Midnight Sonic Assault

Some jackasses decided to break the law and set off fireworks late last night, which meant we were all jolted and the dogs spent a long time huddled against me, trembling furiously, before any of us could return to sleep. I don’t know if it’s a case of white supremacists attempting to place an entire neighborhood under siege (as has been happening in a lot of places where protests are ongoing) or it’s asshats who think their “fweedoms” include blowing shit up at midnight simply because voters supported the ordinance telling them not to. And good luck getting the police to persuade the asshats into behaving responsibly or arrest a few entitled bigots; I’m sure they’re too busy downtown trying to menace whatever protestors our community can produce.

I’m sure it will only get worse from here, since the Fourth is coming up. I am extremely nervous about what that might mean. Fireworks have been illegal in our city for a while now, though outlying rural areas cherish the “fweedom” to let loose the artillery and fill the emergency rooms with burns, amputations, and assorted other injuries every year.

I have never liked fireworks, personally. They always remind me of the sonic assaults my childhood abusers used during rageaholic sessions. You’d also think anyone who has a pet would take a look at the shuddering, the drooling, and the hiding most animals do when the fireworks start and think gee, maybe this isn’t a good idea, but apparently, selfishness and sadism reliably wins out for most people.

And it is sadism. If you have pets and you let off artillery for an abstract “celebration,” you are taking a direct hand in traumatizing your animals, betraying the implicit contract to protect and care for them. It’s that simple.

I’m sure people will scream “but what about fweeeeeedom! and patriotism!” and additionally moan that I’m a killjoy and have no right to accuse them of being sadists, that they love their Fido and Kitty and it really doesn’t upset their animals that much. I shall have no ruth for such bullshit, because my dogs were pressed against me shaking in fear for at least an hour and a half after the last boom reverberated through our otherwise quiet neighborhood while I lay internally raging against the selfishness of fuckwits and wishing I could explain to my poor furry companions.

I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of selfishness and fuckwittery. Some days it seems like there’s nothing else on this damn planet, at least as far as a certain species of bipedal primates is concerned.

I’m also worried about what the booms and crackles might cover. An entire army division could move in and announce martial law while racist asshats and their fuckwitted racist friends are busy blowing shit up for “fweedom” and we’d never know until too late. Don’t tell me it’s an outlandish notion, for God’s sake, just look at the news–outlandish shit is happening night and day.

“But it’s tradition!” some people will moan. So was bull-baiting and cockfights. “Tradition” is not a reason to keep doing fuckwitted, stupid, racist, sadistic, or abusive shit. It’s also not a defense.

…you can tell I’m feeling the lack of sleep. I’m annoyed, and even coffee isn’t soothing the urge to let my claws slip free. Maybe getting a run in will help, maybe not. I can probably let a little of it out on the heavy bag, and see if there’s a combat scene or two I can write today.

Time to take the dogs for a walk. And if there’s spent fireworks scattered in the street before particular houses, at least I’ll know which of my neighbors is a fuckwit. One always has one’s suspicions, of course, but confirmation is confirmation, to coin a phrase.

Christ, I wish people would just stop being fuckwits. But apparently asshattery will always be with us, lo unto the pearly gates. It’s enough to make even an optimist think there’s no redemption for our silly little species. Today I’m almost halfway there already, and if I have to go pick up milk I’m sure I’ll see something that will push me the rest of the distance.

Over and out.

From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Round and Round We Go

The Princess found out earlier this week that her favorite streamer–the one she’s been watching ever since she and her bestie were playing JRPGs in middle school–preys on underage girls. She’s watching the stories come out in realtime, and struggling with the games she loved because she watched this fellow play them. “Baby’s first internet rumble,” I remarked during brekkie this morning.

She made a face like she used to when she was nine and had just discovered sarcasm. “So what’s going on in your part of the internet?”

I was forced to admit, “Pretty much the same thing.” There’s another of the periodic reckonings in SFF authordom, where the stories about predatory douchebags have circulated for years and then, once they reach a certain mass or a victim decides to risk going public, a lot of other men show their asses and how little they value half of humanity by going to bat for said douchebags. Or, worse, attempting a finger-wagging “I’m an ALLY! I would NEVER do that!” and being called on behaving just as badly, for just as long.

