Promised Better

Chop wood, carry water.

Yesterday was awful, from the meta (news cycle) to the micro (personal). Even space werewolves didn’t help; I finally threw up my hands and retreated to bed and unconsciousness.

It did me a load of good, even if I did wake up with a Sheryl Crow song playing at top volume inside my head. I made the mistake of looking at the news again, and now I’m at my desk, with coffee, and despairing. Pretty sure the space werewolves aren’t going to be able to help today, either. Crawling back between the covers and attempting some kind of escape sounds amazing, but I don’t have the luxury of stopping. There are things to do today, and work has to go on despite how I feel.

I wouldn’t be so upset if I hadn’t spent literal decades warning everyone I could, but you know that. I feel like a broken record, even more than usual.

So I’ve fed the dog, made coffee, cued up Tuesday Night Music Club, and thanked the stars we’re not suffering a heat wave at the moment. When I’m done with this post I’ll try to eat something, then walk Boxnoggin–he’s not yet attempting to nose me out the door, probably because I’m not even halfway through my caffeine yet and he knows better than to try any bullshit until I’ve at least gotten a few more molecules of go-juice into my bloodstream–and run, then clean up and start the day’s work.

Chop wood, carry water. It could be worse, Sheryl Crow sings. I could have missed my calling. At least there’s the writing. July is right around the corner, and that means I’ll have to shelve the silly space werewolves in favor of the second Tolkien Werewolves book, and use any leftover time to keep chipping at the second Sons of Ymre. I’m sure as soon as I get a good head of steam on any project some kind of edits will land, and then I’ll have to deal with that. Publishing is a giant frustrating merry-go-round of festina lente at the best of times, and this is certainly nowhere near the best.

I was promised a better apocalypse, dammit. I was promised a meteor, winged battle, a giant dragon and a Whore of Babylon. I was promised something more dramatic and satisfying than a bunch of rich, petty, hate-filled bigots killing the rest of us despite decades’ worth of warning, with a still-raging pandemic on top. I’d demand a refund, but of whom? I did everything I could, we’re still fucked, story of my life.

So here we are on the last day of June. I keep working while the ship sinks, waiting for the inevitable. I don’t know what else to say, my beloveds. It’s all I can do to keep breathing.

Chop wood. Carry water.

Keep writing.

Back Into the Cave

The heat finally broke late last night; I was up at 2am to open some windows and staggered back to bed. It will take time to shake off the lethargy from broken sleep and overheating, but at least I might be able to get a decent night’s rest soon.

It’s the little things.

Yesterday was the first time in what felt like ages I could actually get some real work done, and it was lovely. I suppose it helped that I shut the house early and it became a dark, relatively cooler cave, and further helped that I turned on the social-media blocker. (I use Freedom at the moment.) I simply can’t handle the firehose of the world’s pain right now, and especially not after screaming my head off warning people for years and…being ignored.

I know there are some people who did not ignore, and am very grateful for them. I suspect they’re feeling much the same way I am at the moment; I’m hearing a lot of exhaustion. There’s only so many times one can be proven absolutely correct about the oncoming rocks before one lowers one’s expectations to personally and quietly preparing the life boat and saving whatever one can grab. I learned this lesson in my second marriage, which culminated in my second divorce, and you’d think by now I’d simply shrug and move on when my warnings are dismissed.

Largely, I do! But when I see a disaster coming for millions of people, I (perhaps stupidly) think I have some kind of duty to alert those at risk. And I end up getting ignored at best, or kicked in the teeth at worst. It’s profoundly disheartening, and leaves me wondering why the fuck one should bother.

Maybe it’s only temporary weariness, and once I administer some self-care I’ll be ready to re-enter the fray. But…I’m so tired, so drained, and my contributions appear to be regarded as valueless.

Anyway. I have deadlines. Hell’s Acre is going along, the second season is planned out, and come July I’ll be getting That Damn Werelion Book proofed, not to mention starting the second Tolkien Werewolves Book. I begin to sense that last will have a difficult birth, for various reasons, and now I’m behind on Sons of Ymre #2. So the pro-wrestling space werewolves, as healing as I find them, may have to go on the back burner, and I might have to simply shut off all social media and leave the world to its own devices for a while.

