Freeing, Not Optimal

Jozzie & Sugar Belle

Writing epic fantasy is very…different. For one thing, I’m not getting the “oh, this phase of the project is done” hit of dopamine as regularly as I’m accustomed to, and that makes me cranky. For another…well, let’s just say that working under another name is freeing, certainly, but it’s not even close to optimal. It would be better if the books weren’t regularly orphaned, or if I wasn’t treated like an embarrassing bodily noise instead of the person who’s writing the damn books everyone else’s job relies on.

But hey, you know…nothing’s perfect.

Anyway, I’m super cranky today. Lord Boxnoggin is whistling with his desire to get out the door for a run or get down the stairs to find a cat, whichever. And yes, his whine is so high and prolonged it sounds like a whistle. Not a train whistle, more like a kettle at low boil, right before all the water evaporates and you’re left with a lump of metal melted to the stovetop.

Not that I’d know anything about that, no sir. *clears throat*

I know exactly why I’m so upset. I dislike being ignored when it’s my work that creates the value for everyone else in the stream; if I’m not going to be granted a reply to my quite reasonable questions I shall work to please myself, and that might mean finishing another story or two for some sweet sweet dopamine before I go back to this beast. I have to have faith, and trust that the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing. Fifty-plus books in and I’m still having to hold my nose and step blindly where that bitch leads.

It’s enough to make me want to call the girls for a drunken night, stay absolutely sober, and write another Jozzie & Sugar Belle. At least that was fun and I got answers when I bothered to ask anyone about Tuckerisation or the like.

I suppose a run will put me in a better mood. I’m not being allowed to do my usual detailed work from start to finish with these books, and it irks me far more than I thought it would. In any case, I’ve learned my lesson: if I ever write YA or epic fantasy ever again, it will have to be for a publisher who doesn’t think readers are stupid or treat me like a rancid afterthought.

I hope such beasts exist.

*wanders off to run, muttering*

Adversarial Book

Took a bit of a sabbatical last week, at least from the blog and most social media. It was nice to do some deep breathing and restore my sense of proportion. I keep thinking I can save the world.

The world, however, either doesn’t want saving, or the job’s just too big for me. The latter isn’t so much of a consideration–I take on jobs too large for me all the time–but the former is. You can’t save those who want to drown.

The Poison Prince has broken the 60k mark, and I’m beginning to think I can pull this off. There’s no reason for the dividing line between books 2 and 3 to be placed exactly where it is; I can slide it back and forth as the need arises. Everyone in this book is talking when I need them to get to the dying.

This is probably a common problem in epic fantasy creation. *snork*

I’ve been moonlighting with a couple other things–Sons of Ymre, and the other Watcher book. Neither are moving very quickly because I have to fit in wordcount around the big bulk of Prince. I want to be done with this book so badly, it keeps me up at night sometimes. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard, because if I end up pulling all-nighters I’ll need longer to recover when I finally get a blade in the bowels of this fucking book and it breathes its last.

*eyes former paragraph* I may be having an adversarial relationship with this bloody book. Anyway.

It’s a cloudy morning; hopefully there won’t be anyone with unleashed dogs at the park. I’m having to stagger Miss B accompanying me; she’s getting to the age where the shorter runs are all she’s comfortably capable of. Of course she wants to go on every run, bar none. She would gladly run her heart out if I asked it of her, but I don’t ask it. In fact, I actively discourage such a thing, being a cruel and unjust owner who wishes to keep her safe and sound for a few more years.

It was awful to lose Odd Trundles, but the awfulness was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that we expected to lose him at any point, so it wasn’t exactly a shock. B, though…when she ascends to the great kibble bowl in the sky, I’m going to be devastated. It’s going to hurt worse than just about anything.

All the more reason to take care now while she’s with me, and snuggle her a bit more. If I can get her to hold still for it–she’s always wriggling free to go play with Boxnoggin. He is somewhat of an elixir of youth for her, their wrestling, yapping, and chasing serving to exercise them both. She’s pretty pissed every time he goes on a run alone with me.

Poor Miss B. She just longs to supervise everyone and everything, like the busy little bossy bee she is. Speaking of bees, there are no doubt going to be plenty of them trying to infiltrate my skull. Maybe I should braid my hair to give them more places to cling instead of a ponytail.

Well, that’s my morning work cut out for me. I suppose I should get moving.

Over and out…

Gut-Heaving Weekend

So Saturday morning, instead of settling down to work all day, I gutted out a run and came home to promptly lose everything I’d eaten in the last twelve hours.

Since I run in the mornings, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be, but bad enough. Still not sure if it was stomach flu or food poisoning. I’m tender in the middle right now but feeling ever so much better, especially since I had Sunday to recover as well.

The only bad thing is that I needed those days for work, not for time-sharing on the loo. I managed to get all my housework chores done, even the mopping, but dear gods in heaven, I would have rather been writing than heaving out my guts. Though the two often feel somewhat similar.

I’m fine now, as long as I eat as little as possible and don’t move too quickly. I don’t mind the non-eating; I’m busy enough that cutting down on meals or just eating a handful of bland stuff is a relief. But the moving slowly? I’ve got running to do, dammit, and it won’t get done if my body keeps being weird about it.

So it’s back to the epic fantasy, I guess, without a weekend’s worth of work on anything I want to write. At least I’m back in love with The Poison Prince, I made a decision last week that freed up a lot of mental and emotional energy. I’ve a death scene to write and the barbarian hordes to get moving for the border, so I’d best get started.

But first, a run. A nice gentle one with Sir Boxnoggin, since Miss B spent the entire weekend trotting after me and attempting, in her own inimitable fashion, to “help.” There isn’t much a dog can do when one is heaving, but she tried, and each time I got up in the middle of the night she was right there to herd me the few steps to the loo.

I suppose I’m lucky to have such aid. I would have hated to get lost.

Anyway, I am tender in a number of places but I have not yet begun to fight. Plus, Boxnoggin is all but vibrating in place. Time to get out the door.

See you around, chickadees.

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

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.