. There are bergenias to get planted as well today, since my writing partner was kind enough to break off a few clumps for me. They do well in Pacific Northwest conditions, and I might even have one inside since I’ve got the grow lights going and a little room on the coffee table. There’s wordcount to be done today, and some CEs landed too. Those are afternoon problems, and I’ve a whole morning to get through.

I will never be as happy with anything as Boxnoggin is with a handful of kibble in an elaborately designed plastic dish. Still, left to myself, I am content.

Now if I could just get the world to cooperate…

The Wild Trolley

Shh, don’t scare it.

I managed to snap this picture of the wary shopping cart in its natural habitat, not the concrete or linoleum floored farms their flocks now inhabit. Those who escape are usually intelligent, largely nocturnal, and tend to hide in out-of-the-way places, evading capture by dint of sheer cunning and anxiety. It’s hard to get close enough for a snap, let alone catch one for home domestication, so I had to sneak up, very quietly, and scarce dared breathe.

And then, success! I got the shot. I let out a sigh of wonder, probably alerting the poor thing to my presence. It doesn’t understand I have no desire to tame or return it, I just wanted a photo to prove what I’d witnessed.

Anyway. The trolley has long vanished. I hope it is still grazing lawns, hiding while it must, and just generally enjoying freedom as any creature likes to.

Have a marvelous weekend, my beloveds.

Giggling Motivation

I’ve been obsessed with doing tiny, foul-mouthed “motivational” graphics lately–just looking at templates and clip art, playing with text, and slapping the result up on Instagram if it’s not too ill-tempered. I had a crazy idea for a storefront where they were all free, more a storage method than anything else, where people could just right-click them or sign in and leave funny reviews.

So I spent a couple hours last night getting used to WooCommerce and playing with themes. I popped one up and giggled…

…and it took about a half-hour for the trolls to show up. Which has got to be some kind of record, but them’s the breaks when one is a public person on the ol’ internet. I was unattached, so I nuked the entire damn thing.

I’m not mad. Sure, it was annoying for about five minutes, but now I know more about WooCommerce and theme integrations, not to mention the backend, which is valuable information no matter which way one slices it. There’s a great deal of value in being unattached to the subject of what is, after all, only momentary hilarity. (Like life. And isn’t that a cheerful thought.)

Besides, I’ll have about a dozen better ideas in the next half-hour. It’s not like there’s any shortage. I went to bed and watched YouTube until I fell asleep, like the feral chaos gremlin I not only am but downright glory in being.

Speaking of gremlins, Miss B is under my desk, her stomach gurgling. She turned her nose up at breakfast because it was (gasp!) merely kibble. What she’s really waiting for is a toast crust or two, as is my usual wont to toss to both her and Boxnoggin of a morning. Walkies will give her an appetite as well.

I also realized something integral to the plot of Hell’s Acre. It hit me right between the eyes as I was giving the ballroom scene a bit of spit and polish for the week’s fiction drop, and I gasped so loud Boxnoggin came trotting down the hall to investigate. I also said, “SON OF A BITCH,” and that brought my daughter to her doorway, peering to discern whether I was swearing at a bit of news from yon internets or had just killed a character.

It’s a toss-up, most days.

Anyway, now I am chortling and cackling with glee while I type, then popping over to my browser to make a few more graphics while I snort-giggle, then returning to work. All the switching is probably wearing out my neurons, but at the moment it’s what my brain wants so that’s what it’s getting. I also figured out the next step in the second Sons of Ymre book, and it looks like there might be preorder links for the first one awful soon. I may even let subscribers take a peek at the cover. It’s very…oiled. And gleaming. And it delights me.

So things are kind of looking up. I might decide to throw a bunch of these graphics onto my Tumblr and see what happens, or make a brand-new home for the little beasts. I would like them backed up somewhere searchable, because I think they’re funny as all get-out. I’m sure others might disagree…

…but part of hitting my mid-forties is finally accumulating enough life experience to do as I please in certain areas, and devil take the naysayers and the trolls. Besides, I’ve too much work to do, and I work up with Kehlani’s Gangsta playing inside my head for the second time this week.

It could mean a whole new book is gestating. If so, the damn thing will have to get in line, I’m busy.

