A Dawn Refused

Woke up to the very last (I should think, I hope) proof queries for The Bloody Throne, which I answered and sent back while absorbing coffee. The series has had a particularly difficult birth, what with orphaning (though my editors have all been stellar) and pandemic, but I think–or I fondly hope–it has come through all right. Mostly due to my beloved and long-suffering sensitivity readers, I suspect.

In any case, I won’t heave a sigh of relief until the author’s copies come, because that will mean it’s really-for-true done, not just sort-of-done.

Tuesday started with a rosy dawn, a clutch of work coming down the pike, and some very excited dogs. Both B and Boxnoggin are prancing about, eager to get to walkies; Boxnoggin in particular has already barked his fool head off at a delivery once this morning and, I suspect, cannot wait to get strapped into his harness and cause some kind of mischief outside the house.

I’ve a newsletter to get out, some more Hell’s Acre to write–Gemma, I think, has an uncomfortable interview with the director of an orphanage and then is accosted at dinner–and some She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to get done too. (The antagonists are arguing, the hero is tied to a post, and I think I know how this scene ends but I could be wrong…) All in all, it’s a very busy day, and I’m…

[[time passes]]

…I had to get up twice to calm Boxnoggin down. He is just beside himself this morning, since the aforesaid delivery came much earlier than expected and consequently constitutes a Change. And, of course, for this dog–even more than for usual canines–ALL CHANGE IS BAD. Even good change causes him a great deal of upset. He’s as nervous as a tired toddler, all the damn time.

Poor fellow. I do my best to keep everything calm and even for him, but sometimes even a human with opposable thumbs and a swollen prefrontal cortex can’t deal with everything, sheesh.

I suppose that’s my cue to get my teeth brushed and the silly fur-covered critters ambled. Boxnoggin’s not going to rest until he gets me out the door, and Miss B’s getting into the act as well. It’s a wonder I get anything done with these fuzzy-ass toddlers “supervising” every breath.

At least I was able to lie in bed for about ten minutes while dawn tiptoed through the east, and could see a slice of pink clouds through my window. Rising with the sun is never my favorite thing, so being able to throw an arm over my eyes–peeking out every once in a while to see the beauty–and refuse to do so was pleasant indeed. Alas, I was coaxed out of my warm bed (for a certain value of coax, Boxnoggin is really earning his “von Titzpunch” title lately) and set upon the day, so I suppose I’d best get to the next thing on the to-do list.

I keep giving longing glances at the new baseball bat, but I can’t practice with it inside. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Ah well.

We are embarked upon Tuesday, my beloveds. Please keep all limbs inside the carriage, and don’t look too closely at Wednesday’s formlessness in the distance. (The abyss tends to look back into one, and that’s never comfortable.) Make sure you’re buckled in, and remember, just getting through the day is a victory in and of itself. Take the win, no matter how small, where you find it.

Over and out.

Fatigue and Corpse(s)

It’s a damp, quiet morning, though Boxnoggin has taken it into his Very Square Head to provide entertainment. Instead of a Super Bowl halftime show, he decided throwing up in my bedroom was necessary.

In other words, he stole Miss B’s rawhide yesterday like the greedyguts he is, and now he’s reaping the reward of a sensitive stomach. I’d simply say “sucks to be you, my little fuzzy friend,” except I’m the one on cleanup duty.

Dogs, man. Never a dull moment.

I attempted some time off after finishing The Bloody Throne proofs; it hasn’t really gone as planned. For one thing, I am very bad at not working; for another, all sorts of stuff had to get done and I was the only person who could do it. So, after a lot of reformatting and a dose of uploading, a hardback distribution experiment, and some subscription prep just to round everything out, it’s the day I had scheduled for a return to regular work…

…and I’m bloody exhausted, still. It’s my own fault, I can’t blame anyone else. I am just very bad at resting. Besides, who can “rest” when their very sweet (but not at all bright) dog is having nervous tummy incidents? I’m just glad it hasn’t been a Both Ends Cleanup Situation.

