Nervousness and Fanfic

We’re at less than 48 hours until adults are in charge again, and I can’t settle. I can barely breathe for the anxiety. I’m braced for more terrible fascist violence. I expect a good hard run today will help shake some of that out, but the nervousness is going to mount until the actual event.

Quite possibly beyond, too. Already I can’t even sit still.

The dogs don’t know why I’m so nervy, of course, and I’m content to have it so. The last thing they need is politics swamping their tiny doggy brains. Still, they’re both very concerned and sticking to me like velcro, attempting to soothe whatever invisible thing is tormenting their human.

Tormenting me is their job, and they don’t like being superseded.

I was supposed to take the weekend off, and am also not allowed to work today. Burnout is awful. I want to work, not least because it’s how I escape *waves hands* All That. I might–might–be allowed to write some fanfic; the only question there is what kind.

There was a bit of a dustup on social media over the weekend about fanfic. Someone just had to get shitty over it, which is about par for the course and happens with depressing regularity. I was heartened to see everyone whose opinion I respect weighing in on the side of “Fanfic is glorious, stfu”; it let me know I’m following the right people.

You can’t get better as a writer without, well, actually writing. (And reading, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Fanfic is great practice; it can be training wheels, fuel, and bowling bumpers all at once. It’s also a deep compliment to the original writer–I love your characters/world so much, I can’t let go of either.

I have strong and very definite feelings about writing–I believe in writing every day. (Burnout, of course, means only about 200 words a day on something that won’t ever be published, but it’s keeping the habit that matters.) But as for what that daily writing can be? It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfic, drabbles, original, dialogue sparks, or what-have-you.

A writer isn’t a writer without a lot of reading; it doesn’t matter what you read. It matters that you read, and likewise, it doesn’t matter what you write. It matters that you write.

It matters that you get in the habit of prioritizing your writing, that you reserve some of your daily energy for it, that you practice. It matters that you do. Writers write, it’s the nature of the beast.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people will be upset at the “write every day” thing, but you’re here on my site and I’m telling you what I think, so deal. The fact remains that fanfic is a gift, a great practice, plus it strengthens a writer’s grasp of characterization, structure, plot, timing, and craft. I suspect the “writer” of that silly thread touching all this off is just annoyed that nobody likes her characters enough to write ficlets about them.

I can’t, of course, read any fanfic of my own work, for fear of poisoning the well or possible legal ramifications. But you bet your bippy any time I’m told someone loved my stories enough to want to write in those universes, I get a deep warm feeling and can’t help but grin. I consider it a huge high compliment that the characters in my head have also made themselves at home inside someone else’s. It’s a beautiful, joyous, loving gift, even if the fanfic writer was mad at me for an ending or a character’s fate.

Love or hate of my work is fine. The job of a writer is to provoke an emotional reaction, and either is acceptable. The very worst reaction to one’s work is lukewarm boredom; I don’t even mind the hatemail or the how could you emails, because those mean I’ve done my damn job.

So. In case there was any confusion about where I stand on fanfic, let me reiterate: Fanfiction is GREAT. It’s awesome, I love it, and it makes writers better. Do it all you want. It doesn’t matter what you write, it matters only that you write.

And now I go walk the dogs, not to mention run myself ragged, and try to distract myself from dread and anxiety. And later today I’m probably going to write some Madalorian fanfic. Sure, only 200 words or so, but it’ll keep my hand in, and it’s my own personal fuck you to the idea that fanfic writers are somehow lesser creatures.

Over and out.

Autumnal Roundness

A little while ago, I was in the office, and my phone pinged. It was the Princess, texting me from the dining room, where the sliding glass doors to the deck are.

“GOOD LORD,” I yelled down the hall. “DID YOU JUST TEXT ME FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE?”

“I DIDN’T WANT YOU TO MISS THIS!” she yelled back.

That was reasonable enough. “IS IT STILL THERE?”

“YEAH. I… MUM, I THINK HE’S LOOKING AT ME.”

