Temporal Slip

I was convinced for most of yesterday that although the day was definitely named Monday, it was Tuesday in all else. Which should surprise nobody, pandemic time being what it is, but it means it was near noon when I realized, “no, the plumbers aren’t coming today, it’s a federal holiday and FURTHERMORE not the day they scheduled,” so…yeah.

That rhythmic thudding you heard? That was the sound of me banging my head on my desk. It’s highly therapeutic, though painful.

I had all sorts of work planned, but nothing happened. Sitting and staring at paying projects is not producing any appreciable wordcount. (The book keeps refusing to write itself, so rude.) The fanfic proceeds better, but I don’t want even that now. I’m pretty sure I’m just in the incubation period for a spate of furious activity once the dam breaks, and this is just a necessary frustration before the iceberg calves.

But it’s so goddamn annoying. And with all the other stress, my nerves are on their very last fibre.

I am hopeful today’s plumber visit will be the very last. They’re very nice fellows and I like them, but strangers visiting in the midst of a pandemic is bad for all of us. If this work could possibly be put off I would–but at the same time, our country is being held hostage by antimaskers and antivaxxers, so this isn’t going to be finished anytime soon. We’re on the third year of this bullshit, so the things I’ve put off “until it’s safer” have now grown several heads and become critically pressing.

“Safer.” What a word. I am beginning to expect that will never happen, and it disturbs me mightily. It’s also becoming harder and harder to keep the pandemic out of my fiction, though publishing lead times means that things I wrote well before are beginning to see the end of the pipeline now.

The lag is fascinating and I’m sure historians will have great fun dissecting it. Enduring it as an artist is much less amusing. Not quite prepared to put this massive trauma into fiction yet, thanks, especially as I am extremely uncertain our household will survive either its primary OR its knock-on effects. And isn’t that a lovely thought for a Tuesday morning?

At least we still have absurdity. The world is mad, might as well laugh in bleak wonder at its manifestations. Fiction has to “make sense,” while Real Life is unendingly fuckered-up and divorced from any such requirement.

Anyway, I’d best walk the dogs. The trio of local crows depending on Boxnoggin for amusement tend to fly away around ten-thirty, having other business in the neighbourhood, and they (plus Boxnoggin) will probably be sad if they don’t get their daily interaction.

See? Absurdity. It’s all absurdity, all the time. Might as well laugh, because screaming takes too much energy and I’m bloody exhausted.

See you around.

Busy January

Selene

Monday is upon us again. Boxnoggin is having difficulty settling even though we’ve had nothing but the usual daily routine; I think he senses the plumbers are due out today–again, for the fourth time–to get the pipes under the sink right. I long to be able to put everything back in its home and further long to free up the very large bowl that’s been catching the drips.

In the plumbers’ defense, the leak has moved–as soon as one thing is replaced, the thing adjacent decides to start being troublesome. Which is a function and feature of many a complex system, let alone a simple one. So it’s not their fault, they are fabulous fellows, and at the same time I really would like this Finished, Thank You.

Miss B could not care less; to her, this is just another day and all she’s concerned about is keeping herself firmly in my vicinity. I cannot be allowed to roam anywhere, even inside the house, without her close supervision. Heaven knows what trouble I might get into, after all. Especially in these benighted times.

I should get her a soft plush toy to exercise all her maternal and supervisory urges on, but Boxnoggin would likely disembowel it. None of us can handle that particular bullshit right now.

The Dark Watcher sale is over, but I decided the last half of January needed something nice too so Selene is on sale for $2.99 across ebook formats until the end of the month. I’ll probably take February off, since the HOOD omnibus also drops the 25th of this month. The paper edition seems to already be out, thank goodness; for Kindle readers, the omnibus won’t be listed on Amazon but you can get a .mobi edition from Gumroad.

So January is very busy, and I’m going to take February off of sales and the like. Come March I should have some more good news.

I am trying to pull myself, hand over hand, out of the abyss. It’s difficult, to say the least, with successive daily retraumatizations. The rate of daily bad-news bludgeoning has slowed down since Papaya Pol Pot no longer has access to the nuclear button and the news cycle has in consequence somewhat slowed, but the massive institutional failure on every level is difficult to live with. There’s no chance to mourn or even catch one’s breath. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

There’s coffee to finish, some breakfast to choke down, the dogs to walk–Miss B is already restlessly eager for that part of the daily ritual–and getting the workspace cleared for the re-advent of the plumbers. (I just want that last thing sorted with, for gods’ sake. Four visits, while natural when dealing with plumbing issues, still seems a bit excessive.) In between all that, wordcount has to be made. Hell’s Acre needs some attention, since I think I’ve finally figured out what Avery’s plan is; the second Sons of Ymre also needs another pass at that damn first chapter to weed out repetitions and up the tension.

