Imperfect Strategy

A clear chilly Tuesday–not quite cold, but getting there–has dawned. I staggered into the kitchen to make coffee, a George Strait song playing inside my head, and decided I had to use Ronnie Milsap to clear things out. Milsap reliably works if I have a country-themed earworm, and has ever since I was a kid.

I don’t even know. I’m wired weird, but we all suspected as much.

Our state does mail-in ballots, and everyone in the house is of voting age and registered. We all went through the paper voter guide last week, went to our different rooms to fill in little boxes, and I took the sealed envelopes to the local ballot box since I don’t trust USPS with deJoy still in charge. (Why has that man not been booted out? Why?) There were pickup trucks parked nearby, and I watched each one carefully, ready to get the fuck out of there if right-wing goons appeared.

It was a sobering experience.

Now we wait–always my very favorite thing! I hate not being able to do anything while danger creeps nearer. I have little to zero hope, of course. Every time I’ve dared to hope over the past six-seven years, I get kicked right in the teeth. I’m done with that.

So, today will be spent trying to keep myself occupied with work. The new cover for Spring’s Arcana, the page proofs–seventy-five of them knocked off yesterday, only 293 to go–and wordcount for the NaNo novel, correspondence, other things to keep my fingers busy and my heart from hurting. It’s an imperfect strategy, since my heart will ache no matter what I find to keep myself busy with, and working will be like swimming against a riptide. Still, I’ve got to try.

The alternative is even grimmer.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my dears. We’re all reeling after years of historical-grade shocks. The wonder is that we’re all still trying to work, sparking and hissing with static, desperately transmitting and receiving despite All This. I think we all deserve a cuppa and a pat on the back, not to mention a nap. And possibly a whole box of cookies.

Que sera, sera, and all that. At least we’ve got each other, and a few stories to tell around whatever small, wan fire we’re clustering for warmth. It’s my job to tell the tales, no matter what else is going on. And it’s also my job to walk Boxnoggin, who could not care less about human politics. He’s got other concerns, and would very much like me to do something about them.

Needs must, when the devil drives–or when the dog needs a ramble. Off I go, my beloveds.

See you around.

Soundtrack Monday: Breaking Into Cars

Human Tales

I’ve been feeling the urge to do a few more Soundtrack Mondays, so here we are.

This week’s jam is the Raveonettes, Breaking Into Cars. It made its way onto the BLUE soundtrack, which was for Wayfarer–my Cinderella retelling. That entire series is full of callbacks to Kieslowski’s Trois Coleurs trilogy, and the music for each book followed suit. Certain tones have certain colors to me, and this particular track has a blue wash in my head.

Ellie, the titular Cinderella, spends most of the book being backed into a corner. She’s trying to plan, to do the right thing, to simply endure until she’s a grownup. It’s a mood I know well, and this particular song plays whenever she decides to maybe bend the rules a bit.

Even the most obedient child can be pushed into outright defiance, especially when they realize the game is rigged. It was difficult for me to engage with the fairytale, and with certain aspects of Ellie’s story…but that’s why we write, I suppose. Or at least, it’s one reason.

Welcome to the week, my beloveds. I hope a little music will help us get to the other side.

Soundtrack Monday: Manju

It’s been a hot minute since we had a Soundtrack Monday around here, hasn’t it? Let’s fix that.

This week’s soundtrack callback is ES Posthumus’s Manju, which I played obsessively while writing the royal procession near the end of The Bandit King. You can almost see Vianne on her white horse, and the crowds. At 3:10, you can hear the Hedgewitch Queen cry, “Arquitaine! Behold your king!” as she neatly snaps her cousin into the traces and puts him to plow.

And at the end, you can hear the stunned realization that she’s vanished echoing in the cathedral. Poor Tristan, I think that was one of the worst moments for him, in a book packed with bad ones. Of course he deserved every single one, but still.

I still love those books, though they didn’t get the reception I hoped for. I still think about them from time to time; if I went back to that world, though, there would be a few deaths I don’t particularly want to write.

Sometimes it’s just best to leave things be. But we’ll always have Arcenne…

Time and Amusement

Woke up with Joe Cocker playing inside my head again–all weekend it’s been Bye Bye Blackbird, which features rather heavily on The Dead God’s Heart soundtrack. Not only that, but it played while I was driving home t’other day, all the windows down and sixty mph roaring through. It’s a song for end of summer; I think I’ve also had my last Pink Floyd until next spring.

I just can’t listen to the latter when the nights are long or the days are grey.

The morning is quiet, Boxnoggin is very ready for walkies but has prioritized a nap on my bed first. He even got a bath this weekend, poor fellow. He dries very quickly, slick-coated gentleman that he is, but good heavens he haaaaates not being stinky. I could run him through the mud with the hose and he’d be chuffed, but warm water and soap? Get thee behind him. Fortunately he also knows there’s no use in protesting–if Bailey couldn’t weasel her way out of getting bathed he has no chance, and I think she probably informed him haughtily of that at least a million times.

