Blues and Fuzzy Toddlers

It’s a bright morning, though “sunny” might be a bit of a misnomer, what with the marine layer and assorted haze. I woke up with Robert Johnson playing inside my head, so of course it’s a day for Delta blues. Later today I’ll probably shift to some Mississippi John Hurt–Chicago instead of Delta–because I always seem to end up with him on some warm sunny afternoons with a certain amount of dust in the air.

But we’ll see. Guessing the music is always harder than guessing the weather.

I did a lot of gardening this weekend–and even escaped sunstroke, a pleasant victory. Today is for catching up on some correspondence and giving Ghost Squad #2 a last bit of varnish before it’s scheduled to go out the door. That should occupy all my working time nicely, especially since I’m continuing a sort-of social media fast. I just can’t handle the firehose of bad news, so in the mornings I’ll have most of it blocked. Which should be great for my productivity even if I do miss eyeing a few group chats while I’m sipping coffee.

I might even get a bit of the space werewolves written today, if I have any energy left beyond prettifying the revisions and getting them scheduled to go out on the deadline.

…this has taken an unexpectedly long time to type, because Miss B is in one of her queenly moods and demanding a great deal of attention, not to mention a great many trips out into the backyard. Some mornings she simply wants to be sure I’m paying attention, like any fuzzy toddler. She would very much like me to get my toast so she may have a toast scrap, and of course after that it’s time for her real goal, walkies.

I haven’t had to carry her up the hill again, so that’s a hopeful sign. Regardless, we are in the sunset of her time with us, and it pains me. So if she wants praise and petting and trips out to the yard, she’s going to get them. She’s earned that, and far more.

I’m on the very dregs of my coffee. The bird-identification app my writing partner enthused over is pretty cool; I use it on the deck in the mornings and on quiet evenings. Dark-eyed juncos, robins, song sparrows, house finches, some goldfinches, flickers–it’s pretty wizard that the app can distinguish between the songs, grab a picture of the likely bird in question, and show it to me all at once. We live in the future, of course, and any sufficiently advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic and all that, but still. The wonder of seeing such things are possible is a pleasant sensation indeed, and one I hope I never lose.

While I might decide hope is useless, wonder never is. And with that (cheery?) thought I’m off to the races. A certain fuzzy toddler needs her toast, after all, even though she’s temporarily turned her nose up at the bacon grease in her bowl. “What? No human carbs? For shame, Mother. For shame.”

I hope your Monday is as peaceful as my morning has been, my dears. It’s a pleasant way to begin the week, and we haven’t had too many of those lately, now have we.

See you around.

Dreams, Revisions, and Screaming

My dreams have been even more vivid than usual. None have the particular tsunami-quality that would make them good books (or even novellas); I think it’s just my brain cleaning house under current stressful conditions. This morning’s skull-movie was waking up in a particular bedroom I’ve seen before (but never in real life), bars of thick golden sunlight coming through the wide windows with wrought-iron muntins, and being addressed by a horned figure with tiger stripes who moves from one shadow to the next.

Oddly, the horned figure speaks in some version of French, and I woke up trying to conjugate a verb so I could reply. Go figure.

I am told some people dream in black-and-white, and some in color. My own dreams are so hypersaturated real life seems pale in comparison, but that’s no surprise since the story-hallucinations I often have are the same. Realer than real isn’t just for portal fantasies.

Anyway, it’s Thursday, I’m almost halfway through revisions on the second Ghost Squad book, and I think I’ve got all the screaming out of my system. I did take some time to put together discrete playlists for both Damage (playlist here) and Book 2, but I think that was the last gasp of procrastination before I buckled down. The dogs kept checking on me yesterday, as they always do when an edit letter lands and I take some time to privately vent my fury.

I’ve talked before about the process of getting all the “how dare you suggest altering my deathless purple prose” out of the way before settling to revisions. Editors are here to make your book/story/whatever better, and they are human beings, not punching bags. Get all your angst, sturm, und drang out of the way on your own, either in your office, locked in your bathroom, screaming into a pillow, or venting to a trusted friend (with their permission and the Cone of Silence, of course). There’s no need to direct any of it to the editor, who is only trying to help. And ninety-nine and a half times out of a hundred, said editor has a good point.