Well, there was only one thing I could say. “ARE YOU WEARING SHOES?”

“THE DOOR’S LOCKED.”

“THAT’S NO INDICATION OF SAFETY,” I yelled.

“YES, I’M WEARING SHOES… WAIT. OH WOW.”

I was out of my chair in a shot, pelting down the hall. By the gods, if that chonky motherfucker was coming for my baby, we were going to have words. Even if I was only in socks.

So I skidded into the dining room, finding my eldest child staring out the sliding glass doors with a bemused expression. “He almost couldn’t fit between the verticals,” she said, in tones of surpassing wonder. “That is the very definition of a big boi.”

“Almost a big chungus?” My heartrate began to drop below ‘imminent combat’, but I was still breathing a wee bit heavily. Then I looked down. “You’re not wearing shoes. Those are slippers.”

“I’m your kid,” she pointed out, practically enough. “I can kick ass in these too.”

I have rarely been so relieved, proud, and adrenaline-soaked at once.

Anyway, the squirrels are beginning to slim down from their immense autumnal roundness. They were preparing for a hard winter, I suppose, and it’s nowhere near over yet. I’m pretty sure this fellow’s going to survive, though. (Just look at those beady little eyes and those hefty hips.)

I’ve hit burnout pretty hard, beloveds. Normally I’d find some comfort in the fact that squirrels and cockroaches will survive humanity as a whole–life always finds a way, and all that. But I’ve hit the end of my ability to deal with all this bullshit, so my thoughts are tending in an entirely different direction. I’m hearing a lot of you are here with me, so at least we’re not alone.

May we find the strength to endure, as this round fuzzy bastard apparently has. It’s all I can hope for today.

Repair or Gasp

I should be occupied with the copyedits and with finishing HOOD‘s Season Three. I have errands to mask up for–things that can’t be put off, no matter how much I want to. We’ve been in strict lockdown since last year (my gods, what a sentence to type) but groceries still have to be obtained, and delivery is too expensive.

At least there’s rain; the downpours and flood watch means not a lot of other people will be out unless they have to be. The dogs won’t like their walk being so damp, but it’ll mean Boxnoggin won’t feel he has to defend my honor against another dog or a passing van, at least. He’ll be too busy complaining about the wet.

For all his square head (he’s often mistaken for a nanny dog) and big mouth, he is a surprisingly dainty and nervous fellow. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch; still, she is becoming an elderly statesdog and I don’t like making her endure rough weather.

I closed yesterday asking for tiny victories and little hopes, and goodness, did you lot answer! A lot of Readers are into pottery, which I love but haven’t had a chance to indulge in since high school. I took one pottery class and was absolutely enthralled by the wheel. I remember reading in a history book that pottery’s big revolution was the building of a container around nothing, which also represented a leap forward in human understanding, and the idea has lingered in the back of my head ever since.

Everything about pottery fascinates me. Jude’s breakdown while slamming clay in The Marked gives me goosebumps to reread; writing it was one of those times I felt I was channeling something else instead of Being In Charge, so to speak.

If I had the energy, I’d go on a digression about the different altered states one falls into while writing, or indeed during any creative endeavor. I’m not sure what portion of creativity is fueled by the fact that humans just love getting high in whatever fashion–the states of flow or channeling or grace or what-have-you while Making New Things have a lot of similarity with chemical enhancement of various sorts.

I’ve also been told that I’d enjoy The Repair Shop, which I should add to my queue. I do have to watch the second season of The Mandalorian first though, since my beloved Left Hoof really wants to nerd out over it with me.

It’s strange to be looking forward to things, however dimly. I spent a lot of 2020 just trying to keep my head above water. I’m swinging wildly between faint hope and deep despair, for obvious state-of-the-world reasons, and each time I’m in hope there’s just so many good things lying about to be discovered.

The despair, though… it’s a real doozy.

