A Concrete Win

I needed a win, so I took Saturday entirely off working and bent my back to the remaining seventeen bags of concrete. In other words, I finished the damn patio. It took most of the day and my legs are still rubbery–each bag is 80lbs dry and mixing that shit with water is thankless work–but it’s done. Done, done, done.

And it looks nice, if I do say so myself. The bench will be on the other side once the fresh concrete cures enough to support it, and I might even get myself one of those bowl-type firepit things to roast a marshmallow or two over. And now, of course, the guys doing yard work won’t mow down my hostas and other stuff that will be grown in the empty patches. I can plant bulbs this fall, too.

Come spring, the garden will look…well, not exactly as I envisioned, because there’s always that space between desire and execution, but close enough that I can consider it, once again, a win.

I like that feeling. So, despite my legs being too shredded for a run today–a ramble with the canines and some yoga are all they can handle today–I am content, and ready to go back to kicking this epic fantasy’s ass.

I also got all my Sunday housecleaning chores done, despite moving slow as a damaged locomotive. I had momentum, sure, and I knew where to go, it just took me a little while of chugging to get there.

Each victory’s paid for in a different way, of course. And when my legs recover they’ll be stronger. Until then, I hobble out onto the deck every once in a while and look down at the patio…and feel good.

Heat, Hood, Cool

Robin Hood
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Almost every window is open, the birds are furiously attempting to entice mates, and this morning’s run was a little too warm for my comfort or B’s. Nevertheless, we stuck to shaded routes, saw a number of crow feathers–it must be molting season–and Miss B is no longer looking around the house for Trundles constantly. (Just frequently.) She seems to have consigned his whereabouts to the large pile of mysteries she knows she is not to worry about, mysteries meant for Mum who seemingly controls all things.

I wish I were as easily soothed.

In any case, she’s sacked out in the hallway, enjoying the cool. Soon it’ll be time to close the house up and turn the AC on, turning the entire structure into a dark cave. I’ll miss the birdsong, but heat is definitely not my friend. Ever since that one time in San Diego when I got heat exhaustion so bad I thought I’d die1 I’ve been sensitive to the mercury rising.

Fortunately, burrowing into a dark cave will let me work on HOOD with the proper mindset. Hiding in the woods, coming out to strike a swift blow, retreating…yes, that’s a very Robin Hood thing, and I think my version of him actually enjoys it. Whether he does or not, the exigencies of the situation call for it. He’s got a whole planet to hide on, but he might like the urban wilderness better. I just have to find enough rich people for him to steal from.

There’s no shortage of those with class-based inequality going around.

Anyway, my head is stuffed full of generation ships, folklore, Sir Walter Scott, and picaresque. Hopefully that rich stew will help this story rip its way free of my corpus. I should get the subscriber benefits for the week out of the way, too.

Hopefully you have a dark cave to rest in too, my friends.

Over and out.

Halfway Works

Coming Home
© Kwest19 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Days and days of heat, the weather report says. Which means a lot of closing up the house and keeping the fans on. It’s not likely to cool off enough to make a difference at night, either. Miss B is sacked out on my office floor, worn out after a moderate morning run. Said run had to be uncaffeinated, because I rolled out of bed late and had to get us outside before the heat became unbearable.

My mood is perhaps best described as “sharp, don’t touch.” I have shaken off the numbness and now I am firmly in the anger stage. I am filled with fumes, and any spark will do. I am holding myself gingerly, my internal grip strong and severe, so I don’t snap at anyone I care for.

There is no Trundles asking to bask on the deck for fifteen minutes before being ushered inside to flop on cool tile. No Trundles snoring blissfully among my pillows or grousing because it’s too warm and sprawling in the hall. Come dinnertime, he’s not snuffling in corners or underfoot as I cook–Miss B can’t take up all his kitchen space and hers too. I am not in danger of tripping every third step between the two of them, and it’s strange. There is so much room.

I spent yesterday in a blaze of cleaning and rearranging furniture. Apparently grieving fills me with the desire to dust, hoover, rearrange. We also got some more concrete laid in the backyard–with no Trundles underfoot or investigating the humans’ fascinating activity for signs of something edible, it went a little more quickly than usual. His busy self was a part of everything that occurred chez Saintcrow; Miss B is content to supervise from any handy promontory, as long as I’m in sight, but Trundles wanted to be Involved.

