The Jam Loosens

I woke from a dream of cleaning a house I’ve never lived in, with music playing in my head. The former doesn’t happen that often, but the latter is pretty much a constant. I rolled over, got Boxnoggin’s wet nose stuck in my face (he was attempting to get me to wake up so we could go do fun things, Mum, come on!) and heard the plucky opening riff to the Muppets’ Happiness Hotel.

Pretty sure that means a good day, even if an unrelentingly weird one.

The weirdness has been off the charts lately. The only thing I can think to do is begin my fall nesting–a few of my friends already have, and with the current plague news, well, I’m going to need my tiny safe nook to be as cosy as possible.

Especially if we need to share space with friends or family suffering fallout.

In any case, I’ve a list of Autumn Preparation Things. Some of them are small and will fit around the bigger list of Work Things What Landed In The Past Few Days. It’s feast or famine in publishing, dry spell or monsoon. CEs (the third and final Hostage to Empire book is top of the list) and proofs (HOOD fans, the omnibus proof just landed, so very soon Season Three will be out and the omnibus will be available for preorder) and cover drafts (Moon’s Knight is that much closer to publication; once I get the final cover the trigger can be gently squeezed), not to mention revisions on the diptych of The Black God’s Heart.

Plus there’s Hell’s Acre to get daily wordcount in on, and the sequel to Damage to build. (And Guilder to frame for it. I’m positively swamped.)

In between all that is cleaning and arranging for fall–the most wonderful time of the year, frankly. I’m ready for it to cool off; the recent heatwave is no fun and doesn’t really break overnight. We have some air conditioning, so we’re a little better placed than most, but it’s still unrelentingly bad. And gods know we need some proper rain.

I’ve recovered some little bit of my harmony. The tetchiness and ill feeling have subsumed under the sheer amount of work; maybe I just need to be buried under Stuff To Do before my mood improves. Having safe spaces to vent some of my feelings at current events helps as well. Holding that sort of thing in, no matter how useful a skill, eventually curdles and turns one rancid.

I don’t like being angry. Sure, I’m often irritated, but outright anger isn’t usual for me. I can count the number of times I’ve been actually, for-real angry in my life on one hand and have fingers (plural) left over. Current affairs, however, are managing the feat splendidly, and I hate it.

Anyway. There will be a glut of news in the near future, my beloveds–preorder information for Moon’s Knight once that gets all sorted, Season Three of HOOD and the omnibus scheduled, maybe something good on the Tolkien Viking Werewolves front, so on and so forth. But today is all about copyedits with some Zoe Keating in the background to drown out the noise in my head, not to mention the dogs needing their morning walk. I won’t be able to run until the weather breaks; heat sensitivity is an awful thing.

I am cherishing the return of my usual equanimity, even if it means the Muppets will be playing inside my skull when I wake. All in all, it could be worse. Oh, and thank you all for telling me how you’re getting through this; your comments helped me see good things.

Onward and upward, excelsior and all that. The dogs have been very patient, but they need walkies before it gets too hot to breathe. Time to bolt the remains of my coffee and embark.

See you around.

Solved By Machete

I’m in a positively dreadful mood this morning–indeed, I’ve been tetchy all week, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the heat, though it breaks at night to allow for sleep; maybe it’s work, though I’m always happiest with a surfeit of that; maybe it’s the state of the world. The Princess concurs, for she’s been in somewhat of a mood too; she thinks perhaps it’s processing a bit of last year’s (and ongoing) trauma.

The body remembers, no matter what the rest of one would like.

Consequently I’m trying very hard to be kind, especially in small invisible ways. There is nothing better than performing a few acts of kindness to lift one’s mood. Of course it’s selfish–one should be decent simply because it’s the right thing to do–but it’s at least enlightened selfishness, and it will do. Or so I tell myself, and hope like hell it’s true.

The damage from the heat dome is still rippling through plants in the neighborhood, and I’m sure through the animals as well. Some of the laurel volunteers I put along the back fence have crispy-crittered, and since the sprinklers are Having A Moment (someone will hopefully come by to diagnose them today) much of the yard is too. The tomatoes and other seedlings, watered by hand, are holding on; the pennyroyal that wasn’t grubbed up by squirrels (WHY, for godsake?) is actually thriving. So there’s a win or two lurking in the greenery.

Including the Zombie Rhubarb, which used to be near the lilac volunteers but was moved to a sunnier spot because it frankly refused to die even after the late, lamented Odd Trundles did his best to nest in it. I don’t know what that dog had against rhubarb–maybe he simply knew it’s not my favorite?

Still, I admire the plant’s absolute refusal to lie down and die. That kind of stubbornness is near and dear to my heart, so I’m even watering the damn thing. It’s flourishing like the hellebores now. I’ve told it flat out, “We don’t have to like each other for me to do my best by you. Uh, sorry about the dog…”

I think it’s forgiven me, despite Boxnoggin’s desperate desire to water it on his own. What is it with dogs and rhubarb? I have no clue.