Roadtrip Z

Oh, and I’ve some news! Since we’re in the middle of my very favorite month, Season One of Roadtrip Z, COTTON CROSSING, is $2.99 across ebook retailers—Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Kobo—until Halloween! (If you’re buying the book through my Gumroad store, use the code SPOOPY2021 at checkout to get a matching discount.)

Zombie stories are traditional this time of year, right? Might as well have a four-season epic through a snowy wasteland full of chewing, shuffling undead to celebrate.

Today is for dog walkies, probably walking my own silly corpse–since there was very little in the way of sleep last night due to someone’s tummy upset, running is out of the question unless I want to risk an injury spurred by fatigue-fog–and easing into a week or so of catching up with Hell’s Acre and She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero1 until I have to start revisions on The Black God’s Heart. After that, well, there’s Klemp’s book to write2, not to mention Jake’s book3, and then the second book in the Tolkien Viking Werewolves trilogy4.

But before all that, I’m going to make myself a second jolt of coffee and look out my office window at the rain for a while. I still can’t believe we made it through summer. The heat seemed to last forever and was paradoxically done in a flash, like water on a red-hot pan. I’m glad to be back in jumpers and hoodies, not to mention warm socks.

Now if I could just get the dogs to cooperate, I could burrow into my covers and catch up on sleep, right? Right?

Oh, fine, keep laughing, you know it’s impossible as well as I do. Guess I’ll just keep staggering along, and queue up the Barenaked Ladies’s Who Needs Sleep? A little dancing around the office will provide some short-term energy.

I will not be swinging around the new baseball bat while I do so, though. That sounds like an operation needing a modicum of mental sharpness, and today I feel very blunt indeed. I’ve still got to figure out how to strap it to my back in a quick-release harness, then I can go running in style and safety.

There are things to look forward to, even now. I wish you a pleasant Thursday, my beloveds.

(But you’re gonna have to get your own bat…)

Away From the Edge

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I woke up with two things this morning: Crystal Gayle singing in my head, and the deep need for caffeine. The latter is pretty much a constant; the former hasn’t happened in my memory. But here we are.

The air is heavy–there is supposed to be a great deal of rain today. The dogs are waiting for walkies, the Princess is baking challah (she just felt like it last night, I guess), Horace de Brassiere performed signal service in giving me sweet caffeine, and I have yet more proofs to get eyeballed today.

They should be very light–doing the first top-level scan yesterday returned encouraging signs. Still, it’s around 650 pages of “this is your last chance, look for errors.” Of course there are going to be typos left, there always are.

A book is a complex endeavour, after all.

I think I’ve crawled hand-over-hand out of a very deep hole. Now I’m lying on the rim, gasping and grateful, trying not to think about what might have happened. I could still be yanked in, of course–that sort of deep whistling absence creates a pull of its own. But for the moment I’m safe, and in a little while I might have the energy and wherewithal to roll away from the edge.

At the moment, I’m just glad I’m not hanging by teeth and toenails, hearing the hungry unsound below me.

Which is sort of why I’m retreating into myself so hard this October. I’ve cleared all “social” engagements and put a couple extensions and the like in my (recently changed) browser to block some aspects of social media. It’s time for solitary spoopy month.

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The funny thing is, I have that belt…

Oh, and before I forget, the ebook omnibus edition of everyone’s favorite hellbreed hunter is $2.99 across retailers for a short while–BN/Nook, Kobo, Amazon, and Apple.

I’m trying–spurred by friends and my beloved agent–to do a little more marketing lately. The social weight against anything that can be seen as “blowing one’s own horn” (so to speak) is immense, especially for women. But I gather it’s expected, and I really should do more of it…so, again, here we are.

Plus, there are often some really good deals. And I really like the omnibus cover, though Jill would snort and say the pants wouldn’t hold up to a fight with a Trader, let alone a ‘breed, and Saul would cough a little and grin.

Weres, man.

In any case, the dogs have had their post-awakening nap and are very into the idea of walkies now. I am being summoned, but they’re going to have to wait until I choke down some breakfast toast.

By the time I get back from walkies and the (short, but definite) run scheduled for today, there should be challah in the oven. Which isn’t bad at all for a Tuesday.

Time to slither a few inches away from the edge and get started on the day. See you around, my beloveds.

