Tiny Graces

Yesterday was awful, and now I have plenty to catch up on. I’m happiest when I’m working, I guess, but all the same…I’d like to layabout for a few more days and stuff my head full of fun things. Alas, administrivia and wordcount beckon.

On the bright side, I pulled a beautiful four-shot this morning, and here it is for your delectation. It smelled great, and cut with a little cream, tasted even better. And one of the kids loaded the dishwasher already, so that’s one less thing I have to do. Such little things–a cup of coffee, a dog’s nosing at one’s hand, finding the dishwasher already loaded–make life bearable. When I look to find what makes life worth continuing, it’s the tiny graces that end up outweighing all else.

I wish you a day full of small, beautiful things, my friends.

Re-Tuning Rituals

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I haven’t been able to drink alcohol since the stomach flu, and good gods above, do I ever miss it. It’s not that I can’t function without, it’s just…man, getting to cocktail hour and pouring myself a measure to celebrate getting through the day and take the edge off my nerves was a welcome ritual. Now I’m doing things like stretching and drinking ice water, and it’s just not the same. Sure, I’m healthier and all that but I would love a little fuzzy soft-focus come 5PM.

I hadn’t realized how much that small ritual was a signal for me to relax and let the end of the day proceed, to look over the day’s work and fix egregious typos. It’s also nice to just let the story sink into the bottom of your brain and turn the entire problem of what comes next over to your subconscious. Those giant engines below the floorboards need something to do while I’m sleeping. Left to themselves they just come up with nightmares, and while those are sometimes instructive, they’re not terribly useful.

Sometimes I think one’s entire life is seeing how fast a primate can come up with new rituals in changing conditions.

Anyway, I took most of yesterday off since Tuesday ended with finishing the first revision of Atlanta Bound. That was a monster of a revision because I’d written the zero so lean and at such a furious pace, moving from handhold to handhold. Crossing that particular task off my list was extremely satisfying. Trying to unplug and chill Wednesday was…not as satisfying. The flywheel inside my head, still spinning from the Afterwar release and the revision of The Maiden’s Blade under a severe time crunch, ramped up again to get through another revise, and didn’t want to slow down or stop. The knowledge that I’m courting burnout if I don’t schedule in and force myself to take recovery time is a very thin rail to keep me plunging off the cliff, indeed. I itch under my skin if I don’t write, and I have about twenty-four hours before the discomfort becomes acute and I must write or begin scratching, snapping, and sparking.

So today I took my sweet time getting out the door for a run, and dawdled on the way back with Miss B, who was ecstatic to be rambling New Places. I have subscription stuff to send out, that will eat up about an hour.1 I’m allowed only a little bit of work today, but it’s going to be on Robin Hood in Space, which I’m tentatively titling HOOD.

Man, I can’t wait to start playing with the genre conventions of that particular tale.

There’s also a podcast interview scheduled for this evening2, so I wouldn’t be able to imbibe anyway. I miss the habit of relaxation and I joke a lot about writers having to fucking drink to put up with all the bullshit in publishing; maybe I should look into edibles instead because they’re legal in my state.3 Christ knows the bullshit isn’t going away anytime soon. Only the coping mechanisms change.

And now, having thoroughly depressed myself with that last observation, I’m off to do some formatting. Catch you later, alligators.

Housecleaning, Steelflower, Monday

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Late Friday evening, I compiled the first draft of The Maiden’s Blade into a Word doc, eyeballed it for formatting…and sent it off to editor and agent. Consequently, I spent the weekend twitching, desperate for something to slow down the flywheel inside my skull. The kids flat-out told me I wasn’t allowed to do anything resembling work; I gather I looked a wee bit haggard.

Well, you know, more haggard than usual.

So there was a lot of cleaning, especially in the kitchen. Since the dishwasher seems to be settling in all right (thank the gods) I decided it was time to do the regular spring cleaning. Even the kids got in on the act, mopping, shaking rugs, finding things to tidy all over the house. Come Sunday afternoon, we could all achieve our liquid forms in various parts of the house and settle to reading or video-gaming, which was quite pleasant. The tidiness won’t last, of course, daily living (not to mention dogs) takes care of that.

But it’s nice while it endures, and the fact that I didn’t have to do it all myself is golden.

The Little Prince is attempting a Narnia read-through. So far, he’s in the wilds of The Magician’s Nephew, and he can’t get over how creepy Uncle Andrew is. “All I want to know is where’s Polly, and this guy has cocoa powder in a box and won’t tell me!” he fumed at the dinner table last night, and I just kept telling him, wait until you get to the White Witch, my son.

We are also the (proud?) owners of a Cards Against Humanity set, and I’m contemplating inviting a few people over to play. I’m not social even at the best of times, and I hate competitive games1 but getting a bit tiddly2 and putting together several filthy MadLibs with people whose verbal agility and sense of humor are just as hyperactive as mine sounds like a great time.