It feels like abrogating responsibility. Yet extreme responsibility without corresponding power to fix problems is a recipe for burnout at best. I did everything I could, I wrote a whole-ass book and screamed my head off for literal decades, and…crickets. Now the bitter fruit of that rancid tree is ripe and stinking, and a great many people have the temerity to act shocked, shocked that the whole thing reeks. The deliberate disingenuousness is maddening.

…I’m not saying anything I haven’t said before, but I suppose I’ll let the above paragraph stand. At least there’s a reasonably cool breeze through my office window, the coffee is warm and good, and Boxnoggin cares not a whit for any of this. His Majesty van der Sploot is focused on the upcoming ritual of toast crust in his bowl before setting out on walkies. And then he’ll snore on my bed while I am forced to drag my corpse through a run. No doubt I’ll feel better after exercise, now that the weather’s finally cooperating again.

Are you as tired as I am, my beloveds? I think it’s quite possible. Take a break if you need it and it’s at all possible; nothing will be served by us working ourselves to death. Survival, no matter how bare, is an unqualified victory under these circumstances. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Time to get the toast made and the dog walked. See you around.

Hollowbone Hope

A night of grim insomnia gave way to leaf blowers at 7am, and there’s this big yellow thing in the sky I’m hissing at and hiding from. I’ve been adulting hard lately, and with all the other stuff going on in the world, the cognitive load has me feeling a little loopy.

A little? No, a lot loopy, and last night’s staring into the darkness while brooding might not have helped.

On the other hand, it might have. Certainly I feel calmer now, though that could simply be exhaustion. Either way, I’ll take it.

This morning I’m thinking about little things. I read about someone finding a ladybug in their house during a cold spell, looking up on the internet to see if there was a way to keep it alive until it could be taken back outside. (There is!) The amazing thing is, there were pages of other people asking the same question, which is a hopeful sign for humanity.

I had forgotten what a revelation the internet is, and I’m on it every day. There are whole YouTube channels of therapists giving advice on how to deal with narcissists, breaking down the patterns of abuse and telling one how to protect oneself. Caveat emptor and all, yes, but it’s still a huge improvement over suffering daily abuse in my childhood and teen years, feeling so lonely and isolated self-harm seemed the only option for dealing with the pain. There are so many more choices today, so much more knowledge.

There is the usual caveat–the internet is not ubiquitous, it just feels like it when you’re on it. Accessing all the information presupposes that one has the hardware (and data plan) to do so. At the same time, a rising tide lifts many boats, and plenty of things are now much more common knowledge than they were when I was a teen, or even just a decade ago. Hope, like a weed, stubbornly takes advantage of every crack.

On some level I hate the last monster in Pandora’s box, since it seems merely an invitation to get kicked in the teeth again. (Especially for the past six years…) I know it’s necessary, and yet it hurts so badly I often wish I were immune to its blandishments.

And a certain character in Hell’s Acre is giving me trouble. He insisted on showing up and making cryptic pronouncements, now he’s hanging out on a rooftop and moping. The urge to chuck a story-boulder onto his head to solve the problem is overwhelming, but instead I have to patiently bother and tease until he tells me what his goddamn deal is.

Ah well. As long as I’m frustrated over the imaginary people inside my head, I suppose I’m doing all right.

Oh, and the cordless weed whacker (not euphemism, thank you) works like a charm. I got most of the patio mostly excavated yesterday evening. I can rake the dried stuff away this afternoon and take another pass. It’s much easier than the other trimmer, which had to have an extension cord I was deathly afraid of getting tangled or cut. Technology, my stars and garters. We could do such wonderful things, us humans, if a malignant minority of us wasn’t given so much power and petting.