Enough. I’ve to finish this coffee and get started. The lights are flickering; the wind and rain might put paid to any errands. Which would be upsetting, since I’m setting aside a run today to get them bloody well done, but it would also be all of a piece with 2020’s lingering effects. I’m unsure whether the faint flickers of hope are the timeline healing itself or the last gasps before we plunge downward yet again.

I know it’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s where I am this morning. I’ll probably feel better once coffee (and dog-walking) is done.

I wish you safety today, dear Readers, and I hope if you have errands they can be achieved quickly and with a maximum of social distance. I can’t right the entire timeline, but I can try not to make my tiny part of it worse, and that’s my entire goal today.

Dream big, and all that.

See you around.

Lemon and Rocket


I’ll, um, probably be taking a few days off social media (or simply not looking at replies) since a particular thread went quasi-viral. (Don’t worry, it was reply-locked; I have been a woman on the internet for long enough to practice some basic self-protection.) But it’s Friday, which means two things: a Friday Photo post, and there’s D&D tonight.1

Anyway, way back on New Year’s Eve2 I decided to make my first-ever lemon pig, a blurry photo of which I now offer for your amusement. Behind him (his name is Punkin, don’t ask) is the Rocket figurine the Princess brought back from Hawaii for me.

“Of all the Guardians,” she said, “I think you’re most like him.”

I mean, I’d prefer to be Gamora, but we all know I’m a filthy-mouthed raccoon with a love of firepower, penchant for mayhem, and a million self-defensive reflexes instead. No shame in admitting what one is.

It is, after all, the first step in trying to be better.

So. Punkin and Rocket bid you a happy New Year, and beg you to wash your hands, wear your mask, hydrate, take a deep breath, and look after yourself (and each other) as best you can.

Interesting times certainly are… interesting, aren’t they.

See you next week, beloveds.

Create, Innate… Cookie?

Not the cookies in question, but still good.

Yesterday was… an experience. I was already exhausted, unable to sleep Tuesday night; I finally got up, let the dogs out and fed them, and grabbed my phone on the way back to bed, thinking I could at least have a bit of a lie-in.

Boy, was I wrong.

I found out white supremacist terrorists were rioting in federal and state capitols, egged on by their Dear Orange Leader. It was unsurprising–I did, after all, write a whole book about this back in 2015–but still terrifying.

I’ve read history. I know what could happen, what’s likely to happen. I don’t mind telling you I’m not sanguine about any of this. Most of all, I’m pretty sure none of the racist fuckwads attempting a coup for their Tangerine Twitler will suffer any real consequences.

The Princess was home from work, too, and had glanced at the news early in the morning–then remained fixed to it, horrified. Every time some-damn-thing else happened, one of us would call down the hallway. The Prince, busy with distance-learning, spent the entire day holed up in his room with schoolwork, and consequently had only faint intimations of trouble until we all convened for dinner. I was glad both of my children were safe and home where I could see them. Probably irrational, but powerfully comforting nonetheless.

What I really want to talk about, though, is chocolate chip cookies.

The day ended, for me, with hugging my children–though both of them are much taller than I am now, they still find comfort in Mum’s closeness–and reassuring them. Reminding each other to breathe, reminding them that we have plans in case things go haywire, reminding ourselves that we’re in fact extremely privileged and lucky. I retreated to bed hoping against hope for some sleep.

Helped by exhaustion (and, let’s face it, a dose of Tylenol PM) I did manage to pass out. My dreams were feverish, ending with some guy in a flying lawn chair swooping through neighborhood backyards. (I don’t know, don’t ask me.) And when I resurrected in the clear light of dawn to take the dogs out once more, there were chocolate chip cookies on the dining-room table.

“Yeah,” the Princess muttered, when she shuffled out of her bedroom for breakfast. “World’s on fire. Figured I’d bake.”

“The cookies,” I said, through a thick fog of pre-caffeination, “didn’t exist before, now they do. We’ll eat them and they’ll be part of us forever. You made something out of other things. That’s just so cool, and it doesn’t have to be monetized although we’re trapped in late-stage capitalism.”