A Frail Fence

It’s October, which means I’m on a true-crime jag. True crime books, while horrific, also have endings. One can pretend there is some kind of meaning or narrative structure to horrid events, or to life itself.

Given that we’re dealing with ongoing pandemic and fascist soft-coup, the idea of a neat ending, of some kind of sense to be made of all this, is comforting. It’s akin to watching horror movies for catharsis. At the end of a horror movie, one can go back to one’s own life–a little more cautious, perhaps, but still, one has returned.

It’s better than just looking at the mess, throwing one’s hands up in despair, and walking into the sea. At least, I think it’s better. Time will tell.

Anyway, I reread some Ann Rule this weekend, and a first edition of Michaud & Ayenesworth’s The Only Living Witness. Michaud did not like Rule, and seems rather upset that she had some success.1 Reading his jabs at her is super annoying. It’s also interesting to see how different editions of the book morphed.

Today’s work is all about the proof pass on the third (and final, yes, it’s the last one) Hostage to Empire book. When I have a cover and all that it’ll be posted. I’m hopeful that the proof pass will be light. It’s not the book’s fault it was written under such harsh conditions, or that I will be relieved to see the last of it.

I plan to submerge pretty hard to get a great deal of work done before the end of the (formal) year.2 The weather is cooperating, with a heavy veil of beautiful grey cloud. It will be nice to settle on the couch with a cuppa and the proofs, while the dogs cuddle close.

Sometimes I complain about this career, but never for very long. I suspect I am deeply unfit for an office job (let alone retail) anymore, since I have no patience for interpersonal bullshit and am very used to going at my own pace, whether the frantic bursts of six months’ work crammed into two weeks or the short dormant periods. A lot of what happens in formal offices is makework, very much like the security theater happening at airports. It doesn’t make anyone safer, but it does tighten the grip of a petty, middle-managing bureaucracy.

At least the physical symptoms of burnout are receding, slowly but surely. The few days of insomnia were a gauntlet to run, and I’m feeling much better.

Well, “much” is kind of relative, given where I started. But the scratchy throat and full nose have retreated, and the exhaustion is manageable. My running mileage has taken a hit, but short runs more frequently aren’t a bad thing. I’m in the game long-term, and the long game means small incremental gains are perfectly acceptable.

The compost heap also needs turning, and the garden to be readied for winter. Which will provide a nice antidote to the firehose of bad news. I feel terrible that I simply can’t stand to be hooked up to said hose at the moment; it feels like a betrayal. Still, nothing and nobody is served by me staring paralyzed at the horror of our current situation.

And with that, ’tis time to embark upon Monday. The dogs are extremely ready for walkies, coffee needs to be finished, a short run had, and the day stretches before me like heavy mist. There might be a little homemade focaccia left over from yesterday’s baking, which will be extremely welcome around lunchtime.

Small things to look forward to. I suppose they’re all I have at this point, but they’re enough. A frail fence against the despair, but a fence nonetheless.

Over and out.

Tornado, and Historical Murder

There was an actual tornado in the area last night–“weak”, they say, but even a tiny one is no joke. The dogs didn’t even hear any thunder; I know this because if they had, Boxnoggin would have been pressed as close as possible to me, shaking so hard the entire bed quivered. The poor fellow does not like skybooms.

He’ll adjust to falling water, but noise is a different story. It doesn’t help that he has fennec-style ears, poor thing. The loudest event we had chez nous was a dead branch falling from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir early in the day, which hit a table and broke one of the planters on it.

I was going to harvest the epazote soon anyway.1

Summer has officially been broken, and not a moment too soon. I was about to desiccate into dust. I did get about a hundred pages of copyedits eyeballed yesterday, while listening to Anonymous 4, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé. It was quiet and lovely, but I had to knock off early to make dinner.

I also finished Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and now I need to get everything else she’s written. People who say history is boring haven’t read enough of the good stuff, and there seems a positive conspiracy, both in the school system and out of it, to make ‘what happened before now’ as dry and droning as possible. I think it’s because people who know their history are forewarned about the bullshit kleptocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and authoritarians pull, so said ‘crats and dictators seek to control it–and make it boring–as a matter of course.