I’m contemplating another quad shot of espresso with brekkie, just to get some of the cottonwool out of my poor benighted skull. No run today, since going out after a terrible insomniac night is simply asking for injury, but I can fire up the yoga app and have it take me through a few sun salutations. (Another marvelous innovation.) Boxnoggin is slowly settling into being the only dog in the house; he doesn’t seem to be grieving so hard he needs a companion. Some dogs don’t; we may be a single-canine house for a while.

And whoever was running the leaf blowers seems to have finished their project, so there’s that. I’m sure someone else will start up with blowers elsewhere in the neighborhood soon, and if they don’t the pressure-washer brigade will be out. (I’m amazed some people have any driveways left, the way they blast them.) But for the moment there is a bit of peace, and I can shuffle for the toaster at a slow but steady pace.

The little things. I stalk them, pounce, hold the few moments’ worth of good feeling to my chest, treasure its gilded hide and hollow bones before opening my claws, one by one, to let them flutter elsewhere.

Here’s to the chance that can get me (all of us, really) through the day.

Worlds and Vessels

Woke up with a great silence inside my chest instead of pain. I think it’s emotional exhaustion; I would worry over it, but I can’t scrape up the wherewithal.

Boxnoggin is adjusting to becoming the only canine in the house. He seems to like it more than Bailey ever did. I’m watching carefully, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong. Certainly it’s a rather large change and he’s no longer being directed by a bossy Aussie with far more mental horsepower than he could ever dream of–Box is very loving, and sometimes cunning when chasing a squirrel, but otherwise his brain is two wet sticks, occasionally finding each other long enough to rub together and produce a thin curl of smoke. It’s not a bad thing, he certainly doesn’t seem to feel any lack.

It’s just…different. He likes the longer walks, he eats with gusto, he does his best to remind his humans of the more important things in life, like chest-rubs and toy games. He cuddles up to me at night and won’t let me out of bed in the morning without some solid cuddle-time, either. It helps both of us, I think.

I’ve got to get back to work. A skeleton-scene in Hell’s Acre was done yesterday, but it needs something, I’m just not quite sure what. I know what the point of the scene is–the overt antagonist is both fishing for information on the heroine and also looking to rub another character’s nose in some rather ugly personal history, while said other character’s aim is to unsettle and irritate the overt antagonist enough that he doesn’t clue into the fact that the heroine is, in fact, not merely a penniless schoolteacher from Gaul with an uncanny resemblance to a certain long-dead lady. So there are competing agendas here, and the scene needs another whack to get the dialogue settled, the exposition trimmed, and the bloody plot advanced.

Not only that, but a hundred pages of line edits were merrily taken care of. Startlingly, the books undergoing this last pass before CEs are…not terrible? The last time I sent them in to the editor I devoutly hoped never to see them again, but they’re not so bad as all that. In fact, one could say they’re rather…well, they seem good, which is a distinct relief. This is part of the process when bringing a book to publication. It’s a relief on the one hand–feeling that one’s work is stupid, useless, and janky after one’s gone through several editing passes is awful even though I know it always happens, it’s just a phase–but also sad, because it means the book is moving away from being one of my own private worlds, going out to become part of others’. There’s almost a mourning in it, though I know that in the end, when the book is out and I pick it up years later in order to refresh my memory or chase down a particular reference, I will find out that plenty of it remains entirely private and personal. There’s so, so much Readers never see–they only get the part of the iceberg that shows above the waterline. The rest, the vast mass underneath, is all mine, always.

So while I’m numb I can get some work done, though I have to push relatively hard to get through the internal static. Everything takes thrice as long when I’m in this state, because I have to be very careful I don’t just throw up my hands and say, “Fuck it, good enough.” That would be a disservice to Readers, let alone to the work itself. At least while I’m in another world I’m not thinking about the pain and mess in this one. Certainly it echoes, and those other worlds are crucial vessels for transmuting said mess and pain into other things, but I get a break from the suffering. A momentary escape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Tolkien’s assertion that it’s our duty to escape reality sometimes, and to take others with us. As a writer I’m unable to look away, and I’m also unable to stop transforming the world I see, at least in fiction. Between those two paradoxical poles is the balance any creative has to keep.