“They all work off the same playbook,” I told her. “And this happens cyclically. Over and over.” Because it does. The dustups happen with depressing frequency, and they’re rarely a surprise–the whisper networks are pretty robust. At least mine are, for which I’m grateful.

The only new-ish thing is that I seem to have moved out of the victim pool and into the “useful for cover if I can just mislead her enough” pool. Part of that is the fact that I’m older and not seen as sexually available or attractive, part of it is that I have some tiny perceived power in the vast heterogenous ecosystem of publishing. I’m sure a wide lateral network of female peers who tend to warn me early and thoroughly is part of it, and makes me a less attractive target for cultivation, lovebombing, or negging.

I’m lucky.

Because I’m regarded as old, fat, and unattractive, not only do I escape some of the creepers but I also miss out on a lot of opportunities, since the biggest plums douchebags are empowered to hand out once they’ve reached a certain amount of success (lower difficulty settings, let’s not forget) tend to be reserved for the victims they want something from instead of the hags they cultivate for cover.

I stopped going to conventions partly because I couldn’t afford travel and childcare costs, which is one way society punishes women who dare to have actual careers. But mostly, I was tired of being creeped on, harassed, assaulted in elevators, cornered after panels, pinched, groped, negged by male small-press publishers, followed into parking garages, followed to my hotel room, propositioned in the dealer’s room, and the instances of having to defuse a (possibly inebriated) man who insisted I should drink from the glass he brought me so hard I suspected–no, I knew–it was adulterated somehow.

Instances. Plural. And there’s still the online stalkers/harassers, who I’m sure will mistake this post for blood in the water, but at least I can block their sock puppets over and over.

The first few times I saw these fandom or SFF publishing reckonings, I was naive enough to think maybe they would change something. But they happen with such regularity, and the douchebag harassing rape-y behavior reported each damn time never really changes. It’s never a reckoning, it’s more like the periodic release of tension so the system can continue as usual.

On my pessimistic days, I’m pretty sure racism and misogyny have humanity by the throat and won’t ever be pried free. On my optimistic ones, I’m pretty sure humanity will find a solution–once we’ve tried literally every other damn possibility twice or thrice. The simplest solution, of course, is stop being a fucking douchebag, but that seems beyond the power of a significant chunk of white males, or even males in general.

I’m sure someone will bleat “both sides!” and “women can be abusive too!” in the comments, but I don’t fucking care. I’ll start caring when we reach gender parity; until then, the problem is overwhelmingly on one side and that side needs to clean its fucking house, come get its people, and adult up.

“So it looks like X has finally been outed,” a friend said yesterday, mentioning a douchebag who had been shitty to one of our mutual friends many, many moons ago. “At this point the only man I like is Y, unless you’ve heard something about him?”

I’m sure the heaviness of my sigh reached through both our phones. “…well, yes. Y does A, B, and C. I have two reports from two separate women.”

“GODDAMMIT,” was the reply. “So that’s why he’s such an ‘ally’.”

Which is another blog post entirely, isn’t it.

Over and over it happens. Round and round we go. Where does it stop? I certainly don’t know, unless it’s when society changes to the point that the fear of being outed and consequent disapprobation reaches a certain level. But then the douchebags will probably just find another way to be creepy and shitty.

“They don’t really know how NOT to be creepy,” a male friend, someone I rather like and hope is trustworthy, said yesterday.

“They know,” I had to say. “They just don’t care. I’ll tell you how I know: because they manage to refrain from being creepy around people not in their victim pool.” If they can weigh the consequences and refrain in some situations, it absolutely means they know better, and have deemed it an acceptable risk in other situations.

I understand some men not wanting to think their fellow men just… don’t care. I understand they don’t want to think about what it might say about them personally, as men. Just as I don’t want to think my fellow white women can be racist-ass Karens or TERFs because I want to believe I’m personally better than that, I understand men don’t want to think they have the capacity to be a misogynist predator.

We all have to face uncomfortable things about ourselves, and doubly uncomfortable things about whatever privilege we possess. The solution is simple: Just don’t be a douchebag.

Just fucking refrain.