In any case, that particular book was a joy to read2, and is full of crunchy historical events and analysis. I am tempted to take another running leap at Homo Necans now that I’ve got Southon’s book under my belt, to compare, contrast, and do some pleasant deep thinking about. An active reading life is somewhat like a spiral; engaging with a book may lead one to a deeper understanding of a previous text, which just happens to be one of my very favourite things.

Of course, I might not have the energy for more than a few pages before I pass out, either on the couch or in bed. Whatever this is–and the current diagnosis is indeed burnout, since I’ve not lost my sense of smell, there’s no fever, and the scratchy-throat is going down–it has robbed me of the will to attempt anything more complex than simply hanging onto the edge of my day with teeth and fingernails, getting the absolute minimum of work done so I don’t fall too far behind.

And I hate it. I positively loathe not being able to work at my accustomed speed. It puts me in quite a temper, or it would if I had the energy to be peeved instead of grimly determined.

In any case, I’ve a limited amount of pep today, and most of it needs to be spent knocking out more CE pages. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move to the proofs on the third (and final, I get a lot of emails asking about that) Hostage to Empire book.

I loved that series, but writing the third during lockdown and some of the associated problems (not anyone’s fault, not even the Romans3) robbed me of every inch of joy in an achievement. I will be relieved to have it finished, though I know what happens to the characters several years afterward…well, less said about that, the better.

In any case, the minimum for today is another hundred pages of CEs. In order to get there, breakfast must be attempted, the dogs must be walked, and maybe a few kilometers run to shake me into some kind of alertness have to be achieved. Yesterday’s run in the rain was lovely, but also a torment. Still, it did give me enough short-term energy to untangle quite a few commas, ellipses, and copyeditor queries.

Off we go into Tuesday. Hopefully no more tornadoes are lying about, but if they are, well, we’ve a basement. We’ll see how it goes.

Over and out.

Reading All Night

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I’m almost cross-eyed with insomnia, which is on the one hand familiar–I’ve spent a lot of time in this country–and on the other, deeply annoying, since it’s nowadays the exception rather than the rule by dint of sheer hard work. Learning, as an adult, how to relax enough to sleep consistently was difficult indeed, and I know one bad night does not mean I’ll return to my previous state of constant, dreadful hyperawareness.

It’s just hard to remember as much.

It’s been a while since I was up all night reading, by far the most pleasant way to spend such sleeplessness. I finished Cornelius Ryan’s classic The Longest Day, which I’d never read before; I have his A Bridge Too Far and The Last Battle as well and will probably knock off one or both of them today. I don’t think I’ll be able to get much in the way of actual work done, but reading is important too.

It is a continual perplexity and grievance to me that I can’t read in a genre I’m actively writing in, while I’m actively writing in it. If I want to read paranormal romances, I need to stuff them in when I’m not writing them; same for epic fantasy or suspense. My inner editor goes absolutely bonkers and I end up trying to rearrange the text inside my head rather than reading and enjoying it, so I’ve learned to stagger and schedule my reading-for-pleasure. I suppose that’s why I tend to gravitate toward so much history. It’s oddly restful to read what I can’t change and will probably never write.

My productivity is going to take a hit today, but we’re still in a pandemic, so…I’m going to try not to worry much about it. Even my capacity for anxiety is started to break down under current conditions, which says a lot. Fortunately I can write something just for me, tell myself knocking off early to continue aforesaid history reading is research, and go to bed even earlier than usual tonight.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes, being Monday and all.

I suppose I’m still climbing, hand over painful hand, out of a pit of hopelessness. I haven’t quite hit the “everything is absurd and I must laugh to keep from screaming” stage yet, but I was startled into grim amusement during the long slow shoal between three and five a.m., the worse time in my particular insomnia cycle. You see, the thought I could just choose not to care about this went through my head, and the Three A.M. Wiggins, as the “what-ifs” which tend to crowd at that hour has been named chez nous, fled like frightened birds.

At least they didn’t lighten for takeoff like real birds. I felt a great flood of relief, but it was too late to attempt sleeping, so I just turned the light back on and read some more history.