Like riding a bike. The knowledge never goes away, echoing in the body, but it’s also a gate to memory. A gate one is shoved ruthlessly through when one climbs aboard, naturally.

In any case the coffee is finished, brekkie needs to be scorched and consumed, and there’s walkies as well as a run to drag myself through. Then I can slither into the work for a while and find some relief. That will be nice.

Let’s hope Tuesday behaves rather as Monday did, for once. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but…here we are.

Onward and inward, I suppose. Excelsior, and all that.

Flood Stage, Numb

Woke up to find out some Reply Guys had found my massive thread1 on watching the Netflix documentary about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. I really shouldn’t check social media before coffee; my patience for mansplainers, sealions, and red herrings is at an all-time low before caffeine works through my tissues.

Of course, it’s never really high to begin with, so…yeah. I used to respond patiently when I responded at all, but to hell with that. If you’re going to ask me for emotional labor or try to roll a barrel of bad-faith bullshit, you’re going to get ignored OR get the unfiltered response you deserve.

The rain has slacked off a bit, and the river is at flood stage. I think the numbness of grief has passed, and now I’m tetchy. The fact that I have to get back to bloody work doesn’t help. I mean, work is the only thing that’s going to save me, and it’s the only thing making me feel better now…and yet.

And yet.

I have those bloody line edits to get underway–I’m glad I asked for the extra time, good job, Past Lili–and Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention, loving or otherwise. The board is set and the pieces are moving there, and today I have to write Rexton (the overt antagonist) visiting the Greatfather of Taurrock. Neither of them are going to be happy with the result of that visit, I think. Of course I could not care less what Rexton feels, but the Greatfather is a tragic case.

Before that, though, there’s walkies and a run to get through, not to mention finishing the damn coffee. On the bright side, my cinnamon tea should arrive today, and depending on when it does I might be able to have a cuppa and see if I like it. And I spent most of yesterday doing housework and reading Way of the House Husband. It’s rare that I like an anime as much as I like a manga, or vice versa, but in this case I find both utterly charming. I can’t wait for Volume 8.

Oh, and Friday’s Tea with Lili is up on YouTube; it’s about hating your heroes and the duty to escape. I’m getting a flood of questions about the Valentine series lately, so I might answer some of those in the next tea. We’ll see.

…I suppose I should bloody well get on with it. The line edits won’t do themselves, more’s the pity, and I need to work ahead on the serial a bit in order to be comfortable. I would like to do a bit more in the Space Werewolves story, but at this point it’s procrastination instead of actual work and I’ve got to Be Responsible. (Bother.) Which means I shall bring this to a close, bolt the last remaining swallow of coffee, and get some bread in the toaster since running on an empty stomach isn’t allowed any more.

As it gets older, the body takes its vengeance. Poor thing, it’s had enough of my hijinks.

Happy Monday, everyone. May we all get through intact. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for…

A Smaller Sun

The name’s Ra. Ra Nunculus.

I woke up sick with dread, literally nauseous with anticipating yet more bullshit today.

Hyperempathy is a great tool for writing characters. It’s far less great while living under late-stage capitalism in a failing state run by sociopaths and those who collude with them. The worst part of this is a repeat of the exact hopelessness I used to feel as a child trapped in an abusive household. The people hurting me enjoyed my pain and weren’t going to stop. I was encouraged–by school, by television, by songs–to attempt saving myself. I was told I could and should tell teachers or other “authority figures” and the abuse would stop. That it was my duty to say something.

So I did. And nothing happened, except “being sent home to be beaten again because I’d dared to say something.”

The very worst part about this is twofold. The people we voted in at great cost to stop the bloodshed and agony have done and will do nothing except empty posturing to please the sociopaths we hired them to stop. And I have screamed myself hoarse, warning everyone I can as I am told it is my duty to do…and I’ve been mocked, belittled, and outright ignored. You’re overreacting, you’re too emotional, typical female, whatta librul, shut up or I’ll hit you again.