Happy Thursday, beloveds. I’ll see you around…

Pre-Spring Cleaning

I spent the weekend cleaning and rearranging, not least digitally. You may notice the surroundings look a bit freshened; not only did I get a new theme going but also some graphics (that Depositphotos investment through AppSumo when I thought I was going to do a few book covers is paying off bigtime) and just…brushed everything up a little. I’m dismal at CSS, but fortunately WordPress has come a long way.

Block editors are lovely.

The dogs were unhappy that I spent a majority of time staring at a glowing box rather than moving around doing things they could stick their noses in, but soon they fell to taunting each other instead of poking at me, and were reasonably happy. It’s also nice that the inversion–or whatever was keeping everything stagnant–has broken up and we got a band of rain through last night. The air is a lot cleaner and the persistent weight in my lungs has mostly left.

Of course every time I cough I think “Is it the plague? It’s probably the plague.” Which isn’t a fun time.

I redid the contact form, offloaded the newsletter signup since formatting that embed was a pain, and spent the bulk of the time getting every book page neatened up and consolidated. I should probably go back and do the individual volumes in the Valentine and Kismet books instead of just listing the omnibus editions, but I’m tired, my wrists hurt, and I would really like to leave webmonkey work for another day.

On the other hand, I have the structure of every page fresh inside my head, so they’ll be all standardized with little trouble if I hold my nose and do it today. Choices, choices.

I’m also thinking of brushing off the ol’ Twitch channel. Fifteen-minute “Tea With Lili” streams might not be up to their standards, but it’s what I’m comfortable with. My agent wants me to do TikToks but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. It seems a great deal of work for very little return, and I do enough of that already. On the other hand, putting on a fedora and performing as The Masked Writer seems like a hoot. Or getting a tiara and channeling my Muse for a few seconds. It would require a great deal more performance anxiety, and I already have enough of that. But we’ll see; the point of having an agent is to listen to their advice.

It’s the last day of the Selene sale, and I should put together a sale for next month if I’m gonna do one. It would be nice to have something around to celebrate Imbolc with. Plus the HOOD omnibus came out this month–January has been very busy, despite me attempting to take a vacay from all social obligations. I needed the rest, but life had other plans.

As usual.

The coffee is almost done, I need some version of breakfast, and the dogs are very eager to get their walkies in. Not to mention I have to run today, and whatever cleaning I didn’t get done while I was banging on the site’s innards and swearing should probably at least be eyed before I laugh and decide it can wait another week. Such are Mondays all year round; it will be a relief to write Veece’s return to the pub in Hell’s Acre and the fight with the tentacled thing in Sons of Ymre #2. (I do have a date for #1’s launch, but no preorder links yet. When I have the links, you’ll know, my dears.)

So here we are on the last Monday of January. I suspect the day is going to try for something special to make itself memorable, though I devoutly wish it wouldn’t. One last swallow of coffee, then we’re off to the races.

See you around.

Damp and Dry

Thursday has dawned misty-rainy. All day yesterday we had thickening fog-drizzle, the kind that penetrates every layer of clothing within fifteen minutes though you could swear it’s just a bit of cloud. The cloud, however, comes right down to earth and lingers, turning even treebark slick and wet.

I love this part of the world. Climate change will probably wreak terrifying havoc upon it, so I’m enjoying while I can. Really, the Pacific Northwest is perfect–moss on the trees every winter, rainy grey for most of the year so you can hear yourself think, nice even temperatures only rarely freezing or frying, trees everywhere, a relative lack of bite-y venomous things. It’s like it was made for me.

I’m told that statistically the PNW leads in coffee shops and serial killers too–on that last point, maybe we’re just good at catching them? I dunno. But certainly the entire area is awash with caffeine, which suits me right down to the (soggy) ground as well.

So far the area under the kitchen sink remains dry, though I am still irked at the home warranty company’s Very Bad Behavior, especially during a pandemic. I’m weighing my options on that front, putting off a decision until my irritation leaves the cold, quiet stage. If there is a single drip more…but let’s not think about that, it’s such lovely weather.