Whether a poor silly human is sleepless or not, the dogs need walking, which means I should probably get some toast and strap said canines into their harnesses, in that order. Another jolt of coffee wouldn’t go amiss either, I’m sure–but that can wait until we get home. It’s a nice chilly morning, fresh and clear since we finally, finally got some rain.

Maybe that was the sleeplessness, my weary corpse glorying in the fact that summer might win one or two rearguard battles but is definitely and irretrievably in retreat. I know it’s many people’s favorite time of year, but I’m always happy to bid it farewell.

All of which is to say, I’m still hanging on, out here at the raggedy edge. One finger slips, then another, but my grasp is still relatively solid.

Relatively. So I’ll go put some toast on, tell the dogs they can wait for brekkie like always, take a deep breath, and start what’s going to be a day filtered through a lens of sleeplessness. Around 3pm it’ll take on the particular underwater wavering, another familiarity, and I’ll start counting down the hours until I can crawl into bed, grateful and hoping for a win at the roulette wheel of unconsciousness.

Monday and I are eyeing each other from foxholes, and I devoutly hope Monday knows the ancient rule of don’t start none, won’t be none. If the day forgets, well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to teach that lesson, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Over and out.

Low End of the Pool

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I can’t decide if I’m feeling this way because some good luck is finally coming ’round the bend, or because I’ve finally hit the end of my ability to deal with the goddamn worldwide dumpster fire. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, really.

Things seem to be shaking loose in a few areas. Pretty much everyone I personally know is vaccinated (except for those under 12, who I am still worrying for with every breath) and that’s one relief. The four books I tested with a certain print distro are all sorted (it only took over two months and too many emails to count, but it’s done) and there should be no more problems there. A couple contracts are wending their way through the process, my kids are both healthy and having a reasonably good time (for some value of “good” in the current state of things) and it appears we might survive some of this relatively intact.

The massive survivor’s guilt hasn’t hit yet, but I can feel its rumblings. Mourning is staved off by numbness, because we are certainly not out of the woods yet and as Jessie Ventura once growled around a wad of tobacco, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” (Yes, I’m too busy ducking.)

I can feel the wave of “Processing Those Emotions, What, You Thought They’d Just Go Away?” lingering in the near distance, like a slo-mo anime explosion. You know the kind–everything is silent, and one watches the approaching shockwave numbly, unable to move. All the grief and anger and anxiety and other tangled emotions I didn’t have time for while sheer survival was the priority are threatening to burst the dam I shoved them behind. I absolutely know the crisis is ongoing, so I keep patching the dam and waiting, waiting, waiting for yet another shoe to drop.

I say this not to complain (much) but so others know they’re not alone. I’m flexible in the face of disaster, I know how to endure–yet even my endurance has its limits, and I’m tired.

I’m so tired.

At the same time I wonder if this feeling is because any good luck at all, for the past *counts on fingers* *gives up* multiple years has been carrying an even bigger load of terrible things behind it. All during Mango Mussolini’s tenure, every inch of hope I had was repeatedly kicked in the teeth, and while it was familiar–I spent my entire childhood that way–it’s still not ideal. Hell, it’s something nobody should have had to suffer, and yet we did.

And it’s still not done. Papaya Pol Pot and his criminal cabal are still fucking things up whenever and wherever they can.

Not only that, but the acute discomfort of knowing we’re privileged, the shameful gratitude I feel because so far my own cohort has escaped relatively lightly, eats at me.

So I’m feeling rather low end of the pool today, my beloveds, and I suspect even my usual panacea–working myself down to the bone–won’t help. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop; the words, after all, must flow. But…again, I’m so goddamn tired.

The dogs know I’m a bit under today, so they are graciously allowing me to finish my coffee with a minimum of canine supervision. It’s a chill morning, but there’s no rain yet, which means Boxnoggin will not step outside and give me a sidelong “what the hell did you DO, mother?” look.

Small mercies, the only kind we get these days. Still, their quality isn’t strained.

If you’re feeling exhausted, my beloveds, if you’re at the end of your rope, if you’re frayed down to a single strand and there’s no real rest anywhere–you’re not alone. There might be some comfort in that. At least, I hope there is.

Just hold onto your end of the line, and I’ll hang onto mine. We’ll get through Thursday together.