If I just put my head down and work, maybe I can get through the day without worry-induced nausea or panic attacks. Maybe.

We’ll see how it works out.

Anniversary, Nadir

Afterwar

A year ago today, the pandemic was just beginning its second orbit around the sun and my children and I were watching the violent coup attempt in the US Capitol, sickened to the core.

As of today, a few of the low-level insurrectionists have received slaps on the wrist. The ringleaders are still at large, still attempting to destroy our democracy, still profiting from their lies and grifting, still blathering to their adoring fans on Faux News subsidized by cable utility fees, and the pandemic? Still going strong.

The coup attempt is still ongoing, too. The midterms are approaching. Voter suppression laws have been forced through in many states. If they are successful, 2024 could reinstall the Fanta Fuhrer–or something worse–and a nightmare of violent racist authoritarianism will grip the throat of America even more tightly.

The militantly and deliberately umasked and unvaccinated are still allowed to continue risking the rest of us, and the government we voted in with such effort refuses to attempt more than below the barest of minimums to help or to hold the racist, disease-spreading bigots and their greedy, lying leaders accountable.

I wrote a whole-ass book about this in 2015. (Still mad I took out the plague in the first draft of Afterwar because I thought it might be “too much.”) I thought surely it would make some kind of a dent, have some kind of effect.

I was wrong. Very few listened. Nobody cared.

Better minds than mine, much better storytellers than me, all tried as well. It made little to no difference, because…well, here we are.

A year ago I still had some hope. Now…I don’t know. I’m so tired. So, so tired.

The successive retraumatizations hurt more with each hit. I am honestly questioning whether it’s worth trying anymore. What little hope I had is gone, and its dregs are simply bitter endurance.

I keep going because I have no choice. People (and the dogs) are depending on me. But today, my beloveds, I am so tired, so discouraged. I am questioning the use of hanging on more and more lately.

I put a brave face on it, certainly. But I don’t know what to say right now. I already tried and was ignored for years. I suppose I’m at the nadir of “Why bother?”

About the best I can hope for is that today passes without incident. But that will leave us still in the lurch. Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow, maybe not.

I don’t know. That’s all I can say.

I don’t know.

Victory, Price, Laughter

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I should have known that every victory on the first Monday of 2022 would exact a price. It was going so well, too! I finally got repair for the dishwasher and the kitchen sink scheduled, not to mention some actual work on Hell’s Acre and Sons of Ymre #2. I went to bed feeling reasonably content, even if things are not exactly ideal.

Alas, Past Me was apparently an unforgivable optimist. But maybe I’ll feel better about her habit of being hopeful after coffee. I suppose writing while uncaffeinated, as I am currently doing, means a touch of growl seeping into my voice.

The upshot of all this is that there’s errands today. Hopefully I can get them done with a minimum of fuss and retreat homeward, giving ground very slowly and making the year work for every inch it gains. The stage after the loss of sunny optimism is grim determination, teeth sunk into the hide of the monster and my claws working deeper and deeper, seeking a vital hit.

On the bright side, the heroine in Sons #2 is talking. She’s far different than the heroine in #1, which is only to be expected, and I think she’s just exactly what’s needed. But I made a mistake in the very first scene, and it’s such a deep and integral one I have to go back, rip out three-quarters of what I did yesterday, and rework it.

Of course, I’ll probably find out after reworking that said heroine won’t talk unless I have it the way it was originally written, which means I’ll need to throw out most of what I planned for the book itself and restructure from the ground up simply because a single character simply won’t cooperate.

I am not quite complaining about this, mind you. Realizing a mistake earlier rather than later is a gift. Plus, it’s far better than being so stressed the words refuse to come out at all, which has only happened two-three times in my entire life and is so awful I never, ever, ever want to endure it again. I’m trying to find the funny side–I’m arguing with the voices inside my head while my entire career is telling lies (which, let it be noted, manage to show a certain truth if I’ve done my job right) for a living.

Put that way, it is indeed kind of funny. So is the prospect of each individual errand I have to run today. They’re all hilarious if I look at them the right way.