My daughter grinned, in the particular way that means she understands but can’t resist poking me. “Get some coffee, Mum.” She paused. “I love you.”

Kids, man.

Really, they weren’t just cookies. They were a cry in the face of destruction, a hope for something better, a way to say I love you not just to me but to her brother as well, a soothing reminder that we can build and make and do things that weren’t there before.

Creativity–making things–is powerful and healing at the same time. Making something that wasn’t there before is an old, old human magic, and so innate we overlook it. Magic is changing consciousness at will (thank you, Aleister, you were a jerk but you did have a way with words sometimes) but it’s also willing something into existence. The human capacity to create is natural as breathing; we take it for granted. And it’s also therapeutic when some assholes seem determined to be as hateful and murderous as possible.

Creating doesn’t have to be monetized, it doesn’t have to be a side gig. It’s a natural human function performed in a hundred little ways each day. It’s also a powerful way to say fuck you to those murderous, treasonous assnuts who like to poison themselves, not to mention the rest of us, with racism and violence.

I have a whole rant about how choosing that poison means throwing away their humanity, but now’s not the time.

If you’re utterly exhausted by all this, if you can’t look away, if you can’t seem to focus on much else, well, welcome to the club. Don’t beat yourself up over it! It is an utterly reasonable response to this fuckery. And this is not a call for you to drag yourself forth and have to deal with one more thing. You don’t have to make something right now. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy.

I’m just saying there are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, because the Princess made them. People are making things, people are sticking together, lots of people are staying home to protect others during a pandemic and lots of people are trying like hell to do something, anything, whatever they can to make the world a little better.

We outnumber the racist, destructive, poisonous assnuts. We always have. The news is dire and the situation is bad, and (not but, AND) the human capacity to care and to create is so innate, so reflexive, that we’re still making and doing and caring for each other despite that. It’s natural and sane to feel overwhelmed right now. It’s also natural and sane to make something if you’ve the urge and the energy. Both are okay.

That’s what I’m clinging to, this first Thursday of 2021. There are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, and once consumed they’ll be part of us forever. It doesn’t feel like a lot when I stare at the news, I’ll admit.

It’s still important, and still a comfort.

Over and out.

Back To Work, 2021

It’s a totally new year1 and already I’m irritated. I mean, I knew the companies who said “we’re gonna help you during the pandemic” really don’t want to help anyone but themselves, but it’s still galling to see just how true that maxim is. *sigh*

Also, I woke up this morning with Toto’s Roseanna stuck in my head, which is faintly disturbing since I haven’t listened to that song in literal years. I have CaballĂ© singing Norma to wash the interior of my skull clean, but I’m not sure it’ll work. I do have a run this morning, and my exercise playlist is full of catchy stuff, so that’ll probably help.

I just… Toto? Why? The wiring inside my brain is a mystery even unto me, and I’m carrying the whole damn apparatus around.

I took the time between the 25th and New Year’s mostly off; I did finish the zero of The Black God’s Heart‘s first book. This week is all about getting that draft free of bracketed notes and sent off the the editor with queries, some notes, and a suggestion about cover art. I normally don’t do that last; I’m dismal at visual stuff. But I’ve got something good, something I think will really do well for the book(s), and I’m excited to share it.

I did spend some time cogitating restlessly upon a problem in the crisis of HOOD‘s third season, which will be solved in the writing I’m sure but it wouldn’t be a Lili book if I didn’t endlessly agonise over things like that. And I wanted to take a crack at writing a Viking werewolf gothic, but the story isn’t claustrophobic enough for a gothic since all the Tolkien I’ve been reading has crept inside and made itself at home.

I mean, I’m not mad, but I would have liked to be at least consulted about this change of plans.

I know, I know–that’s not the Muse’s style.

Anyway, there’s HOOD‘s Season Three to finish, Black God’s to brush up, and then I send a few chapters of the Viking werewolves to my agent because I think it’s got some legs. It would be nice to get something else sold soon, even if only on proposal.