Four and a half decades of being kicked in the teeth when one tries to do something about injustice, about pain, about the rancid hatemongers who are abusing all of us, wears on one. I’m tired. So, so tired.

At least the dogs are reasonable. At least the trees are kind, and the buttercups and daisies do not hurt me. The smaller suns–waxy yellow ranunculus, the dot in the center of a bellis blossom–warm me, whispering in their tiny voices, concerned only with enough light, enough water, enough dark to rest in. Kindness is the lowest and simplest energy state.

I don’t know what to do. All I feel is dread and weary revulsion. The world is so beautiful, yet there is a slice of humanity that will not stop until they have violated, stabbed, broken, and shat upon every piece of it. And the rest of us, who outnumber them by orders of magnitude, will apparently do…nothing, even as the entire planet cries out in pain. No one is coming to save us, and apparently the vast mass will not bestir to save themselves, and will even savagely maul those who attempt to do the bare minimum of describing and warning of the problem.

I’m enduring, I suppose. I have to believe that telling stories, even the ones that are ignored, is important. I have to somehow believe that providing single, solitary people a few hours’ worth of relief from the mass of violence and hatred is important, because it’s all I can do.

It’s all I’ve ever been able to do.

I don’t want this. I never wanted this. Walking into the forest–or the sea–and never coming back would be preferable to this. I am trapped here, and must endure as best I can, continue working as long as I can. But oh, please, dear gods, I am so tired.

And I feel nothing–nothing–but the world’s pain.

Pain and deep, nauseated dread.

That’s all.

Non-Sleep, Reflecting Light

I can’t blame the eclipse, or anything other than the chewing of my brain on itself, for last night’s lack of sleep. Sam Phillips’s Reflecting Light was playing nonstop inside my skull while bits of stories cascaded around, some merging, others breaking apart. Sometimes that happens; the leaves fall in a thick blanket, ready to drift against tree-roots and nourish other saplings.

At least my spine crack-popped every time I rolled over, so my back feels a lot better. Something must have loosened up, and it’s about damn time.

It’s a bright morning, outright sunny in patches, with a damp spring wind. We’re almost to the time of year when a few open windows provide all the climate control the inside of the house needs. Which means Boxnoggin will be beside himself with glee, keeping track of every stray noise and breeze, trotting down the hall to inform me of every change in the neighborhood, leading me out into the living room to witness whatever’s happening in the street.

I think it’s also how he ensures I get enough breaks during the working day. Boxnoggin is an inveterate believer in stopping to smell the roses. And the bushes. And the pavement. And everything else.

Revisions on Klemp’s book (the second Ghost Squad novel) are still underway. I still have no real title for it, but that’s a quandary that doesn’t need solving until later. I want to title it Duty but I don’t want the rest of the series locked into D-words. (Of course, Jackson’s book could be titled Douchebag because he’s a little…problematic. But problematic heroes are fun!) I might just end up titling it what it wants and breaking convention with Tax’s book, which comes next–but I don’t have to write that until I’ve finished the second Sons of Ymre.

No shortage of work, which is of course how I like it.

A thin, trembling calm has descended upon me. Maybe it’s pulling back from social media, maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s building my running mileage back up after bad weather and injury kept me a little more housebound than I’d like. Whatever’s responsible, I don’t care. I’m too busy using the breathing space. And Miss B is still holding steady, though every day I wonder if the inevitable slide downhill will begin again.

She’s eager for walkies, and if I run my own weary corpse today there’s a higher chance of actual sleep tonight. Maybe it’s the weather change keeping me from crawling into sleep’s deep country. Maybe I don’t want to miss out on what time I have left with Miss B. Maybe it’s hormones, or stress. Regardless, I absolutely will not go back to insomnia. Driving myself into the ground has always worked before, so that’s the order of the day. An immense amount of work cries out to be done, and I’m just the mad writer to do it.

At least it’s not still Monday. Yesterday felt bloody endless. A fresh new day with a whole new set of mistakes to make looms.

I suppose I’d best get started.