Gods grant me the strength to hold up each one and turn it to the light in order to catch that funny side, however small and bleak. No doubt I’ll feel much better after a morning run, too. Yesterday was my first day back on the pavement in about a week (what with holidays, disasters, and Bad Weather making it Literally Unsafe To Step Outside) and the endorphin hit was most welcome, indeed. Plus it’s been over two weeks since our booster shots, so every single person in the house is as protected as possible.

There’s going to be something funny in all this. There has to be, and by every god that ever was, I will find it. If I must go down nibbled to death by a tidal wave of papercuts, I will go down laughing. Sure, it might be screamy breathless merriment, but merriment nonetheless.

Laughter is one of the 100% reliable ways to banish demons, after all. And now it’s time to finish this coffee, get the caffeine worked into my muscles, and walk the dogs, who could not care less about the rest of the world as long as they get their kibble, snuggles, and other assorted daily rituals.

If you hear a faint, screeching laugh upon the wind, beloveds, don’t worry. It’s just me.

Let the Tuesday games begin.

Before the (Holiday) Plunge

Blogging will be kind of spotty between now and the New Year, my friends. I’m…tired.

In any case, it’s Christmas Adam (we call it that because it comes before Christmas Eve, har de har har, old joke, STILL FUNNY) and I’m taking a deep breath before one of the most stressful events of the year–and that’s saying something, given how 2020 and 2021 have both turned out.

There’s a lot to be grateful for, but I just want some rest. If I could sleep until January 1, I would not mind a single bit; for one thing, it seems like a great way to make a dent in ever-mounting pandemic exhaustion.

Alas, it’s not an option, either biologically (having to get up to wee rather destroys the plan, no matter how tight-knit said plan is otherwise) or practically (the kids, not to mention the dogs, would be Quite Unnerved). So we struggle on, boats against the current and all that.

I hope you have a lovely holiday, beloveds. I hope it is full of good things to eat, low to no stress, and all the things you want but nothing you don’t. I may be about before the year turns over, or I might not. I suppose I’m saying “don’t expect much”, and if that isn’t a bumper sticker for the past couple years, I don’t know what is.

See you around.

Shock of Recognition

It’s been an odd week. Of course, the last couple years have been odd, with spikes of weirdness piercing individual months. Endurance is the name of the game, and mine is faltering more than a little lately.

I hit somewhat of a nadir, so I pulled out the big guns. I actually–gasp!–asked for help, and while I was waiting for the request to wend its way through the labyrinth of electrons every email must traverse, I pulled out the big guns.

That’s right, I returned to Nabokov.

Dear ol’ Vlad’s gotten me through a lot. This time I blazed through Lolita and my personal favorite, Invitation to a Beheading, and now I’m deep in the garden of my second favorite, Ada, and the words have worked their magic. I have been nourished, and I think I’m recovering. But I want to talk about something smaller today.

In 1956 Nabokov wrote an afterword to Lolita.1

And when I thus think of Lolita, I seem to always pick out for special delectation such images as Mr. Taxovich, or that class list of Ramsdale school, or Charlotte saying “waterproof,” or Lolita in slow motion advancing toward Humbert’s gifts, or the pictures decorating the stylized garret of Gaston Godin, or the Kasbeam barber (who cost me a month of work)…These are the nerves of the novel. These are the secret points, the subliminal co-ordinates by means of which the book is plotted…

Vladimir Nabokov, “On a Book Entitled Lolita

I often talk about the “hidden hooks”, the secret places where a book’s tapestry is fastened to something solid in order to make it hang right. I hadn’t realized, though I’d read that afterword at least ten times, that Nabokov was talking about the same thing, though in his own inimitable style. Of course, a Perfessor of Reel True Litrachur will no doubt sniff that my work bears as much relation to Mr Sirin’s as a spavined nag to a gleaming unicorn, but that doesn’t concern me.

I gave what might be termed a violent start of recognition. (As ol’ Vlad might have said, a reader “leapt up, ruffling their hair.”)

One of the things giving me much trouble lately is a certain revision. I had to throw out some2 demands masked as suggestions, and once I did the work stopped resisting, dropping into high gear. My writing partner and agent deserve most of the credit, but a significant part must go to long-dead Vladimir Vladimirovich, who for all his genius struggled much as the rest of us do with writing a goddamn book.

There’s been a certain amount of Twitter Discourse lately on the perception that writing is just typing.3 The invisible parts of the process are difficult, time-consuming, and brutal in several different ways–and that doesn’t even cover the various pitfalls of actual publication, mind you.

