Tilting and Horrifying

It’s Tuesday. The earth is tilting toward equinox so the sun has moved to a different portion of the cedars for its morning path upward. Two more days until summer is officially over–I also saw the first Canadian geese of the season yesterday, winging south in two sharp V’s over a nearby park. Boxnoggin was oblivious, snoot-down in wet grass, but I watched the birds and felt a sharp swell of relief. No more 90F days until next year, thank you.

Lately, a particular line from a Batman movie has been stuck in my head–Heath Ledger’s Joker, calm and reasonable. “Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if that plan is horrifying.” It’s lived in my head rent-free for a while now, and lately it occurs to me at least twice per day, mostly while reading the news. Normally when a line gets stuck like this it means a story’s about to hatch from it and attach to my face before eventually bursting out of my chest with a splattering vengeance, but I hope that’s not the case this time.

I don’t want the book that would result from such a realization. I suppose I already wrote versions of it (Cormorant Run, Afterwar) and…been ignored, so why bother? The world is under no obligation to listen to me, but that works both ways. I’m under no obligation to keep setting myself on fire keeping the selfish or oblivious warm. Of course my therapist was always saying that–and so were my better friends–but it didn’t sink in for most of my life (so far). Probably because of the caretaking I was raised to do.

It’s not that I’m glorifying the Joker. The character is terrifying, especially in Ledger’s interpretation. I’ve been in the room with bugfuck crazy before, and he nailed it right down to the strange flat shine in the eyes, not to mention the physical movements. I can’t watch that performance without an atavistic shiver, because I remember being in close proximity with someone in that state (however temporary or permanent) and how it felt.

But that line…that line sticks with me, especially the quaver in Ledger’s voice when he says “horrifying”, all but smacking his lips while shuddering with mixed revulsion, excitement, and the burning knowledge that he’s using truth for his own purposes. I don’t deny there’s a certain seduction in that form of chaotic nihilism, a relief from the pain of caring. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take that path wholesale instead of just peering down it a little bit for a book or character, or vicariously by watching a movie.

I suppose enduring a pandemic in a failing state during the dissolution of an empire amid rising fascism will make anyone philosophical. And naturally, my optimism tells me that eventually humanity will figure it out, will collectively make a right choice or two. It’s just that immediately afterward my realism replies, “Sure, after exhausting every other possible strategy and tactic. And what will the body count be in the meantime?”

So I wait, I watch, I write, I take care of those I can. I think a lot about the assumptions we’re all operating under and how those assumptions might be changing. I think a lot about how humanity behaves when we think there’s some semblance of a plan, no matter how horrifying it turns out to be. I suppose that’s the downside of our cooperative nature as a species–it is the thing that could save us if we could just get our fucking acts together, but it’s also the thing that keeps us quietly queueing up for our own destruction.

And now that I’ve said this, it’s time to get some toast and walk Boxnoggin, who is gloriously unburdened by both intelligence and planning.

It must be nice.

No Silly Decisions

Had a difficult time dragging myself out of bed this morning and made the mistake of looking at the day’s to-do list before coffee. Had to take my imposter syndrome by the scruff and give it a gentle shake–no wonder I’m feeling overwhelmed, after back-to-back copyedits, a new release, and Everything Else. Three years of functioning under pandemic circumstances are beginning to tell. It’s time to be gentle with myself, and to not make any silly decisions because I’m tired.

Never make any life decisions before coffee or after 9pm, my friends. It’s a good rule, one I wish I’d known sooner. Of course I feel a bit panicked, given the sheer amount of work going on. Of course I feel drained after upping my livestreaming time. And of course I feel frayed down to transparency after back-to-back copyedits.

I prefer too much work to too little, naturally, and I’ve got my wish. Now there’s proof pages to get done, and I can spend the rest of spooky season on revisions and the serial. I think NaNoWriMo this year will be the next Tolkien Viking Werewolves book, so that’s one decision off my plate. And I’m considering tapering down the weekly online teas in favor of simply reading to you madcaps. We’ll see.

The weather has finally turned. It’s no longer a gasping-hot mess outside, which makes walkies–not to mention daily runs–ever so much more pleasant. Pretty soon I’ll need a jacket during Boxnoggin’s morning struts, and I can’t wait. The fitful breeze through my office window is the perfect temperature, and despite the fact that the season changing means a lot more yard work, I’m extremely happy. It’s not quite pumpkin season yet…but the gourds are swelling on the vine, and soon the rains will come in.