And now that I’m not pushing to heave this bloody epic fantasy out of my head posthaste, I might even have some energy left over. (Maybe.)

The big project this week is finishing the top-to-bottom first revise of Atlanta Bound; then it’s on to revising a YA I wrote about getting enfolded by a cult. The latter needs its crisis to be drawn out a little more; it chose to come out in a tight first-person POV and by the end of it (120K words, I think?) I was tired, tired, tired. I’m pretty sure nobody will buy it, since my YAs feature kids who cuss and suffer things I did growing up, but eventually it might see the light of day elsewhere. The thing after that on my big to-do list is a revise of Steelflower in Snow, which is tentatively planned for an October release. There is one more Steelflower book after that, if the current ones do well. I don’t think I’ll write her eventual return to her homeland, I think maybe I’ll just let her adventures in the Highlands reach their natural conclusion and bid farewell to the series. Mostly because I’m tired of people yelling at me over them.

Odd Trundles is Extremely Put Out this morning, since he refused to leave the Fancy Office Dog Bed and as a result got splattered with saline. (Don’t ask. Just…don’t ask.) To add to his discomfiture, the Mad Tortie has decided she wants to play, but only wants to play according to her rules, which shift so quickly Odd can’t keep up. He keeps getting smacked on the nose–with no claws, the Mad Tortie is velvet-pawing him–and looking at me with this long-suffering but I’m doing what she wants, Mum, make her staaaaaaaaaaahp look.

In short, it’s Monday all over, for the bulldog as well as yours truly. When I head out for a run he’ll moan, groan, eventually settle for his morning nap, and be snoring gustily by the time I return.

Would that we were all so lucky.

Peace, Process

Maybe I’ve recovered from the zero draft of Maiden’s Blade, because I’m looking at the sheer amount of revision that book will need and feeling the need to wail and gnash my teeth. It won’t help, and a lot of the work is supplementary materials–character sheets, footnotes, etc.–because if I’m going to do a doorstop epic fantasy trilogy, I need to keep names and character arcs somewhere other than my aching skull. It used to be I’d simply stuff it in my cranial corners, but with going back to piano and all I need all the extra bandwidth I can get.

I also have a book on “the poetics of The Tale of Genji” that I want to dive into, dammit, and I can’t until I bloody well get the zero draft in at least reasonable first-draft shape and sent off to yon patient editor. I’m dangling litcrit in front of my face like a carrot before a donkey, which means I’m much more tired than I thought.

I’ve had a few moments lately where I simply stop and look at things in my house. When I catch myself thinking about old hurts, often my eye will light upon a framed print, a plant, a tchotchke I remember placing with care. The idea that I’m forty-two this year, I’d a dul-gurned adult, and that I have arranged my life mostly to suit myself is still shatteringly exotic. I am hideously, unabashedly lucky. From the Nighthawks over the piano to Rembrandt’s Athena in my office, from the glass apples to the half-burned candles on the mantel, from the glass fishing floats to the statues of goddesses watching over the domicile, from the bookshelves arranged exactly as I prefer them to the books gathered wherever I happened to be reading them, from the knitting on my desk to the Princess’s knitting on the coffee table, from the Little Prince’s playing cards (he practices throwing them, I don’t know) in random places to the rehabilitated plants everywhere there’s enough sunlight to fuel them, my refuge is beautiful.

I suppose every May I think about the price of surviving and the measure of success. I worry that having a place to rest will dull my edge, which is just the hypervigilance talking. I’ve gone from considering just-plain-enduring a single day a success to having larger goals than sheer brute survival. Having those larger goals feels like asking for too much. Don’t push it, all this could vanish.

I wonder what I could want, if I’d been raised by better-adjusted people who actually wanted me. I wonder what I’d consider natural and reasonable to ask for. I wonder who I’d be without the scar tissue. I suppose every survivor does.

Right now I am trying to teach myself that I am allowed some peace, that it is a good thing to have, that my sense of peace is a process so if it breaks I can figure out how to fix it, and that lasagna is not necessarily a hideous miscarriage of perfectly good pasta. (That last one is more of a personal preference than a Grand Life Goal, but I might as well tack it on.)

And Athena, hanging in my office, is neither smiling nor frowning, simply gazing pointedly at my desk. That’s all very well, the Maiden says. But get back to work.

Aye-aye, Captain. Back to work it is.

Yes, Decompress

“It’s not even 1pm,” I said an hour ago, “and already I am Done With Monday.”

The Princess nodded sagely. “That’s why I’m making challah.”