His crate is folded up and in the garage. I didn’t have the heart to clean it. His bedding, however, is laundered and neatly folded. At some point, this week or next, I will pick up his ashes and bring them home, settle them among my pillows, and let him sleep on my bed for as long as he likes.

I told myself that if I could just get through yesterday’s cleaning, rearranging, laundry, folding, watering, and everything else, I would be okay. Not okay-okay, but…okay enough.

I’m not quite sure if it was true, but having the furniture moved helps. I am not looking at Odd’s favorite nesting-spots and feeling the black ball of tears rise in my throat. Grief is a ball bouncing in a box. Part of the gauntlet grip I hold myself in is immobility so the pain-button won’t get punched. It only halfway works, but it’s better than nothing.

At least I can settle and write today. I am not staring while my fingers idly work at the keyboard, typing and deleting random, stinking sentences. At least while I’m working I’m thinking of other things. The work is not a panacea, but it is a true companion. Sad? Write. Mad? Write. Grieving? Write. Frightened? Write.

So today, gently, I will. Soon I’ll tell you guys about the new birdfeeders, the pole that holds them, squirrels, and Crisco. It’s a funny story; it would probably have been funnier with Odd around. But squirrels–and time–stop for no man, and no bulldog either.

Over and out.

Too Damn Hot

I think the recent heat has disarranged Odd Trundles. His appetite has diminished, which is…not usual. At least he’s still scrabbling after whatever hits the ground, but he’s lost some weight and doesn’t seem interested in his kibble. This all started with a couple nights of it being too warm to sleep comfortably even with the AC on, so hopefully a break in the weather and sleeping outside his crate on some cool hardwood will help. Yesterday he was lethargic, but the heat enervated everyone at chez Saintcrow.

Us pale Northwest mushrooms don’t do well when the mercury climbs.

I spent the weekend running, running, running to get the daily trivia of life packed away. Now that it’s Monday, I’m exhausted, and going for a run before caffeine probably didn’t help. I used to get up, grab a banana and some milk, and head out, saving coffee for when I returned. Seems like that might not be the best strategy anymore. In any case, I came home, washed off the sweat, and had second breakfast with my usual two jolts, and I’m waiting for it all to settle.

I know I should be working on HOOD. I know I should be gearing up for revisions on Maiden’s Blade. Nothing seems to be working right on the page, though. I had to toss a hard-fought chapter in HOOD and re-do it from the ground up, and though it certainly worked after I finished, the aggravation was intense. How long will it be before I gain any joy in what I’m writing? Lately it’s been a slog. A miserable one, too, considering I get itchy and weird if I don’t write. Annoyed if I do, driven to distraction if I don’t–it’s enough to make me want to swear off the whole thing and become a plumber. A taxidermist. Something, anything else.

The only way out is through. I know this. I also know this is leftover stress from the various problems with Afterwar, cumulative rasping on the physical mechanism until it frays. Knowing it doesn’t make the deep snarl running just under my skin any easier to soothe. Current political events don’t help my mood, either. I’m having to institute a moratorium on news just to save what little insulation I have on my wires.

Meh. I’m too anxious and annoyed to go on complaining. I suppose I could simply retreat to the couch and read something happy today, or curl up and watch a Shaw Bros. movie. Or I could just get over myself, get some ice water, and get back to work.

Guess which one is more likely. Go on, guess.

Over and out.

Always Tomorrow

I was going to talk about the hatemail I’ve received about Afterwar, but I’m a bit cranky this morning. On the bright side, it cooled off overnight and Odd Trundles slept all the way through so I don’t have to worry about his fuzzy ass nearly as much.

It was a busy weekend–we got some concrete laid, and I managed to get a layer of sealant on the freshly-washed deck floor. Of course daubing all the railings will be time-consuming, but the kids can help with that. The big thing was getting at least one layer of sealant on freshly pressure-washed wood. I also caught up on some reading. I’m finally old enough to read Faulkner, I guess–I tore through As I Lay Dying, my heart in my throat, waiting for the next damn thing to happen. I also attempted a translation of Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which was difficult to finish, not least because the misogyny. I also have serious questions about the economics of Cossack raiding as portrayed in that particular romance. After a while, you’d think there was nothing else for them to steal and nobody left to murder.

In any case, I’m glad I read both, and I am setting out my plan of attack for more Faulkner once I finish Jesus the Magician (highly readable) and work through a few books on The Tale of Genji1 and some on classical Chinese literature. Both are research reading for the epic fantasy. I need plenty of material inside the well before I start on book 2.