Very early Wednesday morning I woke up knowing how to solve the blockage in Hell’s Acre. True to form, the Muse, who did the original planning, is now unsatisfied with said original planning and wants to toss everything out and redo the last half of the book. Fine. It will end on a cliffhanger if it goes the way she wants–again, fine. I am not sure I’ll write the second book resolving said cliffhanger, though, for a collage of reasons. Which may or may not be fine, but we’ll see.

At least the realization meant I could get actual work done yesterday, which I haven’t been able to do for days. Between the stress of needing strangers to visit the house (the workmen masked up, we all obeyed precautions, but still, it’s bloody nerve-wracking) and dealing with the home warranty company’s petulant, money-grubbing refusal to live up to their responsibilities, I didn’t have the bloody energy. Plus there’s been an uptick in harassment, and that takes energy to deal with even if one has mitigation in place.

It also looks like that One Viral Thread has been taken over to the cesspit that is Facebook, so I’m sure I’ll be getting a flood through the contact form on that front. Harassers’ IPs and linguistic oddities are logged automatically, though, and retained for safety reasons.

There’s also been a rise in the incidence of Well Actuallys, Reply Guys, Debate Mes, and the like, especially on my funny little threads. (Like the recent Dracula in Sears bit.) Apparently Banana Truthers, Sears Truthers, the Historical Denim Brigade, and all that cohort are all very angry with me. It’s nice of them to show themselves in such unambiguous terms; my Block Party queue has been getting quite a workout.

Go figure, my contribution to the zeitgeist will be squirrel tales and the enragement of Banana Truthers. The amount of amusement I get from contemplating this outcome is immense, and borders upon deep satisfaction. Laughing at the absurdity is better than a number of other coping mechanisms, so I suppose I should thank them, just to be polite.

I get to run in the rain today, and the dogs will get walkies–yesterday they were obstreperous brats, and I didn’t feel like dragging them through the mist to get over it. Of course they’ll be doubly bratty today; I only put off the inevitable. But some days, that’s all one can do.

Then I get to come home, do the last-minute brushing-and-folding on the week’s subscription drop, and the rest of the day is mine to do with as I will. Which will be banging my head upon Hell’s Acre, with a bonus few hours spent on Sons of Ymre #2. Still no word on when #1 will drop, I’m just told “soon.” Everyone is having scheduling difficulties these days; patience is the watchword.

And all day there will be the grey outside my window, the dripping branches, the rain-slick rhododendrons and bubble-wet moss. It is soothing, and wonderful, and I love every moment of it.

It’ll do, my friends. It’ll do.

Boostered, and Well-Filling

The Princess, being a frontline worker, had her booster appointment on Tuesday; the Prince and I went along to ask if they were doing walk-ins as well. Fortunately, it was one of the few pharmacies in the area offering them, there was nobody else in the store, so all three of us got our booster and flu shot at once.

The relief is immense. So immense, in fact, I’m not sure how much of being absolutely wiped out yesterday (and frankly, almost totally wiped out today) is psychological, and how much is my immune system pitching a gigantic fit. Either way, it’s far, far better than suffering the plague or influenza, so here we are.

The kids both had mild arm soreness and a wee bit of fatigue. So far their side effects are very small, which I am unendingly grateful for. I am logy, still a bit feverish, and brain-fogged, but the fatigue has gone down a bit. I will say, whether it was the relief or the fever, I had hypersaturated, very odd dreams.

None of them were worthy to turn into a short story, let alone a book, so that’s a bit disappointing. But I shall persevere. Gods know I have enough material to keep me busy, even after shoving three books out the door and into the wild, wild world.

All my engines can turn to Hell’s Acre for a short time now, then I can give Ghost Squad #2 a bit of a shake and a towel-down before sending it off to beta readers. At the very least I have to get all of the brackets out.

Song that never ends, no rest for the weary or the wicked in our benighted world, and all that.

Before I forget, a huge shout-out to everyone who told me what movies, books, songs, and the like they’re using to refill their wells right now. You guys are a very eclectic bunch! (Feel free to add what you’re reading/watching/loving right now! I always love hearing about it.) I’m reading Burkert’s Homo Necans (because that is my idea of fun) and have been talked into watching the Wheel of Time series on Amazon.