I’m ever so much more productive when it rains, so I’m looking forward to that. So it’s time for deep breathing, a stern look at my imposter syndrome (already shrinking to pea-size since such things always quail in the face of objective proof), and some toast to balance out the coffee just hitting my bloodstream. And maybe, just maybe, a few hours off today after I finish the critical stuff on the list, since I’ll do no-one at all any good if I hit burnout. That new true-crime documentary on Netflix won’t watch itself, after all.

Happy Thursday, beloveds. We’re almost to the end of the week. If we just hold on a little longer…

Back to Business

The sun is a bit above the horizon, but it’s still dim under the firs. The cedars along the back fence are limned with gold, though, and the coffee tastes pretty divine. I’ve got book pages to add to the site (Spring’s Arcana is up for preorder, my goodness) and there’s next month’s release to plan for as well as October’s–at least, if I get these CEs turned around there’ll be an October release. Just in time for spooky season!

The advent of autumn is bringing bit of renewed energy. The nights are reasonable sleeping temperature again, and hopefully we won’t have many more gasping-hot days before the rains arrive and I can be truly productive. I love water falling from the sky, it’s partly why I live on this slice of the globe. I mean, there’s also the lack of venomous bite-y things, but that’s a smaller consideration. Generally the bite-y things and I observe an armed truce; they leave me alone, I return the favor wholesale and with relish.

Boxnoggin has had a rather rough weekend, and is sulking on my bed. Oh, he got all his usual treats and walkies and pets, but I’ve had to leave the past few mornings to look after a friend’s menagerie while they were out of town and Lord van der Sploot did not like that, no sir, not one bit. Now that we’re back to the regular schedule he’ll settle in and cheer up, but he’s extremely unhappy with any disruption in routine as only a toddler can be. He got a treat and pets each time I returned, but I think he smelled other animals on me (not my fault, cats are affectionate and chickens are, well, chickens) and wished I’d take him along to make acquaintance.

The thought of the chaos such a maneuver would cause is hilarious, sure. Especially with the turkey. (Yes, there was a turkey. No, it did not attempt murder this time.) But also, it makes me tired.

It’s going to be a busy week. I’d like to get the Moby Dick reading on Twitch at least half done, the CEs of the second Ghost Squad book need to be turned around, and there’s wordcount to get in on the serial and the second Sons of Ymre before I have to add revising Cold North to the mix. Plus there’s website updates to do and I’d really like to at least do a trial reading of some Victorian erotica.

Still not sure if I’m going to put that last item on an OnlyFans, or a dedicated YouTube channel. I mean, I have this paperback of The Pearl lying about, and it’ll be great training to see if I can keep a straight face all the way through. I won’t be dressing up, however–it’ll probably be strictly audio, with perhaps a static image or two as the visual component. There’s a certain amount of fun to be had in reading high-grade historical smut in a low, even tone while wearing schlubby sweats.

I suppose I should see if Filmoria will work for that sort of thing. Hrm. The world apparently wants me to learn some kind of video editing, though I hate it. We’ll see.

I’m happiest while writing, second happiest while revising and the like, and just generally content when I’ve too much work to handle. Consequently, September’s going to be a banner month–but I have to get through the last few days of August to get there, and they promise to be jam-packed.

The sun has reached a gap in the cedars, and the coffee has cooled. Boxnoggin has decided sulking won’t get him anything and is shaking his collar, preparatory to trotting down the hall to check on me. I’m in running togs, which is a good sign as far as he’s concerned, but he’s very unsure whether or not the garage door is going to open and Mum disappear for a few hours. He would very much prefer not, thank you very much; a run is one thing but leaving in the car quite another. He’ll be all right once it’s clear we’re back to business as usual, though I’m sure he’ll miss the extra treats.

Let us gird ourselves for Monday, my beloveds. It’s a deadly day, but we outnumber it and I’ve got the baseball bat handy. Upward and inward, excelsior, and all that.