Now, I have been revenge-edited before, but that is exceedingly rare and behaving professionally in that event is even more crucial. Partly out of spite–you don’t want to give this person any further ammunition–but also as a point of personal pride. And it’s easy to mistake one’s knee-jerk reaction to the first round of having a book one has worked very hard on for months or years judged by an onlooker for revenge editing, so you don’t want to open your mouth and be proved wrong later when the dust settles, the emotion clears, and you realize that yes, the editor is right and something needs a fix.

So I alternated my working time yesterday between revisions (got almost halfway, hurrah) and lying on the office floor with the dogs, muttering into their fur about how cruel and unjust the world is to us poor tender writers. They’re used to that sort of thing, and offered no advice, just friendly licks and insistent “well, then, pet us and forget about it.” All in all, wasn’t a bad day, and I’m beginning to think this book isn’t bad at all.

Which is always a relief, since it’s a sign that I’ve achieved enough distance from writing the damn thing to contemplate it calmly. Always a blessed event.

And yet I am only halfway, and I have dogs to walk, my own corpse to run, and the subscription drop to get sorted before I can go back to it. The drop might be put off to Friday, as sometimes happens if I find I don’t want to break momentum. We’ll see.

So…it will be a busy Thursday, my beloveds, and I’d best get started. At least there are a couple eclairs left to soothe the sting, and if I am a Very Productive Writer who gets the damn revisions done by the weekend I can work on the space-werewolves-and-pro-wrestling erotica as a treat.

It’s good to have things to look forward to. I bid you, my darlings, a civil adieu.

A Browne Day

Woke up with Jackson Browne’s In the Shape of a Heart on my mental radio; the dogs, while understanding nothing of the song, are nevertheless quite happy to have me croon to them. Especially if it’s accompanied by ear-rubs or chest-skritches, and they like Browne far better than, say, the mornings I wake up with Penderecki or Marilyn Manson on the dial.

The stormwrack has largely been cleaned up. The damage isn’t as bad as I feared, but it’s still going to need an insurance adjustor to come out and take a look. Fortunately, that’s scheduled. Snow is pretty, but I could have done without all this bullshit.

I’m pushing to get the werelion story fully uploaded as a serial; it’ll be up until June, then pulled and refurbished for actual publication. Might as well; my recent experiment in trying to channel just the tiniest fraction of the massive, entitled self-confidence of a mediocre dumbass is bearing fruit. Sure, it’s a terrible story, the literary equivalent to scenery-chewing. But it’s not unfinished and everyone I’ve told about the damn project–or given tastes, teasers, or chunks to–has said it should be out in the world. So…here we go.

I also want to get it posted and out of the way before revisions for Ghost Squad #2 land. That’s Klemp’s book, and the beta readers liked it well enough. Now I can incorporate some of their suggestions with the editor’s, and the book will be stronger for it. Maybe that’s why I have this particular song running around inside my cranium. It does seem to fit Klemp and Beck, except the ending is far, far less bittersweet.

I think my editor would have been very cross if the book had decided to end otherwise, though. She really likes Klemp. (Wait until I get to Jackson’s story. The entire Squad is in for a rough ride on that one…)

Anyway, the dogs are quietly getting their first morning nap out of the way while I absorb coffee, but will soon wake up again and start lobbying for toast scraps. They got tiny dabs of grease in their breakfast kibble, but apparently nothing is as valuable as dry sourdough I’ve slobbered on. The little furry weirdos obviously think it some manner of manna, which mystifies me. But at least they wait patiently, then “sit pretty” for their scraps, and both enjoy the ritual. So do I, though I don’t consider it quite as necessary as they seem to.

Time to get this song off repeat and dump some bread in the toaster. Thursday’s going to be busy, especially since there’s a tonne of special stuff going out to subscribers, and if I work through the weekend the werelion story will be fully (though temporarily) out of my hair. Which might mean a day off, and by then I might even be tired enough to take a mini-vacay instead of simply using the time to catch up on correspondence and administrivia left hanging fire while I get the damn werelions sorted.