I also finished Harmony revisions and sent them off, which means I can focus on writing HOOD and getting the scripts for Blood Terraform2 done. Plus, I really want to go back to Imprint, which is just-plain-vampire-erotica. It will be nice to be writing instead of revising for a while. I do need to sit down and think about Blood Terraform, since comic book scripts are different than novels. It’s been a while since I wrote one–I think the last was Serafim? Once that’s out of the way, revisions on the next Steelflower can commence. I’m still on track to release the first half of Kaia’s adventures in Skaialan later in the year.

But first, I think, a run, and eventually I do need to leave the house and pick up more sealant for the deck. It’s always something, and I can always write about the hatemail tomorrow. It’s not like the hatred’s going anywhere, I guess.

Over and out.

Work, Work, Complain, Work

Jozzie & Sugar Belle The paperback edition of Jozzie & Sugar Belle is now available! I wish it was possible to do preorders for paper, but oh well. Preorders are live on the ebook editions, it will have to do.

In other news, the Amazing Stories submissions system seems to be fixed, but I wouldn’t submit to them after this whole folderol. Sanford’s Genre Gossip column is a fabulous resource, and Amazing‘s Steve Davidson’s response to his reporting was…well, let’s be charitable and call it “ill-considered”. I wouldn’t trust my work to an editor who behaved that way, frankly. I would, however, recommend Sanford’s column to anyone interested in selling to genre markets, and would even go so far as to recommend dropping some cash in his Patreon.

Anyway. It’s a bright day; there won’t be any rain while running this particular morning. Which is a shame, summer downpours are fun. I suspect, however, there will be bees. Lots of bees. They seem to find my hair as enticing as ever.

Today is also for more Rattlesnake Wind revisions. If I can get those done before the end of the month I’ll count June a win. After that, Harmony revisions need to be done, serious work on comic book scripts and serious wordcount on HOOD as well, and once I get the Harmony stuff crossed off I can shift to prepping Atlanta Bound for publication in October-November and beginning revisions on the next Steelflower book.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, I look at that mountain and want to crawl into a hole. The avoidance stage, added to bottoming out over the past few weeks, is upon me. The lists break everything up into manageable chunks, and I should just put my head down for a while and work. The trouble is, I keep wanting to glance at what’s upcoming so I can plan, though the plan is already in place, and the paralysis of so. much. to. do. overwhelms me.

The writing is good. it’s the other parts of the process that exhaust me. Except for when a zero draft spikes for the finish and the writing wrings me out like a dishrag. One can’t ever win.

Don’t mind me, I’m just complaining into the wind. There are children to hug, dogs to pet, a run to get in, enchiladas to make tonight, and plenty of work to do. It’s like heaven, and here I am bitching. Sometimes, though, a little bit of bitching makes you appreciate just how good things really are.

And with that, dear Readers, I’m off for a run.

Swim, Surface

Humpback Whale in Body of Water
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Last week was rough. I feel like I’ve just breached the surface of a very dark ocean, and am holding myself in tension, taking great gulps of air and hoping not to sink again. I can tell it was bad because I’m slightly shaky, a thin imperceptible tremor running through my marrow. Pouring myself into work to get from one shore to the next always carries the risk of waking mid-current to find myself in a boat made of spellcraft and driftwood (oh, Ged the magician, I’m thinking of you often these days, but mostly Tenar), licking salt-cracked lips and hoping my voice holds out to sing me to dry land.

Mostly, it does. Sometimes, though, the holes widen, and I sink. I don’t even know I’m sinking until I notice the bubbles are rising.

I suppose it was good that least week also involved some enforced rest, sitting in a library and simply reading for a few hours at a time while waiting. “Her days were as long and wide as a child’s…” Nancy Price, in Sleeping With the Enemy, which I reread often, wrote about Sarah reading to distract herself from hunger.

Hunger. Such a funny word, and mistaken for virtue, just like every other socially sanctioned pain to make a woman conform.

…yeah, you can tell I’m not fit for human company right now. I need a run and a book, in that order, but there are revisions due before the end of the month and I’m behind on the comic scripts. The sunscreen has soaked in, I can barely sit still, and my shoes need to be laced.

May we all find the surface today. And may we all swim for the joy of it, instead of struggling to reach land.