A JoCo Day, Calloo, Callay

A half-pony, half-monkey monster would be a distinct improvement over a lot of what’s happening right now.

…maybe I should back up. I’m listening to Skullcrusher Mountain this morning, since I woke up with Code Monkey playing inside my head. (Long story.) Pretty sure the day’s going to be all right, especially with that soundtrack.

It’d getting more and more difficult to crawl out of bed in the morning. The dogs need brekkie and loo breaks, of course, and that’s pretty much the only thing that dragged me forth this morn. It just doesn’t seem worth it to resurrect on my own account; suffocating myself with my pillows has rarely seemed so enticing.

Life goes on, of course. It could hardly do otherwise. There are books to write and a box of author copies arrived yesterday; I should open it today and see what lurks within. The dogs have had breakfast and a loo break, but they need their walkies like I need a daily run. The children need their mother, no matter that they’re adults now–and isn’t that strange?

I thought motherhood as a job–not an emotional state, which is constant–would be over once the kids reached a certain age. It’s somewhat of a relief to find out they still need their mum, albeit in different ways, as they embark upon adulthood. More relief springs from the fact that they actually seem to like their mother, and are not frantically attempting to escape me by chewing their own limbs off as I did at my son’s age.

Finding out I’ve raised a brace of adults who actually like their parental figure and actively want to spend time with me is a deep gift, one I’m absolutely grateful for. I suppose there really are things to get out of bed in the morning for.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s time for a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains to get the day truly started. Boxnoggin has interrupted the typing of this post at least four times now, excitedly informing me of such things as a leaf blowing down the street or someone walking a trio of dogs near our mailbox. Both events send poor ol’ Lord van der Sploot right over the damn edge.

He needs a walk; I suppose one wouldn’t do me any harm either. At least the smoke has cleared out again, and we’re looking at enough rain to extinguish the local forest fires. Small mercies; eventually, the rain always comes.

Exeunt, humming Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write goddamn login page himself“, pursued by politics…

Loud Dreams and Earworms

I dreamed in hyper-colored Castlevania this morning; I am somewhat surprised to find the sky blue instead of blood-colored. I also still have Feel It Still running through my head. The earworms are all but constant nowadays.

It doesn’t matter. I have coffee, the Prince is embarked on his last year of high school, and it’s a pleasant morning even though the sun’s out. I’m sure it’ll be sweaty later on today, so I’d best hurry if I don’t want to expire of heat-related illness during the morning’s run.

Still, it’s nice to absorb my coffee in something like leisure. I’m just so relieved the local school district isn’t forcing children into the equivalent of plague pits. They are providing meals and as much daycare as they can, too–an illustration of a district doing things right, for once.

I’m trying to treat the earworm with other things–a-ha’s Take on Me, for example–but so far, Feel It Still is the reigning champion. If I have to pull out Toto’s Africa it’s going to be even more interesting inside my skull.

I’m a little discombobulated from the Castlevania dream, to tell the truth. It was very vivid, down to the smell of sere dust as I walked through a dead wasteland towards a giant castle. The forest smelled better, but it was full of ice-demons, and the trees kept exploding.

It was kind of a loud dream, too, come to think of it. I’m not sure why; my bedroom window was closed and the dogs rarely snore that loudly.

Anyway, the coffee dregs need to be chewed, the dogs need walking, sunscreen needs slathering and a run needs to happen. Then it’s all epic fantasy, all the time, until it’s done. I am through messing about with this book; I don’t care how many times I have to stab it. It’s going down.

It could be the combination of earworm and vivid dreaming is just a sign my creative engine has reached the proper pressure and is ready to propel me forward. It would be nice to think I have enough energy again. Apparently even pandemic and fascist coup can’t keep me down for long; the words, like the spice, must flow. I’m sure I’ll overwork today and wake up exhausted tomorrow. Apparently I possess zero chill, but then, nobody around here is much surprised by that.

Tuesday approacheth. Time to pick the coffee dregs out of my teeth and get going. Books don’t write themselves, more’s the pity.

Enjoy your day, dear ones. The name of the game is survival, and if you’re reading this, we’ve won for the moment. Might as well celebrate it.

We might not get another chance. And with that wonderfully affirming and not at all pessimistic thought, I’m off to the races.

From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

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.

Never Completely

I’ve taken to sprinkling a little rooibos chai powder into my morning coffee. The spice helps me feel a little more awake; the only problem is there’s no added caffeine.

Ah well. Nothing is ever completely perfect.

We’re having lovely weather. Sometimes in spring we’ll get a spate of 70F days, with pollen drifting golden in the air, and it’s so beautiful one almost manages to overlook the fact that it’s treegasms floating everywhere. As a result, people are taking walks up and down the street all day, which sends Boxnoggin into a frenzy of “DON’T COME INTO MY YARD, HOW DARE YOU WALK ON MY STREET, HOW DARE” several times a day.

He’s very protective, this box-headed van der Sploot.

I haven’t fully recovered from last month’s bug, whatever it was. If it was the current plague, we’re likely immune, but there’s no way to know without tests and there are no tests to be had. So I guess I just… wait, and worry. And try to get rid of some of the mucus.

There are good things about quarantine, though. I’ve found some new writing music; today I’m trying out this recipe. It’s hard to work unless I shut off the wireless entirely; the temptation to look at what’s happening in the world and feel that sick thump of worry and pain in my midsection is overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to slow down and Lookie-Lou at the car wreck. It’s that I want to help, and my inability to immediately fix this for everyone I love–or indeed, anyone at all–is a torment. Everything I see on the news makes me long to do something, anything to help.