Of course, I could cue up Somebody’s Baby, since it’s apparently a Browne kind of day. That’s a good song to dance around the kitchen with while sourdough’s being turned into toast, and the dogs will be more than happy to waltz along.

There’s the day’s lesson, my dears. Don’t forget to do a little dancing–the world’s on fire, we might as well.

I’ve been saying eh, we might as well a lot lately. It’s probably not healthy, but it’s better than screaming. Or so I keep telling myself.

See you around.

First Hit

Woke up with P!nk’s True Love playing in my head. I am puzzled–I barely know the song, it’s my daughter who’s the hardcore P!nk fan around here. But the radio inside my skull picks tracks on its own schedule, never mine, so I guess I just roll with it until something else burrows in. At least my habit of listening to music most of the day means I’ll get another earworm in short order, if not while doing the morning work then while running. I should rearrange my running soundtracks to keep everything fresh, too…but maybe not this week.

There’s a dense fog advisory on, but our particular tiny biome–a couple of blocks on the side of a hill–is clear. The dogs were incredibly eager to get outside this morning, then both turned their noses up at breakfast and are now engaged upon their first nap of the day while I am forced to remain upright and (presumably) conscious. Sometimes I envy the damn canines. On the other hand, I’m not fond of chasing squirrels or licking my own paws, so I guess it works out.

I spent the weekend attempting to do something like resting, but it didn’t quite happen. Consequently I’ve a severe case of Monday exhaustion and my nerves are only half-wrapped. The sparks are pretty, though, and I’ve a baseball bat right by the desk.

The week’s first punch just maddened me. You know that trope where someone hits a fighter and said fighter just regards the opponent with a blood-grimed grin, very happy they’ve finally been given the chance to unleash their temper? Yeah. Like that. Each mouthful of coffee is another weapon in my arsenal.

I’m also looking forward to the upcoming launch of the third and last Hostage to Empire book. My goodness, the series had a rocky road, and the final book was written during lockdown so whenever I read passages I remember the uncertainty, and shiver a little. I’m glad to be moving on to new things, and very thankful for the production crew.

I unboxed my author’s copies of said book on last Friday’s Tea With Lili, which will stay live for about two weeks before being replaced. I’m going to give the streaming another month to see if the performance anxiety goes down. Each time I do one of those things I end up shaking with stress and anxiety, though I’m told I appear very calm; maybe it’s my habit of slowing down when things get weird that does it. Holding the appearance of calm is necessary when one has dogs or small children, since they largely take their cues from the adult in the room. If I start losing my shit they start ramping up, and that’s not good for anyone.

I might throw caution to the winds, get some correspondence and administrivia out of the way today, then spend the rest of the day doing an initial polish on the werewolf story before making some decisions about whether or not I want to serialize it. If I put the Carnivale soundtrack on repeat I might even shake every other earworm out of my head, and maybe the brainweasels will stop yelling too. There are a lot of them crowding my bone headpan.

Brainweasels. Earworms. Sleeping dogs. Sun burning through fog, and I keep looking around my office thinking I should clean this place up. There are several things I’ve just stuck in corners or on top of the cabinets because I don’t have any bloody time to deal with them during a pandemic, and they’ve now been sitting, solidifying, for years. Might as well rearrange things and give them a permanent home…

after I get some toast, walk the dogs, run my corpse, spend two hours getting paperwork to the accountant, and do everything else on the list today. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and these days I’m both to the very hilt.

Happy Monday, my friends. I hope you have a baseball bat handy too, and that the first hit only makes you mad. One way or another, we’ll get this week sorted.

See you around.

Constant Grinding

Spent most of last night staring into the darkness and listening to the radio inside my head. After finally dropping off, I surfaced somewhat blearily with Kehlani’s Gangsta on repeat inside my skull. I’m still whistling it softly as I type.