Anyway, the day is jam-packed. There’s subscription stuff to get out the door, groceries to grab, dog walkies and a run to squeeze in, and damn it but I want these revisions done. Time to make a list on an index card, or I’ll get absolutely nothing accomplished. It’s a shame none of these problems can be solved by a machete, for I’m in just the mood to take a few swings. (Related: I really do need to get a wooden baseball bat…)

I suppose I should also get some breakfast, too. But before all that, it’s coffee to soothe my nerves somewhat, and Josh Groban on the play queue to do likewise. Something about the vibrato is entirely calming.

I’m hoping Thursday will decide not to be overly difficult. But if it is, I’ll get out the machete.

A Short Green Hiatus

I’m not supposed to work today.

I was complaining to the kids about how publishing takes several hiatuses during the year, and they put their collective foot down. Apparently a holiday will make me more effective, more efficient, and less cranky–or so they say–so I’ve been banned from working since Friday. The ban ends tomorrow, and I’m not even allowed to spend much time in my office because work is seductive and I apparently cannot be trusted.

A lot of gardening has gotten done, and I finally caught up on the hoovering. Also, I woke up with Melanie Martinez’s Play Date inside my skull at the usual high volume. The radio station in my skull is combing the aether, I suppose; I’ve heard the song a total of four times in my life but now it’s burrowed in.

The blood lily has also finished one of its dormant periods and sent up quite the fan of leaves. The giant castor and angel trumpet are both doing well, and I think sinking the Very Large African Violet into a fresh pot might have been the right move. We’ll see if it survives.

Other than that, all the peppers are in garden boxes and the rest of the seedlings in the ground, except for some mugwort. I went a little crazy with the artemisia, perhaps. I know it’s a quasi-weed but I want to make sure some actually takes root, dammit. And some aconite; it’s slow to take off.

That’s all the news from a holiday morn, unless you want to know that I *whispers* just filled out a cover art questionnaire for Moon’s Knight. Technically, that’s not work, right?

Right?

*whistles innocently, strolling back to vacation*

Between Music and Tomatoes

I got all the tomato plants into the ground on Sunday, but I did not hoover. There’s always a catch.

On the bright side, I didn’t work? At least, on anything sellable? So that’s a plus?

The kids put their collective foot down; I gather I was looking a little wild-eyed. I was absotively, posilutely not allowed to work on anything for a couple days. It got so bad they would glare every time they passed my office. “You’re not…working, are you?”

“NO NO I’M WRITING WEREWOLF EROTICA, FURTHEST THING FROM WORKING POSSIBLE, I SWEAR…”

On the bright side, the Selkie pinged me on Saturday and we ended up bombing into Portland for an Everyday Music trip. Masked up and vaccinated, we found all sorts of goodies–she had a list, but I, of course, just winged it.

Consequently I got a set of old radio plays1 and a Gormenghast DVD set2 as well as some, well, actual music. Including a still-sealed CD which made my nose twitch3. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

Between music and tomatoes, I didn’t get a lot of household chorin’ done, but I suppose that’s okay. It is summer, after all. And I’m halfway between projects, shifting gears rapidly and repeatedly to get edits done at the same time I’m producing new text.

Today I want to get Avery through the rest of that damn combat scene in Hell’s Acre, and if I’m still near the end of Cold North (at least, if they aren’t attacked again in the forest) I can get everyone to the hidden city and thrown into the dungeons, which will be a nice place to end the first volume of what promises to be a very long trilogy.

This is, of course, assuming the heat doesn’t prostrate me and the kids don’t tie me to the couch yelling “YOU’RE NOT DONE NOT-WORKING YET.”

Considering it’s a Monday, this could go either way…

Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.

Not Quite Vacay

It’s raining, and I woke up with Rain’s Sad Tango playing in my head. Which isn’t bad on either count. I get to run while water is falling from the sky, and there’s also a catchy groove to do it to.

I meant to take this week as a vacation, at least from serial writing. Unfortunately life has other ideas. Cold North is still going great guns; the elementalist has left that world’s variation on Nargothrond and is heading for a hill topped with red foliage. (Turin Turambar fans are going to get a kick out of this part of the tale.) I’m also getting plenty of progress in on Hell’s Acre, which has a scaffolding somewhat resembling an outline–though anything approaching an outline gets thrown out about two-thirds of the way through any work.

I just can’t stick to directions when it comes to a story. It has to take its own organic shape, and though I can often predict said shape, the execution is always much different than the projection.

…I just took the first gulp of today’s coffee, and my gods is it ever welcome.

I’m having to switch back to tea in the afternoons, since sleeping is becoming difficult again. On the one hand, I could just get up and work when insomnia strikes. On the other, I’m getting older (surprise, surprise) and the very thought of pulling all-nighters the way I used to makes me even more tired. I might as well give my body all the help I can. Besides, tea is stuffed full of anti-depressive chemicals, and that’s always a bonus.