Individually we might manage it. Collectively? I’m pessimistic today, so the best I can say is “we’re doomed.” Tomorrow I might feel differently.

But I’m not betting on it. I have no grand ending for this post, I have no solution other than don’t be a fucking douchebag and don’t cover for douchebags. I don’t even have the strength to be optimistic today. The merry-go-round has just swirled too many times, and I’m queasy on a spiritual level.

If there was anything else I was fit to earn my living as, I’d probably leave publishing. I would keep writing, of course, just not for public consumption. If even I am tempted to burn it all down and walk, think of how many great books we’re missing out on because a douchebag has hounded other women out. Because those women were exhausted and brutalized–emotionally or physically–into leaving. If these men could just fucking stop being douchebags, think of all the great stuff we could have in games, movies, books, you name it.

We could have a better world. But some douchenozzles just don’t want it. And they happen to be placed in positions of power.

It’s almost like that’s what the system is designed to do overall, isn’t it.

Isn’t it just.

Usual June

The coffee is particularly nice this morning. I got the perfect proportion of cream to bitter, and I am sipping it while not watching the world at large shred itself to pieces. Later today there will be gallons of tea while I mark up proof pages, always a fun time. The kids are looking forward to pizza if I spend all day doing that; finishing a zero, looking over CEs, or proof pages mean Mum might not have enough oomph by the end of the day to attempt anything like cooking.

We’re having usual June rains for once, which is grand because of drought. It also means I’m productive, though not in the way one would think–I spent most of yesterday on a trunk novel instead of on three paying projects and proofs. Sometimes one just has to give the Muse what she wants, and apparently she wanted a harpy attack on battlements.

Go figure.


It’s been two weeks, and the dictator is still in power after gassing and shooting peaceful protestors for a photo op. The military is still deciding which damn way to jump and the dictator’s cabal is still stuffing the federal judiciary. The media is deciding not to cover the huge ongoing protests, no doubt for a collage of reasons including the risk to reporters1 and the fact that a few in the ruling class now own most of our media outlets. The violent repression will probably go all but unremarked now, and come November voter suppression and other dirty tricks will put the seal on it.

And don’t even get me started on the pandemic. We’re seeing the result of Memorial Day’s “whining for a haircut” gatherings, and it’s just as anyone with any sense feared.

The body count is entirely to be expected with regressives and a criminal cabal made up of malignant narcissists and sociopaths in power. This is the system functioning as designed. It’s not a breakdown, it is the logical endpoint. In short, as many (including yours truly) broke our lungs and throats screaming in warning for decades, this was their game all along.


As usual, though, there’s the dogs to walk and a run to get in, laundry to fold, work to accomplish, voices to boost. The dogs were quite active early this morning, despite the fact that my alarm had not yet rung; maybe it was the rain overnight. Anyway, Boxnoggin was determined to crawl under my covers–probably because he thought the roof wouldn’t shield him from falling water–and Miss B, having decided she was up and wanted attention, was on my other side doing her level best to keep me from seeking solace in unconsciousness when she desired ear-skritches, dammit.

Boxnoggin will hate the morning’s walk, because his precious wee paws will get wet. You’d think he’d be more of a wash-and-wear bruiser, this dog, but instead he’s Nervous and Delicate. Miss B is the smarter and more dangerous of the two, but nobody seems to think so. They see the shape of Boxnoggin’s head and freak out, thinking “pit bull” instead of “oh hey, boxer-terrier mix, that’s no nanny dog.”2 I can’t count the number of people who have said “aren’t you scared?” while looking at him.

The dog can barely find his own paws; the only thing I’m concerned about is him tripping and hurting himself, frankly. But I just smile, because if they’re afraid of my big black doofus, it means I’m safer. Especially since most of the people who cast longing gazes upon him are the middle-aged white men who selfishly want me to stop going about my business to service their random emotional needs, and tend to get aggressive and violent if ignored. *eyeroll*

Meanwhile, I have to keep a sharp eye on Miss B if I’m accosted, because she is done with any bullshit at all and will lunge to nip if someone decides to intrude on my personal space. It’s the cranky old lady one has to watch out for, not the gangly youth in his black coat.