I’m sure there are people who don’t have music constantly playing in the halls of their grey matter. I’m told there are people who shut their eyes and have nothing but blessed silence. I can barely imagine what that must be like–my own head always has a tune playing somewhere, not to mention a hamster wheel constantly revolving with story ideas, plot tangles, and story architecture. The third thing perpetually grinding in there is a low-grade hum of worry, speculation, weird facts, funny things, and a stream of self-talk both vicious and amused, all underlaid with constant hypervigilance.

It’s a wonder I get any rest at all, frankly.

I’m waiting for one last distribution platform to propagate the price drop for February’s sale; I can’t blame anyone for it not being ready since I basically decided what I was going to do at the last minute. It still adds to the discombobulated feeling. I’m never quite inside myself during morning hours. Every bit of me cries out to go back to bed; given my druthers, I’d be up from about 2pm to 1am, spend an hour or so winding down, then sleep the rest of the time. Unfortunately, the dogs have their schedule and I must keep to it. Years of two toddlers being Morning People and then their attending school during hours most convenient for daywalkers have left their mark. I always wonder how much more I could get done if I wasn’t continuously fighting my body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

And today is Imbolc, so there’s a tonne of cooking to be done. The bread dough wants attending, and I should play around with making Instagram graphics. (Like this one.) Ideally I’ll get a system down for book ads and the like, since I’m supposed to be using Insta more. I had left because the platform was “liking” posts for me–unethical, as well as nerve-wracking. I don’t hit like or favorite buttons anywhere because it sends me into an anxiety spiral; the instant I touch it, I start thinking someone will be upset because I fave’d one thing and not another, and it gnaws at me until I want to burn down my accounts and leave every form of social media forever.

It’s just not worth the wear and tear on my nerves. I’m sure the algorithm hates me, but that’s fine. The gods know I give it enough food elsewhere.

Oh! On a more pleasant (hopefully) note, I have the first Tea with Lili up. I’m still playing with format and the like, and I dislike all the filler noises I use. It’s all a skill, and learning will be pleasant once I get into my groove. I should do up a list of subjects for teatimes; it’s always better to have structure about so one can depart from it at will.

The dogs are most eager for the day’s ramble, the bread starter is ready to be turned into dough, there are things to roast for soup later in the day, and I should really think about breakfast. The coffee is beginning to soak in, and that’s a mercy. The light is returning; I thought winter would never end, since time has become both elastic and immobile during the plague.

Tuesday beckons. Keep your limbs (and head) inside the gondola, folks, and try not to make eye contact since weekdays often interpret it as a sign of aggression.

See you on the other side…

Music and Meatsack

Yesterday was a bit of a wild ride. A very dear friend put me on a dedications page1, another dear friend liked the short story I made for her2, I formally left the house for the first time in ages, and remember those proofs I turned around in 48hrs so a book could come out in November? Well, turns out there’s no room in the November schedule so it’ll be January after all.

Which isn’t bad, mind you! It just means that Future (December) Me will be extremely grateful to Past (October) Me for getting things squared away. It’ll be a little gift to December Me, and also to my editors’ and publishers’ December selves. Frankly, by that point in the holiday season, I’m sure we’ll need all the help we can get.

Today looks to be a little less of a rollercoaster. Oh, sure, the weather people say there’s going to be a “Rain Event” around dinnertime, and the dogs are attempting to make sure I don’t leave the house again today–they had both kids to supervise while I did yesterday, but apparently that wasn’t good enough–and I really have got to get a newsletter out.

In short, all my internal spaces are echoing and it might be time to dust off Beck’s Sea Change album, just to soothe my nerves. I can’t do Pink Floyd since it’s past the equinox, so I’m forced to other measures.

As for the day’s work–once I get the newsletter out of the way–the first third of Hell’s Acre needs a top to bottom reshuffle. Sometimes one has to go down a road a bit to see where it leads, and sometimes even if one knows a book’s general outline…well, things happen. Stories are organic things, and grow in their own way. You can have the skeleton, but the flesh gets distributed differently.3

Anyway, once I get the throughlines in Hell’s Acre arranged, I can move the costume ball (and the interrupted assassination) earlier in the book, which can trigger the prison heist, which will lead to the culmination of Season One. Everything is going along swimmingly, and with that taking one half of my working days I can shift to revising The Black God’s Heart in the other half. And once that’s done, the Tolkien Viking Werewolves can get a second book, and so on, so forth.