Yet there are rewards, not least of which is reading someone else’s book for the fiftieth (or fifty-first, or thousandth) time and finding not only the solace and sustenance one needs but also hidden encouragement from one word-drunk wright to another. Of course he didn’t mean it thus, of course dear Sirin is long gone and probably wouldn’t have been interested in anything I penned.4

The connection remains. The recognition, the spark, the joy of finding a few words in a tongue one can decipher amid a mass of hieroglyphs, still endures. I desperately needed that reminder this week.

I can see finishing these particular revisions now, which is a distinct relief. More than that, a bit of hope has been infused into my bones again, though I have tried to avoid it–2020 kicked me in the teeth every time I gained a little bit of Pandora’s last gift, and 2021 shouted “hold my beer” in that regard.

The cockroach of hope, like my silly stubborn grasp on life itself, just won’t go away. After all, there’s work to be done, and I can’t give up as long as I have deadlines and obligations. The net above the abyss, slipping a bit lately, has caught on a nail.

So here I hang, listening to the whistling of the wind, weaving my own stories. The most I can hope for is that one day, someone else will catch upon a hook I drove into the fabric of my own work, and their slide for the edge is likewise arrested.

It’s a grimly beautiful thought, and I will hold it close for as long as I need to, today and tomorrow and afterward, until the end.

Insomnia, Incubation, Illumination

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Monday has rolled around again, with a great deal of cold winter rain. Which is quite pleasing, both to me and the thirsty cedars. Summer was dreadful for us all.

I was lying in bed last night, drifting towards slumber–or, more precisely, staying very still and quiet hoping insomnia wouldn’t notice me–when all of a sudden, I was jolted by the solution to a particular plot problem in Hell’s Acre.

More specifically, I had reached a blockage during a dinner (not a dinner party, but it might as well have been) and had to throw up my hands, leaving the entire damn thing for the Muse to work on under the floorboards while I did something, anything else. The fact that I’m beating my head against revisions for The Black God’s Heart doesn’t help.

Said revisions (there are Problems, fortunately I am in the business of Solutions) are threatening to kick my ass, so I had to throw up my hands and call in reinforcements. I am always very chary of such a maneuver; growing up, asking for help was a sure way to get the stuffing kicked out of one. It’s taken a lot for me to begin to quietly, carefully, in certain very circumscribed ways–and always as a last resort–ask for assistance from selected individuals.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that said carefully selected individuals are flat-out thrilled to be asked, and furthermore, it is possible to get said help without paying an extortionate, painful price for it. Growing up has been good for that much, at least.

The sudden bursts or jolts of insight that occur after one has reached an impasse in a particular work are of a different character, though, and they rely on the same incubation-illumination dynamic as the rest of creativity. So there I was, in the dark, minding my own business, when I realized that the point of the whole dinner wasn’t solely what I originally thought but instead a means of additionally bringing in the complication among Avery Black’s Rooks.

It only took weeks of agonizing before the Muse finally dropped that little aside, lighting up the whole back half of the serial’s first season from another angle, so of course I had to make a goddamn note of it, because if one doesn’t write that sort of thing down it might flee into the cracks between sleep and waking, never to return.

I had to run the risk of insomnia finding me if I moved, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, you know. And this morning there was the note, scrawled haphazardly in the dark. Now, of course, it’s safely put in the manuscript margin, inside brackets, and I feel a lot better about things.

So it was a weekend full of (a little) rest and (a lot of) retrenchment, reading giant gulps of Nabokov and getting a truly stunning amount of revisions and housework out of the way. Of course said revisions aren’t even half done and this upcoming week is full of at least twelve-hour working days to catch up from the bloody vapor-lock…

…but that’s the way it goes, and I am lucky to have as much, I know. So here I am, eyeing the next glut of work and the bloody to-do list, and the dogs are lobbying for their walk. They have forgotten entirely the fact that it was pouring when they went out for pre-breakfast bladder-unloading, and will be discomfited all over again when we embark. At least, Boxnoggin will, for he despises the rain. B, of course, is an all-weather pooch, though I’m sure her joints ache a bit nowadays. She is an elderly statesdog, and no mistake.

Welcome to the week, beloveds. Keep your hands and arms inside the carriage, and don’t make eye contact with Tuesday. We have all we can handle right now, and the ride has commenced.

Over and out.