Much time has passed while typing this, mostly because Boxnoggin has been very insistent that he needs tummy rubs and needs them now, thank you, what on earth do you mean Mum might want to tie her shoes or finish a piece of writing first? Clearly my priorities must be readjusted. And of course I should probably take down the rest of this coffee if I expect to have anything resembling clarity of thought for the rest of the day.

Meh, maybe clarity’s overrated. I suppose I could just stagger along without it, the gods know seeing some things clearly has given me nothing but an incipient ulcer and trouble sleeping.

Happy Tuesday, dear Readers. I hope it’s less like Monday, although so far 2020 has seemed a year of bad Mondays.

Over and out.

Rock Possibilities

I saw this little fellow again while on walkies with Very Excited Dogs yesterday. The painted rocks move around the neighborhood in odd patterns; I half suspect someone knows I’m keeping an eye on them and moves them just to say hello. Or, you know, the rocks are moving of their own accord.

Of course the real reason is that the people who paint them are trading them, and people who like them are moving them around like goods in an economy. But I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t consider the other possibilities.

And, of course, there’s the fact that this particular stone seems to be following me. While I’m not sure about the “stay positive” message–unfounded optimism tends to give me the hives, not to mention the willies–I can get behind the “laugh” bit.

I’m waiting for everything to reach the pitch of absurdity that makes me break down in helpless laughter. That’s generally when I know I’m going to be all right. It’s taking a while, though–there’s nothing laughable about current national events, and indeed there rarely is. Rather, I start laughing at the absurdity of my own personal life.

Sooner or later I’ll get there, I’ll hear that peculiar internal snap, and the giggles will flood free. It’ll feel like lancing a boil, a painful relief, and I’ll know I’m going to be okay.

It might even be the next time I see this damn painted rock, so I suppose I’d best get out the door with the dogs soon. Whoever daubed it knew what they were doing.

And, since this is a Friday, I’m curious. Do you get the giggles when you snap too, dear Reader? What happens when you reach the end of your rope and fetch up against the knot? When do you know you’re going to be okay again? Tell me.

I’m all ears. And, apparently, amusement.

The Agony of Hope

It’s another lovely grey morning; the garden is settling to its work wonderfully. The dogs have been fed, though Boxnoggin has turned his nose up at the offering. When he first arrived, dry kibble–let alone mixed with wet food–was pure manna from heaven to be scarfed as soon as possible. Now, after a few years of regular twice-daily feedings, not to mention treats, he is possessed of an epicure’s disdain.

I don’t mind. He’s sleek and glossy, obviously in no nutritional distress, and if he feels secure enough to leave his bowl lonely every few days it’s a sign that he knows more is always available. I consider his snooty little sideways this is inadequate, Mother glance a victory.

Another victory? He’s taken to occasionally sleeping on his back, all four paws in the air, propped against me or handy pillows on the bed at night. Miss B, of course, has her traditional place on the bed, and hops down a few times nightly to sprawl on the coolness of the loo’s tile floor. But Boxnoggin chooses a spot and stays there all night, occasionally shifting in place to expose his belly to the breeze. It’s especially fun when he begins dreaming.


The protests continue. The work of boosting other voices, encouraging anyone who listens to my rambling to do so, and of listening continues. Hope is creeping into my soul, though I am trying to bar the door. I can’t take the agony if it proves vain.

And honestly, I think it will prove vain, between the overwhelming violence regressives will unleash, the exhaustion of those on the streets who are at great risk of being felled by pandemic if they aren’t brutalized into silence by militarized police, and the complicity of Democrat power-brokers who think a few “reforms” will silence the howling and consider Republicans their coworkers and coevals owed more consideration than their constituents.

I’d say “vote them out” but who honestly thinks we’re going to have a free, fair election in November? If you do, I admire your optimism but see absolutely no grounds for it.

Last night I told the Princess, “It has always been like this. The difference is nowadays we have the cell phone videos to lift the rock and see what’s squirming underneath.” Sunshine is indeed the best disinfectant, showing the reality of the racist police state, and the mass unemployment caused in no small part by an absolutely criminally fumbled response to a global pandemic is a factor that may well prove decisive–the shitty jobs available to most of us, leaving us too tired, isolated, and afraid to protest or organize, no longer exist; so there’s time, energy, and the burning need to be in the streets.

