Kindness, Escape

Spent the weekend doing revisions as well as reformatting ebooks and the like; most of those changes should be wending their way downstream. New editions are always a chance to catch the things that didn’t get chased down and thumped before. Even with a million pairs of eyes during the publication process, some stuff slips through. It’s inevitable.

What I did not do was rest. Today it’s back to solely revising the third epic fantasy; all my engines are focused on that. The second year of lockdown is about to start and my ability to focus and push under pressure is beginning to fray at the edges.

Once that’s done it’s on to revising HOOD‘s third season, preparatory to the editing process. I still have to make a final determination on the next serial–it will either be Hell’s Acre, the alt-Victorian trilogy, or Division Seven, the mutant secret agents story. I’m leaning towards Hell’s Acre because I like the language, and I’m not wanting to engage with current-day stuff right now.

I need an escape.

I think we could all do with an escape or two, frankly. I just want to crawl into my stories and never come out. I’m sick of utterly avoidable disasters and broken promises, hatefulness and cruelty. It’s the last that gets to me.

It takes so little effort to be kind. Kindness is the natural state, it’s the lowest energy requirement. It puzzles me: Why do so many people actively choose to stew in violent hate, why do they seek out reasons to be shitty? Why, when it’s so easy to just… not? Imagine what humanity could do if dickwads quit wasting their energy on spewing vileness.

I write because I must, but sometimes I think I also write to try and answer why people do some things. Pouring myself into certain characters’ skins, even if it isn’t on the page–because I have to understand the villains to see how they’re going to act in the story–is an effort to understand.

The dogs are very clingy this morning. I think they can sense my nerves are raw. Or maybe they just want their walkies, since it’s a relatively warm morning. A week ago we were in snowpocalypse (I think? Time has lost all meaning.) and now it’s very mild in the high 40s (Fahrenheit, of course) with crocuses and the like taking advantage of the sudden balm.

Maybe the snow was the last gauntlet to run. It would be nice to have an end to something. Normally I enjoy winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Lately though, I feel like I’ve done nothing for the last winter except sit and stare in deepening horror. I know that isn’t true, but it feels like it.

I’ve blathered long enough. Time to get the dogs walked, my own reluctant corpse run, and then to crawl into the end of a hot, murderous summer in an imaginary land. Getting the third and final book arranged will do me some good, I hope.

Happy Monday, everyone. We made it to another week, yay us. Now let’s see if we can endure through.

Over and out.

Breathing-Quiet Melt

The melt is underway.

There was at least eleven inches1 of nice dry powder.2 Then the ice storm moved through yesterday afternoon and evening, leaving a coat of clear varnish over every surface.

This morning it’s still cold, and there’s still almost a foot of snow, and the dogs still won’t get a walk. But little bits of half-liquid stuff is coming off the trees, the subtle breathing sound of freeway traffic in the distance has returned, and if you stand on the deck you can hear the creaking under the ice-glaze as the snow underneath melts.

The water is speaking. It’s like being in the throat of massive, dozing creature. I keep listening for a heartbeat.

It was good to have a weekend in. I mean, for over a year all our weekends have been in, because we’re in lockdown trying desperately not to spread infection. The Princess works at a grocer’s so we’re pretty sure at some point the plague will come home to roost, but at least we can be in the habit of not giving it to anyone else and we’re all in low-risk categories.

At least there’s that.

The photo on this post isn’t recent; it’s from the previous time we had snow.3 Generally it melts within a day; I can count on one hand the number of times it’s stayed longer in the, oh, let’s see, almost two decades I’ve lived in this town? I mean, I’ve been in the PNW most of my life at this point, but there’s something to be said for living in one distinct ville for a long while.

The deciduous trees have ice filigree on their branches; the cedars and other evergreens seem to be shaking off the coating first. I wonder how the cherry down the street that was flowering earlier last week is faring. As soon as the melt reaches a certain pitch4 I’ll be able to ramble the dogs. They need it–they’ve been wrestling with each other in the living room to take the edge off, but it’s a strategy with diminishing returns.