Which isn’t a bad way to spend said Monday, so I suppose I should buck up and feel less meh. The only thing I’m doing today is the last revise on Jozzie & Sugar Belle, and laughing quietly every once in a while at something particularly amusing. Not sure if anyone else will see the funny side of a kangaroo shifter searching for his testes with the help of a stripper witch, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I haven’t been allowed to touch anything that looks like work for the past two days, and am eager to get back to it even though the usual decompression from finishing a zero draft (I put the zero of The Maiden’s Blade to bed late Friday) has me in its teeth and is shaking hard. So yes, I can work today…but no, I can’t put in a full day, because my nerves need to regrow some insulation. I’ve given up trying to guess how long the decompression from any given piece will be. Some short stories have wiped me out for a weeks, whereas some novels need as little as three days to spring back from. There’s just no telling what muscles you’ve pulled until you reach the top of the damn hill and the Sisyphean rock finally rolls down the opposite side. You have to stand and stretch–and, let’s face it, listen to Hades grumbling about how you shouldn’t have been able to do that–and see what cramps up and makes your eyes water.

*sigh*

At least revision still counts as working. And now, having sat and stared into the distance between paragraphs, I should probably get back to it.

Insulation, Burning

I’d rather be writing Robin Hood in Space or the kind-of-angel romance, but instead, this epic fantasy won’t bloody end. I keep stabbing it and stabbing it, and it just won’t die. I know I’m on the downhill slope, I know it will be finished, I just…I’m tired. I’d rather be revising Jozzie & Sugar Belle, even, and I’m pretty sure that damn novella won’t get any sales traction, ever.

I know, I know. Here I am complaining about a book under contract, one with the perfect editor, one I’m so close to finishing. I can find anything to bitch about, really.

This morning is cloudy and cool; I want to get out and run before the layer of insulation burns off my nerves and the sky. First I’ll have to find some socks, and that seems a difficult if not insurmountable task at the moment. I keep hoping that when the espresso hits I’ll feel less like I’m using concrete blocks for feet.1

I know the exhaustion is normal at this point in the writing process. I know plenty of it is the fact that I wasn’t completely recovered from Afterwar; I wasn’t even close to recovered. I know it’s a grueling endurance race and the June 1 deadline can be moved a bit. I know, intellectually, that I’m not letting the editor down if I need more time, especially with a giant sprawling cast-of-thousands2 book.

I still feel that hitch of uncertainty in my chest whenever I glance at the calendar and notice just how close I am to the drop-dead date. And the fact that the editor’s going to see the zero instead of a draft I’ve had time to let marinate is anxiety-producing as well.

The only way out is through, as usual. I’ve upped my running mileage as much as I dare to try and work off some of the cortisol and assorted stress chemicals. Deep breathing is always acceptable, but curling up in the corners is only useful in short doses. Miss B is nosing at me, ready to get out the door and work even though the weather means fewer people out with their canine buddies.

Guess I should find some socks and get over myself. All I have to do is keep writing. Sooner or later this book will finish like all the rest.

Over and out.

Energy

Electricity, Light, Energy, Technology
© Publicdomainphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I was going to write about Afterwar today, but I took an internal vote on my energy level and decided I’m maybe not quite recovered enough from the process of getting the book through publication.

I wanted to talk about how pretty much everything the Firsters do in the book is based on historical precedent, and also say a word about the Great Burn, but…yeah. Energy level. I’ll feel better after a run, but it’s blogging first and running after for the foreseeable future. It’s cloudy today, with spatters of rain, which means Miss B and I might avoid People Who Let Their Dogs Roam Unleashed, always a joy. I don’t mind the dogs, who are just dying to make B’s acquaintance, but I do mind the goddamn owners who want to talk to me after interrupting a working session with me and my beloved running partner.

…I may also be a bit cranky today. The coffee is soaking in. It’s glorious to have coffee without nausea, so I should probably be in a better mood. I finally got the lady in waiting kidnapped, which means The Maiden’s Blade can move into its final third. The next scene is the princess worrying over her lady in waiting while attending a banquet, having to smile and act gracious while sick with stress and dreading the worst for her friend and companion; the one after that is the actual rescue, I think, which I am going to make bloody as fuck to drive home just how much the prince involved is Not A Good Guy Even Though He Does Good Things. Then it’s back to assassinations, imprisonment, a wife to murder and someone to frame for it.

I’m swamped. *cue Prince Humperdinck face*

I should mention that the light therapy seems to be working. A fifteen-minute shot of BRIGHT OMG EYES WATERING while I blog or take care of correspondence in the morning seems to ameliorate the 3pm doldrums. I might add another session near 3pm just to see if I can get an afternoon zing, but I’m afraid of it messing with my sleep patterns. I never, ever want to go back to perpetual insomnia. I don’t even want to get close to the edge of that particular abyss.

There’s some exciting stuff landing in my inbox, like cover mockups for the planned Roadtrip Z omnibus and kicking around ideas for Jozzie & Sugar Belle. I may just sell the latter through Gumroad as a curiosity, I don’t think many people will want to read the Nutless Kangaroo Shifter Teams Up With Stripper Witch zaniness. But it’s fun, and it’ll be out there for the people who are interested.

Time to get out into the grey rain and sweat a bit, even though all I want to do is write the banquet scene. It will be better for the planning I put in while my feet are pounding, and I’ll have more energy after running. Funny how that works.

Over and out.