I see America trembling upon a knife-edge, not between revolution and the status quo, but between vast violent repression by the dictator still squatting in the White House (remember on June 1 when he attempted to declare martial law? The military still hasn’t decided which side it’s on, and I keep highlighting this because it’s important) and co-optation of the protests by a few pseudo-liberal careerists who think a sop or two will return things to “normal.” You can see the latter in the mealy-mouth utterances of people who fancy themselves Serious and Bipartisan, tsk-tsking at the demand to defund the police.

“You should say reform instead,” they bleat.

“Reform” isn’t quite a dirty word yet, but when it’s used after every explosion of quite understandable anger by the people on whose scarred, bleeding backs America is built to give the illusion of progress that’s promptly forgotten once everyone is back at their shitty jobs full of wage theft, it’s understandably fast becoming so.


I must write these stories, or we don’t eat. If the economy collapses further, or if the dictator and his cabal win, it won’t matter. In the first place, I’ll be so busy trying to keep us fed and housed I won’t have time to think; in the second, they’ll come for me sooner or later. Privilege will insulate me, but only to a point.

In the meantime, I have to survive, keep my kids fed, keep the dogs in kibble. Focusing enough to work with that uncertainty hanging overhead is a terrifying daily effort. I can barely imagine–or maybe I can’t imagine at all–what it’s like for those with less luck and privilege than my own sweet self.

Oh, hope creeps in when I least expect it, when I hug one of my children or when Boxnoggin is asleep, trusting and belly-exposed, on my blankets. Who am I kidding? Dum spiro, spero, and all that. Hope is part of the human condition. It is unbearable, yet it must be borne. Just like life itself.

I don’t want to hope. I’m tired and I want to be unsurprised, I want to never again feel that sick thump of disappointment and fear when a disaster I saw coming (and my shouted warnings of were ignored) finally arrives.

The garden–and the dogs–have no idea of our precarious situation. The dogs only know Mum’s upset, of course, and they try to soothe.

I try to let them. And I don’t want to hope, but I suppose I must try to. As Toki says in Princess Mononoke, “We’re not dead yet, Kuroku, we’ll manage somehow.”

Gods grant it be so.

Celebrate, Stepping Stone

The weekend was an endurance contest, and I think I won. Barely, but any victory is worth celebrating, no matter how small.

Now it’s a cloudy morning, and I have the Gipsy Kings strumming in my head. Usually that means I’ll be dancing all day, but serious movement will have to wait until I’ve absorbed some caffeine and walked the dogs.

They’re saying we’ll get up to 80F later this week. Summertime, and the living is sweaty. I like winter better; you can always put another layer on or burrow under covers, but taking off your own skin once the prickles of heat rash starts is an entirely different prospect. It reminds me of the Shel Silverstein poem where the kid even takes his muscles off, sitting there as a skeleton, and is still hot.

Today is the very last Haggard Feathers post. I’m really upset at having to let that experiment go. I feel like I’ve let readers down by not being completely bulletproof and able to swallow gallons of the current agony without choking, but maybe at some point I’ll be able to go back to it.

Just… not for a long while.

On the bright side, I go back to work today. There are line edits (thankfully light) on Finder’s Watcher, which will probably be published as Finder. Of course you guys will be the first to know; I’m looking forward to the cover reveal, not to mention preorder information. And there’s a particularly knotty scene in The Bloody Throne I’ve been thinking of for three days, as well as a scene in HOOD‘s Season Three–Yung Gamweil and Vili Rouje in a cave, talking about whatever crosses their minds–that needs finishing.

I’m not working as quickly as I used to before the pandemic hit, but maybe scoping in a bit and cutting off some experiments (though it pains me to do so) will give me enough energy to get back onto the track for other things.

It’s worth a shot, at least.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know I say that a lot, but it bears repeating. The world attempts to flog us enough, we don’t have to cooperate or add to it. I’m terrible at taking my own advice, too. So telling you helps remind me.

And with that, I’m off and flying low. Every victory celebrated, but also a stepping stone.

Over and out.