Today I start prep for an epic fantasy revision. Which will require stacking the previous books on my desk for reference while I go through and mutter at every instance of square brackets in the manuscript, mostly bearing some form of “look this up later, Future Me.”5

Past Me had a sense of humor. In fairness she wrote most of the damn book during lockdown and fascist coup, which will put a dent in anyone’s cognitive horsepower. Still, every time I see the brackets in the damn book I have to stop and look at my office ceiling, drawing in a deep breath and throttling the urge to scream.

Meanwhile, the dogs will probably be startling at branches and stuff hitting the roof as the melt accelerates. There will, I am sure, be a lot of barking. But with the warming up I can maybe slither out of a few layers, and hopefully by afternoon the street will be clear enough to ramble, if not run.

All in all I am very bruise-tender right now. One can have the thickest of skins, but repeated walloping still hurts. I dislike loving something so much and being so very bad at it that an intervention is suddenly called. Best just to quietly step aside and let others have it.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post, or probably not. Here’s hoping the melt continues, and that soon the dogs–and I–will have fidgets worked out. I haven’t run in days, and the strain is beginning to mount. It will be nice to get out and think about things while pounding the pavement, just as soon as the weather clears.

Over and out.

Pleased By Nothing

No snow yet. Not that I’m quite upset over it, mind–I know it’s a massive hassle to most people, it’s dangerous though pretty, and our part of the world is better off without it.

But I am a little selfishly disappointed. Ah well.

Nothing pleases me today. I am resentful of anything pulling me away from The Cold North, even though most of it is the unavoidable business of living–showers, eating, caring for those under my aegis. The rest of it is work that really does need to be done for other books, proofs and revisions and the like, oh my.

I’m happiest with a surfeit of work and should really stop complaining. But like I said… nothing is pleasing, today. The impeachment hearings are going on, and I am sick-saddened that once again the rich old white men will suffer no consequences. Over and over again they do the worst and endure no punishment. It’s enough to make me doubt justice itself.

Normally I’m a great believer in the arc of history bending towards the light, but I am so nauseous at the lack of consequences for murderous rich old white men, even that is denied me. My capacity for hope has taken quite a beating over the last few years.

Even if there’s no snow, we’ve still laid in a stock of hot choco. The Princess brought home marshmallows yesterday too, so at least there’s that. It’s still chilly enough to snuggle on the couch under a blanket I’m knitting, drink hot cocoa, and perhaps get the last bit of proofing done this weekend. There are also plans for potato-leek soup.

The Princess opened our produce order the other day and said, in tones of surpassing wonder, “There’s a leek in the box!” A short pause. “No, two leeks in the box!” And I laughed so hard I had to sit down while wheezing. All I could think of was SNL and Justin Timberlake’s Dick in a Box; she was thinking of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and honestly didn’t expect my response.

At odd times since, my brain has served up “It’s a leek in a box!” and I’ll start to snort-laugh helplessly.

This is, I suspect, why I’m unfit for any job or career where I have to be physically around people for any length of time. I just can’t stop cackling at entirely imaginary bullshit.

Anyway, it’s time to take my pleased-by-nothing self for a cuppa–always the best cure for whatever ails one, I firmly believe. And there’s the subscription stuff to be sent off today, after I finish the afternoon errands. I am not fit to be around others in public right now, but needs must when the devil drives, as usual.

Maybe this evening I can spend some time with the damn Viking werewolves. They refuse to sit down and be quiet inside my head–yet another sign of my general unfitness, alas. But it’s hilarious, and if I’m laughing, I don’t mind displeasure so much.

At least I’m having fun.

Over and out.

Sleep, Cold, Carnivorous Sheep

The weekend was long, Sunday night sleepless; consequently Monday was spent in a fog. Not only am I recovering from finishing a three-season serial (at least, the zero draft of such) but Various Life and Historical Issues have reared their heads lately.

No wonder I collapsed into sweet unconsciousness for about twelve hours last night. It was welcome, but now I’m in what I think is a sleep hangover. Do those exist? They should, because I’m fairly sure I have one.

Sleep has always been difficult. It’s hard enough to shut my brain off for any period of time, however fractional. Then there’s the vulnerability aspect–growing up, any dimming of hypervigilance was dangerous indeed. One never knew where the next attack was coming from. In past years, sometimes the only rest I could get was while hiding in a closet.