I used to wait until I had the entire book written, but lately I’ve been working more on proposal. Either way there’s fierce performance anxiety, but after however-many years in the biz, I’ve come to the realization that there will be the same amount of anxiety no matter how I arrange the damn thing, so… yeah. Might as well just live with it.

I’m not going to proffer any wishes for the New Year. For one thing, I’m just too exhausted and glad (Maybe? Is that the word?) to have survived 2020 to scrape up any celebration or good thoughts. I hate the holidays, and long to go back to that short time in my life when I could just hide until they were all over.

Anyway. Our Eve was very quiet, except for the people setting off (illegal) fireworks, but those got rained out in short order just after midnight. It’s not like I quite blame them–after surviving pandemic and ongoing fascist coup, I might’ve wanted to blow some shit up too–but it was unpleasant for both the dogs and my nerves, and I won’t deny a single cackle slipping from my lips when the downpour started and the crackles, booms, bangs, and fizzes were abruptly cut off.

No, I’m not going to offer any wishes. Instead I’m going to say congratulations, my friends. We survived. Lots of people didn’t and we still haven’t had a chance to mourn. We’re still here, and still going. As Stitch so memorably said, “Little, and broken. But still good. Yes, still good.”

…I have not only woken up with Toto in my head, but I’m quoting Disney movies. Time for a run, then to get to work.

It’s a whoooole new yeeeeeear, after all. *strangles the Aladdin theme inside head, runs away screaming*

Last Monday, 2020 Edition

It’s the last Monday in 2020. I just read John Scalzi’s reflection on the year–my own is closely parallel. On paper, it wasn’t a massively bad trip around the sun. Our day to day life didn’t change much with lockdown, except for my son not going into the building for his last year of school. (Frankly, he likes home learning better. So would I, in his shoes.) I have a new agent, I sold some books. We’re largely still healthy here.

But that’s on paper. Out here where the rest of me lives, 2020’s been almost as stressful as buying the house, or the terrible Divorce Year. At least during Divorce Year and house-buying I had some kind of goal, I knew things would Get Better.

2020 has given me no such assurance. I’m forced to regard simply surviving the year as a badge of honor, and even if 2021 is worse we can be proud of surviving its predecessor.

At least, so I think.

I spent Boxing Day through the weekend doing what I could to refill the creative well, including a little bit on the Viking werewolf gothic story. It may turn out less “gothic” and more epic, but for right now I’m just playing, using it as a break from HOOD and Black God’s Heart. It’s always good to have an unsold book to make other projects jealous of.

Christmas was… difficult. There are good years and bad years, and this particular year was dragged over bare wires, the insulation stripped free.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be in-office before the official end of the year. I just want to hide in my closet, preferably with a bag of edibles, until 2020 is gone. I’m not the girl in a horror movie who comes out when she thinks it’s quiet, oh no. I’m staying in the bloody hiding spot until well after the credits. A final chase through the house might be in the script, but they’re gonna have to get another girl for that. I’m done.

The dogs don’t care about such things as calendars, and it’s a good thing, too. They know only that the Time of Ham (a blessed time that always happens in winter, its lore passed down from one dog to the next) is almost past and the Time of Running While Swearing At All These New People On The Road is about to begin. Things won’t calm down and get back to normal until the first week of March or so, when all the people who are going to continue running have found their routes and the rest have decided–probably wisely–to stay home. By then Boxnoggin will be used to running on my right side, and hopefully we’ll have less gravel to pick out of my skin.

Hopefully.

I have grand plans of wordcount today, but I’m not sure I’ll get there. I might celebrate it being the last Monday by continuing to poke at the Viking story. The protagonist has a very strong voice in that one, and I’m sure there might be a troll or two. In other words, big fun.

We’re in the home stretch. Be careful and hydrate, my friends. I’d hate to lose you now. If we’re trudging for the end of the year, at least we’re not doing it alone.

*wanders away muttering about standing stones*