I knew a few WoT fans in high school, and their behavior over the book(s) convinced me I wanted nothing to do with the entire thing. Later, I shelved them during my many stints as a bookstore worker, and the behavior of the male fans there just deepened my conviction. But, as one of my friends pointed out, misogynistic neckbeards are up in arms over the Amazon Prime adaptation being “diverse” and “woke”, so it’s probably worth a try.

I like the costuming (I am Team Suspenders, and some of the sweaters delight my inner knitter) and the CGI is great, not to mention Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney. (The latter sparked one of my favorite characters in the Livi Talbot series.) So, all in all, it seems pretty awesome and I might give the books a try, though that Rand guy irritates the living DAYLIGHTS out of me already and I can’t wait for him to get stabbed by a giant trolloc or eyeless thing already. I’m only a couple episodes in, so we’ll see. I might even give the books a whirl, who knows?

So today is for gently getting back to work–only for a few hours, there’s no use in courting burnout–and getting subscription stuff out the door. Not to mention walking the dogs and prodding my poor bewildered corpse through something approaching a run. I haven’t had a run in days and it’s beginning to wear on my nerves.

I never, ever can get the hang of Thursdays, but one must suffer them all the same. Time to strap some shoes on, grab some toast, and get the dogs walked.

See you around, beloveds.

Thursday, With Trepidation

Yesterday was a bit of a rough one. Wednesday had all its bullshit on, and even my newly acquired Peace Prize wasn’t enough of a bludgeon.

Consequently I decided to have a little fun. The kids and I were talking about orcas while folding towels, and a little later a whole new superhero was created, suitable for fanficcing.

I should explain, but there is too much, let me sum up: Harry the Orca needs an intervention, and mighty is the power of SANDBUTT. I also watched Carol Kane in Office Killer, which was pretty amazing, especially for its dead-on 80s magazine-publishing sets. The aura of grunge, grime, cigarette smoke, and hairspray was thick enough to cut with a spork.

Anyway, Wednesday is over now; Thursday and I are eyeing each other with some trepidation, and every so often I reach for the Peace Prize’s ashwood handle, considering whether an application of force might be necessary as a prophylactic measure.

We’ll see.

On the work front, Hell’s Acre is taking left turns with glee and abandon now. I’ve got to figure out how Avery gets to the charity ball. I suppose he could just be chasing Season One’s villain from the other end, but the solution seems too simple. Of course, the Rook’s very interested in simple solutions to complex problems, even if he keeps putting his foot in his mouth where Miss Dove is concerned–and chewing to his knee, I might add. He’s so adaptable and calm in other situations, but something about our fair heroine just puts him constantly on the back foot. Which I like, he’s got to be taken down a peg or two. The fellow’s possessed of quite an ego.

This does mean that I’ll get to use the ballroom scene, with significant cuts and emendations. I’m going to try to get that far before November hits and I shift to revising The Black God’s Heart on one hand and writing Ghost Squad #2 for NaNo. Klemp’s book has been marinating in my head all this while, and getting him and Beck out into the woods for the crisis is the only thing I haven’t figured out yet.

The characters will get where they need to go. They always do, I just have to keep writing, and trust the process. At least that hasn’t changed.

Walkies have to be accomplished before too much longer. Boxnoggin, while still adoring the concept, has grasped yet again this year that the rain isn’t going away, so is reconsidering this entire “go outside” thing. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch, and will not let him deviate from the daily schedule. Poor Boxnoggin is caught between the fact that he loves walkies and the concomitant fact that all change, to a canine of his temper, is terrible, no good, very bad. He cannot quite understand why his human, goddess that she is, considers wet falling from the sky necessary and doesn’t arrange a drier clime for his slick-coated self.

Each time I expect him to walk in the rain he’s just so perplexed. But you are the hoomin, he seems to say, head cocked and eyebrows up. You control EVERYTHING, why are you making us do this?

I wish I was even half as powerful as he clearly considers me. It would make things ever so much easier. Either that or increase my burdens beyond bearing, I can’t decide.

Coffee is sinking into my tissues, so I should probably get some toast down the hatch and my shoes on. The books won’t write themselves, more’s the pity.

Just be careful, Thursday. I’m watching you, and I have weapons handy.

Over and out.