Any closet. I’ve hunkered down in a lot of closets.

It helps to have the dogs nearby, breathing quietly and sometimes dreaming. And, as Calm Therapist used to say, “if you can’t sleep, just resting is good too.”

It’s a very chilly morning, at least for us–hovering near freezing happens rarely here in the PNW. The dogs are, for once, not pushing for walkies. Mostly because Boxnoggin went out this morning and gave me a Significant Look. “I left a nice warm bed for this?” He’s really not going to like when the mercury drops to the Fahrenheit twenties next week. Poor slick-coated fellow.

I get one more day half off before I dive into the epic fantasy revise. It’s yet another finish to a trilogy, and things I spent two doorstop-sized books carefully setting up come crashing down, landing precisely where I want them. (Or so close it makes no difference.) I’ve been marking time with Cold North lately; I meant for the book to be a very close, confined gothic but Tolkien crept in, and that means sprawl. So now I’ve got elves, a Black Land, and (in the most recent chapter) a mutated, carnivorous sheep.

I don’t even know. These things just happen.

I don’t cherish the idea of yet another epic fantasy–the last one exhausted me–but if that’s what the Muse wants, I suppose that’s what she’ll get.1

At least I’ve some finished works, going into 2021. If all else fails, self-publishing is an option for at least one of them; the other might do as a serial.

All that can wait. There’s walkies to accomplish, after all, and a morning run to get in while I’m still feeling bouncy. I like inclement weather because it leaves the sidewalks free and those damn middle-aged white men who won’t leash their dogs stay inside.2

The house is quiet. The coffee is sinking in. If this is what “enough” sleep feels like, it’s quite pleasant and I wish I could have more of it. But life is about what we have, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.

Been Here Before

It’s still dark outside, yet I have resurrected.

Well, that’s a strong way to put it. “Too nervy to stay in bed since I went to sleep early yesterday, yet still exhausted because my entire self, body to soul, is recovering from years of constant retraumatization,” would be more precise. So maybe I’m just clawing my way up out of a very deep hole.

At least I’m not being dragged back down, drowned, and repeatedly punched by the news cycle. Small mercy, but I’ll take it.

In any case, it’s Imbolc, the return of light, and I’m still shaky. Normally I love winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Nothing about last year (not to mention the three-four before) was normal, however, and I’m reaching the end of my resilience.

I’m trying very hard to focus on the good things–the solidarity, the lessons in carefully harboring my energy, the reinforcing of my deep belief that cutting toxic people out of your life is absolutely okay and healing. Otherwise a survey of the damage might just cause me to sink below the surface with only a faint, grateful ripple to mark where once I floundered.

At the same time, this feeling is familiar. Been here before, my bones whisper. After I left my childhood home, during the divorce (both times), after buying the house, after any number of massively stressful life-changing events (or disasters), oh yeah, I’ve been here. There’s crisis, where mere survival is the victory. Then there’s the relief just after whatever abusive bastard is punching you has worn himself out and you find yourself bruised, battered, still trapped in hell, but alive nonetheless; it’s comparable to (although not nearly as deep as) the relief of standing on the other side of a burning bridge, breathing deeply and having no way to go but forward into a wilderness that has to be better than what you’ve left behind.

Then there’s the process of gluing yourself back together, which takes five to seven times longer than one ever imagines and can be interrupted by any number of things. Not to mention the risk of re-injury once you start feeling a little better and the tiny voice of self-harm inside your head begins whispering, “you’re fine, you should get back to work, you should push yourself, you’re lazy not to, you’ll starve if you don’t.”

It doesn’t help that our society is set up to keep the vast mass of us starved and in constant fatigue. A quasi-serf class is easier to control if they’re tired, overwhelmed, and focused on sheer survival.

Been here before, my blood whispers. It makes me wonder if we age merely because the business of living is such a burden. Especially when some of humanity thinks it’s best to greedily tread upon the backs of everyone else.