There’s a great deal of work to get done this week. I also have to test the new microphone for streaming/reading. My daughter is absolutely THRILLED that I’ll be reading at least the first chapter of My Immortal. I still don’t know what this thing is, though she’s given me a link; I will, like with Eye of Argon, go in completely cold. The only thing I’ve been told about this is that it’s a piece of fanfic, so…I don’t know quite what I’m bracing for, but it’s sure to be something.

I also found out who sent me Edmund the King Raven–one of my lovely beta readers took credit, so I have thanked her kindly. (You’re a peach, J.P.!) I think he might help me with this reading fanfic-thing. We’ll see.

The new microphone means I might do some other tracks, just reading Victorian erotica in a soothing voice. If all goes well that may be one more side project I offer, but I’m going to have to test to make sure I can keep a straight face through some of it. I know I’m a champion–my kids absolutely trained me to Olympic level on that front–but I suspect some bawdy bits of The Pearl might undo me. Ruining half a dozen perfectly good takes with giggles will put rather a damper on the whole project, since the time investment will become prohibitive even if the amusement factor is high.

But I’m thinking about it, my beloveds. My brain is full of ideas.

The day’s work is pretty much cut out for me–Gemma and Avery have a bit of a walk in Hell’s Acre, and the second Sons of Ymre is heading for the finish line. I need to write the lead-up to the great crisis now, since the couple from the first book have shown up and that will kick off the endgame. If I can get through reasonable wordcount on both I’ll drag out the new microphone and do a few tests. It’ll be nice to stream without my headset on, but first we’ll have to see if this works.

Always a catch.

There’s also walking Boxnoggin to be dealt with, and getting my own corpse run before the heat builds. I’m beginning to think I have a shot at catching up to a couple deadlines, and maybe even as a whole. That would be a welcome change from the first half of the year. I’d love to feel like I’m not all the way behind and desperately scrabbling.

Targets are acquired, Monday is on notice. I suppose I’d best get to toast before the morning gets older.

See you around.

Heavy Work, No Rain

There is a lens of cloud from horizon to horizon, I have that Sting song in my head, and it hasn’t cooled off overnight. It’s sticky, and clingy, and though I’m pretty happy the giant nuclear eye in the sky is covered, my lungs would like a word with atmospheric conditions. Ah well.

Today is Thursday, which means a subscription drop. Also, I have Big Dreams of reading the second half of Eye of Argon to you all this afternoon. So my schedule is jam-packed, and I ought to get Boxnoggin walked before it gets even more stifling. I long for a storm, some rain, thunder, anything to break the tension. Of course, poor Box wouldn’t like loud skybooms at all, so it’s probably best there are none in the forecast.

Yesterday was productive…sort of. It was a day of several catch-up tasks taking bites of time, so by the end everything was neatly arranged but I felt no real progress had been made. It didn’t help that I had to rip out and remodel the last 5k written in Sons of Ymre 2, since the story calmly let me know–at 3am, in fact, while I was busy trying to sleep–that it wanted to go in a completely different direction and I’d best catch up if I had any intention of finishing the damn thing.

I wasn’t mad. Well, not very mad. Okay, I was irritated beyond belief, but the feeling is great fuel and wouldn’t have changed anything anyway. So that’s done, and the last quarter of the manuscript is all set up for breathless action and maybe a cameo by the couple from the previous book. It will be hell to revise from zero to first draft, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And I also need to block out the next assassination attempt in Hell’s Acre. I need a few more scenes of the serial done and dusted before I shift to revising the Tolkien Viking Werewolves.

At least with the house closed up tight against the heat Boxnoggin isn’t alerting to the roofing happening down the street. Ours is done–thank every god that ever was or will be–but one of the neighbors is getting a new topper for their own domicile, and the hammering, not to mention the ripping and nail guns, sends Lord van der Sploot into a positive cascade of “OMG MUM DID YOU HEAR THAT, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD, ALERT, ALERT, FIRE, FLOOD, SMOOOOOOOG!”

Poor fellow. He means well.

I’m trying not to look at the news cycle, with varying degrees of success on an hourly basis. The best vengeance is continuing my work, and all that. It might clear up in a bit, so I’d best get moving. The last thing I need is heatstroke added to everything else. I’m really looking forward to reading to you all today; Eustace has been positively beside himself wondering what happens to Gringr the Ginger Barbarian. I would’ve thought he’d be more interested in the Girl with the Golden Brassiere, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Onward, upward, excelsior, into the breach and all that. May we all survive Thursday intact, my beloveds.

Let’s get started.

ETA: The Demon’s Librarian sale will go on next month; there were some Technical Difficulties. My apologies, my friends.

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.