I know I help most by staying home, by being careful, by loving the people I’m close to and taking care of my neighbors. But still… I wish I could do more.

Anyway, there’s subscription fiction drops to get out the door today and the open thread over on Haggard Feathers to attend to. Plus I should brush the detritus of shipping off my new African violets. (They were on clearance; I’ve got to get my scrawny, overlooked plants somehow.) I gave them yesterday to settle in their new homes and get a drink, now we clean them up a bit so they can breathe more easily. Growing medium tends to shift a little during transit.

But first there’s the dogs to walk–without having to take care of them, I don’t think I’d be able to get up in the morning and face all this–and my rooibos-chai-laced coffee to finish swilling. I’ve managed two days’ worth of productivity, but I’m not feeling quite back in the saddle yet. I’m feeling, in fact, like I’m on the back of some raging beast who very much wants to shake me off, and is doing its level best.

I had more to say, but I suppose it’s probably a mercy every subject has fled my head.

It’s getting hard to hold on, over here, and a little more difficult to get out of bed each day. How are you managing it, dear Reader?

Music, Noise, Work

The Society

Walking the dogs this morning, Matchbox 20’s Disease came through my earbuds, and I found myself thinking of The Society again. That was one of Delgado’s songs.

Man, I was so young when I wrote that. A few discerning fans had fun untangling the X-Men references in it, and I still like to think about Rowan and Del every once in a while. I didn’t extend the series because if I had, a character I like very much would have had to die, and I don’t want to feel it in my own body.

Best just to leave things precariously balanced where Hunter, Healer left off.

I do know what happens after all my books end. Sometimes I keep the information locked up in my head, a private playground. Other times I turn the situation a certain number of degrees and look at its contours, and another story tentatively pokes its head out, whispering have you considered it this way? Write about this.

Then Florence + the Machine’s Breath of Life came up, and I found myself thinking about The Black God’s Heart; I think that song is probably Nat’s. You haven’t met Nat yet; I haven’t written the book. But I’ve made a good start and I’m stealing time to work on it in the evenings, when I’m tired from the day and needing something I enjoy, not just a slog.

You can tell I’m serious about a book when the soundtrack starts to coalesce. It’s only a single indicator–I’ve written other books without soundtracks, just not very often. I do have just-plain-writing music, but certain songs help me slither into a character’s skin.

Writing is an exercise in focused, critical empathy. Imagining myself so deeply and profoundly in someone else’s shoes is on the one hand difficult, requiring imagination and stamina; on the other hand, it’s the easiest thing in the world because, well, empathy. It’s a normal human skill, most often shown in the flinch when we see someone else get a sharp pain.

I know there are plenty of empathy-challenged people. I also think even a grain of it can be strengthened with practice and care. Writers, of course, can gain a massive, overblown sensitivity.

It’s no wonder so many of us drink to deaden it. The cray that is publishing doesn’t help either, I suppose.

Music isn’t an absolute necessity; some books do very well with silence or some variant of white noise. (I also use the Noizio app sometimes, when I want a little sound but not tunes.) I find songs are most helpful when I’m, building a book–walking or doing housework while the subconscious engines work on arranging the story for me.

Writing isn’t solely about the typing, although that is an extremely necessary part. It also takes a lot of relaxed focus, letting the machinery below conscious floorboards grind away with enough fuel and grist to keep from overheating.

Anyway, the world is afire with greed and plague, but I’m still writing. There’s not much else I can do, and people need stories now more than ever.

Time to get back to work.


It’s Thursday, which means my paid Haggard Feathers subscribers have an open thread to ask questions and give comments on. Also, Crow’s Nest, Nest Egg, and Serial Time subscribers are about to get some very cool stuff in their inboxes this week…

Verklempt Nose-Boops

The dogs are quite verklempt this morning. Someone is on a trip, so there was packing, which means Miss B starts trying to bunch all the humans in one room so she can keep an eye on us all. When she can’t, she gets a wee bit anxious, and I have to give her other jobs so she’s distracted.

Boxnoggin, of course, is not very distract-able. It looks like his preferred means of dealing with a human’s upcoming trip is to attempt to eat luggage, which isn’t very outrĂ© as such things go and is rather funny, but cannot be indulged in.

So now Boxnoggin is in the living room, keeping a watchful eye on the street. He suspects something in the house has changed but can’t figure out just what, and hopes it isn’t dinnertime. Miss B is under my desk, draping herself over my feet, because if she can’t herd the children into the same room as me she’ll settle for making sure I can’t move without permission, ever.

Of course, they’ll get walkies, and this is the week Boxnoggin and I up our running frequency, though not our duration or pace. I suspect the cumulative exhaustion will hit him somewhere on Friday night and he will suddenly become the best-behaved of dogs.

Me, on the other hand? I am not well behaved when exhausted. If only it were so simple.

Boxnoggin just trotted down the hall to check I was still in my office. I don’t know where he thinks I’ll go, but at least he cares enough to nose-boop. Which I need today. There are stressful things afoot this month, and I’m glad of these fuzzy little goofballs.

I should probably eat breakfast. I want to work on the trunk novel instead of paying projects. I’m still playing Shostakovich’s Second Waltz obsessively. It’s merging with Lara’s Theme inside my head, so I whistle a strange stitched together Frankensong of it while out walking.

It’s not the Farmer in the Dell, but it’s probably terrifying to hear on a foggy morn. Ah well–one lives to make everyone else’s life a little more surreal, to make sport of our neighbors and have them make sport of us.

Breakfast, then. I have nothing much to say today, which is probably for the best. Let’s hope Tuesday is a little less Monday than Monday was, shall we?