Still, it’s Imbolc. And I’m fortunate, as such things go. The kids are healthy, the dogs are content, there are seeds to plant and stories to tell. Rebuilding and recovery feels familiar because I’ve been doing it all my life. I build, I make, I create, something comes along and wipes everything out, I pick myself back up and build, make, create. Rinse lather repeat, so on, so forth, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

I tell myself each time I’m lucky to have ruins to build upon, a foundation to use. Even if the ruins are completely gone something in me still remembers the towers, and that can’t be erased. Not until I stop breathing, anyway, and at my lowest it’s sheer stubborn spite that keeps the bellows of my lungs operational.

What, you thought it was hope? Nah. It’s sheer fuck you that keeps me going through the deepest night. I could wish it wasn’t, but I’m old enough to know working with what I am is easier than tormenting myself with what I’m told I should be. Pointing myself in my best guess of the right direction and using spite as fuel to get me there is far more effective.

Been here before, my soul whispers.

You’d think it would get easier. But, like writing books, each one only teaches me how to deal with a particular, not really a general. What’s strengthened instead, each time, is that sheer stubborn spite rising when even mute endurance fails me.

I don’t write this to open old wounds or to congratulate myself. I write this to tell you–yes, you reading this–that you’re not alone. If you’re exhausted, if you think, “I should be doing better, more, something else”, believe me, it’s okay, you’re in good company. All our coping has been focused on sheer survival, the biggest purveyor of constant news-cycle trauma has been muzzled (however temporarily, though that’s a post for another day), and now we’re left in the ruins, staring at smoking wreckage and exhausted by the mere idea of attempting to rebuild anything at all.

It might be faint comfort that we’re not alone. Still, I’ll take it. I mean, there’s nothing else on offer, so one might as well.

Been here before, after all.

The Muse and the Spanner

I spent a long while on Cold North yesterday (that’s the Viking werewolves/elementalist story) though I really should have been working on HOOD. But the latter has some things it needs to cogitate upon if it’s not going to take the ending I had prepared for it.

Goddamn Muse. If she thinks I’ll let her off the hook now, she’s dreaming. She can fight all she wants, but we are finishing this goddamn serial. And if she wants to throw a spanner in the works now, she’ll find out I have a bigger one to bounce off her pretty fairy-dusted skull.

I do hold the Muse in some caution and an appropriate amount of reverence, but we’ve been working together for decades now and sometimes one (or both) of us need(s) a brick upside the head. Pretty sure when the Viking elementalist realizes she’s surrounded by werewolves and the first troll shows up, the Muse will decide I am the one who needs said brick.

Mutual application of head trauma is a certain sign of affection between a writer and her angel, I should think.

Time is still doing strange things, stretching like taffy and yet slamming into me over and over like machine-gun spray. Intellectually I know it’s the trauma of the last four-five years (because it started well before the 2016 election) plus pandemic messing with my brain’s wiring, but that knowledge doesn’t stop the strange sick feeling when time begins to get all wonky or I realize that something did, in fact, only happen a week ago instead of months, or a month ago instead of years, or a year ago instead of yesterday.

At least I have a few more chapters of the serial to send to subscribers, so that’s good. I was beginning to think I was either going to have to pause all subscriptions and take a week off or have another nervous breakdown, but things have eased a little. Only a little, but I’m using the pause for all it’s worth.

The news is zany, but not as malignant as it was two weeks ago. I know the damage isn’t anywhere close to being fixed and work is needed holding elected officials’ feet to the fire, but it’s so nice not to be checking hellsite over and over and getting punched in the gut by the sheer malignant sociopathy in power each time. I’ll take it.

It’s about time to tie my shoes and get the dogs out for walkies, though neither of them is particularly excited about the notion for once. Miss B is sulking after being caught in the compost pile (long story) and Boxnoggin keeps looking at me like “Are you nuts? It’s cold out there!”

He’s from Texas, after all. Things were a bit different there, and though he’s been with us for YEARS he won’t let us forget it.

At least I’m still able to run. And it’s probably during today’s workout that I’ll find a solution for the spanner that damn Muse decided to toss into the works. It might be that I’m struggling against finishing because HOOD‘s been one of the things keeping me going through the last year-and-change of hell, and I might not be quite ready to let go of the characters.

But I think I have the next story lined up, which is nice. I can’t wait to share this one with you, too. But first, the dogs and I both need our ramble.

Be gentle with yourselves, my beloveds. Healing takes time, and our survival is still resistance.

Over and out.

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.