I’m also ready to open up my Discord server for a new round of members, so come on in, the water’s fine! The invite link will last for a week, unless we get an influx of bad actors. (Which sometimes happens, this being the internet and all.) Patreon and Gumroad folks get special access on the server, and I’m kicking around the idea of doing some voice chats with subscribers–an AMA or two sounds like a good time, especially with a cuppa. The server has a living room, a place to discuss the books of Yours Truly, a place to discuss other authors’ books, a hellhole where politics are discussed, and more.

I’m slowly working my way through coffee. It’s a nice quiet grey morning, and after listening to Sad Tango on repeat I figure I’ll shift to the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack, look over the day’s work, and finish said java before taking the dogs on walkies. Boxnoggin will be extremely put out that it’s damp, but B will be just the same–she’s all-weather, all the time.

OH! I almost forgot. The Princess informed me yesterday that the Yankee Squirrel Flipper is doing its duty, and a squirrel has been flung at least once into the Venerable Fir. Sadly, I did not get to witness the occasion, but I have to admit to a bit of evil laughter, especially since the damn arboreal rodents have been digging up my seedling trays to bury their bloody peanuts.

Yes, someone in the neighborhood is still feeding them. I don’t even know.

That’s the news that’s fit to print, I suppose. There are rumbles in the distance, both concerning Cold North and Moon’s Knight, but nothing definitive yet. And come June 1, not only will Hell’s Acre be live, but I’ll have to shift engines to do revisions on Sons of Ymre, which should be out later this year (but will probably be retitled, so stay tuned).

My goodness, that’s a lot. I started this post thinking there was very little if any news, but apparently I was wrong. It’s a good thing I don’t mind being wrong. I even enjoy it, in some cases.

This vacation is turning out busier than many regular work weeks, but that’s my own fault…

…as usual. Onwards, upwards, and inwards to Thursday, beloveds.

Outlandish Dread

I keep thinking Cold North is going to slow down, but apparently Viking werewolves don’t know how to “relax.” I mean, they’re under a centuries-long siege from basically-a-god, and even though the elementalist is telling them “I’m not the girl for you,” they still insist on thinking she’s the solution to the endless warfare.

It’s, uh, not going to end well. At least not for two and a half more books. Even then the ending’s going to be more “right” than “happy”, and I’m sure that will upset some people.

I have coffee sinking in, trying to make sense of everything. I’m listening to RJD2’s Ghostwriter on repeat, and I should really be doing some reformatting instead of sinking 80% of my working time into Cold North, which after all hasn’t even sold yet.

But…I can’t stop, and might as well strike while the iron is hot.

Yesterday was very social, with video meetings and mentoring. Consequently, this wee introvert is withdrawing into a cave for a few days to recharge–and Saturday is the second and final vaccine poke for both the Prince and my own sweet self. I’m scheduling a couple days of very low intensity work after that in case the side effects (physiological or otherwise) stage a comeback.

I’m sure the feeling of relief will be so deep as to completely wreck me. It did the first time around, naturally, and this wave will only be more intense. Maybe I’ll finish a zero draft in a blaze of inspiration, and finally get some of this book’s possession-grip loosened.

There’s also Hell’s Acre to work on, and the said reformatting, not to mention I should stick a third writing project in the queue just to keep myself producing at a reasonable rate. I normally have at least one romance going at a time, and the editor for Sons of Ymre wants Jake’s story. (I’m thinking it will involve a vet tech and Jake getting his ass bitten by not only regular animals but also chthonic horrors; if ever a character deserved it he does.)

But that decision’s for after the second jab. Until then I’ll be useless for anything but the Viking elementalist, werewolves, and elves banding together to reach a hidden city after one of the elvish strongholds in the North has undergone a sudden, dragon-assisted change of inhabitants and contours. If I’m focusing on their problems I’m not brooding over the million things that could go wrong before we get to the mass vaccination site in a few days’ time.

2020 taught me to twitch-worry at everything. I mean, I already did so before, but last year was like an Olympic masterclass. Absolutely nothing is too outlandish for me to dread.

And yet the dogs still need their walk, and someone’s running a leaf blower.

Yesterday it was some kind of grinding or cutting metal, from around 8am to about 4pm. It was coming from the direction of Mike’s Deck1 but there was no accompanying crashing or shouting, so I’m cautiously hopeful everything, er, went well. Of course, I can’t see anything, so it might be another house entirely.

The leaf blower is coming from an entirely different direction, and it’s just close enough to drag the noise over my nerves like a sawblade. Which means putting in earbuds, walking the dogs, and running my weary carcass will be not only good for said physical carcass but also my temper.

Said dogs are waiting patiently for me to stop staring at the glowing box and muttering imprecations upon leaf-moving devices yea unto the seventh generation, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.