I absolutely have all the work I can handle, and it’s a glorious feeling. I also have Klemp’s book (Ghost Squad #2) to get off the ground. It’s been marinating in the back of my head, so I might even do it as my NaNoWriMo this year. We’ll see.

Before that, though, the dogs want their walkies. Yesterday disturbed their usual rhythm, and they’re eager to get back to it. I also have new running shoes to break in, which is a joy and should get rid of that nagging pain in my hip.

Meatsacks, man. Always something aching, always something bruised, always some weird discharge or something. Of course the benefit of piloting one are immense as well, and yet…well, no silver lining without a cloud, and vice versa.

And with that butchering of a proverb, I’m off to start Thursday’s merry-go-round. I’m hoping for more of a slow carousel than Wednesday’s death-defying rollercoaster.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Days Off and Electronic Sobbing

I stayed up relatively late last night finishing the bulk of the copyedits on The Bloody Throne (book 3 of Hostage to Empire, which is wending its way towards publication slowly but surely). I think it’s pretty much done except for one last brief pass to tuck in a few stray threads. It was written last year during lockdown (like a couple other things) and my body remembers the stress and strain. I was wondering why I felt so nauseous and unsettled reading some of the passages before I remembered when, precisely, it had been created.

The body knows, my friends. It always knows.

Fortunately this morning is cloudy and very cool. It’s the first time in weeks I don’t feel like I’m gasping for breath, and I’m not sweating while standing absolutely still. It’s GLORIOUS and I want more. The weather app says the heat will return tomorrow, but after that it might taper off a bit. A high of 75F is ever so much nicer than a high of 85F. I know people who live in warmer places will scoff at the PNW’s delicate mushrooms, but honestly, I live here for a number of reasons, not least the temperate clime.

We’re about a week from the ebook version of Moon’s Knight being officially out too; the print version should have been released today but isn’t propagating through channels just yet. Ah well, that’s the cost of testing new distribution methods. And honestly…I don’t think the book will do much. Of course, this is a constant refrain; part of pre-release nerves is the deep unshakable belief that one’s book will sink like a stone, with nary a ripple.

As soon as I finish the Bloody Throne copyedits for realsies and schedule their turn-in, I think I might attempt to take a day off. The kids are making noises about tying me to the couch again–jokes, I’m sure, but with a glint in their eyes I recognize from the mirror.

I get super nervous on “days off”, though. A day without writing causes an itch to begin under my skin, and the discomfort mounts until I literally, physically have to write in some fashion. Of course I usually solve this problem by working with something I deem unpublishable on “days off”, but a significant number of those projects have actually sold, so…I’m not sure what to do. I’m happiest while working, which is fortunate because if I ever stopped the entire casa might sink into a mire, House of Usher-style.

Past Me also put the entire Nibelungen cycle on the playlist at some point, so that’s thirteen hours of Wagner playing in the background. I don’t know whether this was a prescient choice or a penance. I know I can halt the queue and change it at any moment, but I’m curious how this will play out. I may have to alter it slightly and go on one last Pink Floyd binge before summer ends and I can’t listen to them again until the next summer solstice. The poor music algorithm doesn’t know what to suggest to me next, throwing up its digital hands and reduced to electronic sobbing.

One thing I’m going to try not to do today is look at the news. I feel incredibly guilty, since it’s long been an article of my faith that part of a writer’s job is never to look away from the hard bits of living. We’ll see if I succeed. The torment of falling down on my duty by not looking may well outweigh the damage of gazing at the fire.

In any case, the copyedits are almost done and dusted, and once they’re finished the only thing left on that trilogy will be proofs for the final book. It’s not a bad story, I think, but unfortunately a constellation of outside forces conspired to make it extremely stressful. Soon, good or bad, it will be over, and that will be a relief. On to fresh fields and pastures new, so to speak.

I hope you get a chance to breathe today, beloveds. It’s been a while since I could take a deep lungful, and it feels sinfully good. Be kind to yourselves, and excellent to each other.

Over and out.