Relatively Unfiltered

The heat is awful, but there are signs of it breaking. We might even have a temperature crest below 90F today, which will be a distinct relief. None of us are sleeping well except Boxnoggin, who is from Texas so this must feel homelike to him. This morning, however, he is pacing the house whining because I won’t let him chase the neighbor’s cat, and he can hear squirrels in the cedars because all the windows are open to catch some morning breeze.

Poor Lord van der Sploot; his is a life of woe.

Tomorrow the paperback for That Damn Werelion Book releases. The ebook will be out in September, and the soundtrack for writing it is here. I’m nervous, naturally, even if it’s under a different name; I didn’t intend to publish it. But why the hell not–it might sink like a stone anyway and in any case after 2020 I’ve decided life is short, why not in a number of areas. Maybe it’s only a function of hitting my forties and I can’t blame it on a specific (albeit historic) year. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I meant to spend the weekend doing rereads so I can jump back into new text on the two projects which absolutely must be finished soon. Unfortunately, heat sensitivity meant I could barely drag myself through the usual weekend housework, and that had to take priority. I spent the remainder of the time flat on my back, cursing the weather and my unreliable meatsack while wishing I could bloody well work. Ah well, today is another chance.

Last week’s Tea with Lili is also up on YouTube. It was about the current crop of reboots, reader expectations, and (of all things) Cinderella. I’m not sure if I’m getting this streaming thing down; it’s full of weirdness and I’d much rather not be on camera. But people seem to respond to the conversational format, and to it being relatively unfiltered. And frankly it’s the internet, so if someone doesn’t like it they can hit the back button or close the tab and be done with it. I’m sure there will be those who want to troll instead, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for that bullshit.

At least it hasn’t been too hot for coffee–I don’t know what I’d do without the morning jolt, and I dislike iced caffeine. Cooling to tepid is fine, but sticking ice in it and downing it cold is just not for me. Someone else can have my share of that.

And at least I recognized a plot problem in the last 4k or so I wrote of Sons of Ymre 2; I can fix it on the read-through I’m going to give all my attention to today. It’s best to not make an error at all, of course, but it’s also good to realize one’s in the process of committing it and immediately stop to tear out and fix it. I might even get the zero of this book done this month. Might.

There’s a lovely cool breeze through the window, and my skin is positively bathing in it. Boxnoggin and I will enjoy his morning ramble, but we’d best get out there. I don’t quite trust the weather app saying it won’t be awful today, and should get anything outside done sooner rather than later. A good ten degrees (Fahrenheit, naturally) cooler will make a difference, right? I certainly hope so.

Welcome to Monday, my beloveds. Let’s hope the day behaves itself. If not I may have to reach for the machete–or even the Peace Prize. I’m not quite expecting the day to step out of line…but I’m ready.

See you around.

Doldrums, Movement

I have all the windows open to get whatever coolth is possible before the day gathers steam into a scorcher. The meteorologists say we’re not getting the dry east wind from the Gorge but an offshore, western breeze instead, and that raises the humidity significantly. Normally in this weather we’ve got the Gorge breathing on us and it gets super dry. The extra bit of moisture may give us an edge against wildfires, but it also adds a layer of stress to bodily systems already struggling to deal with uncharacteristic heat.

I never do well with this kind of weather. Snow, ice, slush, terrible frigidity? All fine. Days upon gloomy days of grey cloud cover and drizzle? Perfect. But let the clouds clear and the mercury rise, and suddenly I feel a desiccated husk. Everything including my soul shrinks and my body reminds me that ever since that terrible almost-collapse in San Diego it doesn’t like anything above 75F, and will start shutting down to prove it.

A few endemic features of my profession have got me a bit frustrated as well. Publishing is a delayed-gratification game, and it’s furthermore set up to pummel a writer at every step–especially trad, which seems engineered, down to the smallest detail, to reduce the writer to scrap. Funny, the entire industry is built on what we create, and yet we’re treated as the most disposable part of the process, paid last and punished first. It takes a certain amount of strength to survive that, and even more stubbornness.

I often talk about spite being my fuel, and sometimes I feel like even my supply–near-infinite most days–is reaching its dregs. Yes, I’m feeling rather discouraged, my beloveds.

If I can just get through the heatwave things will probably feel less hopeless. At least all three projects are having forward movement. I figured out yesterday that Avery was resisting because Hell’s Acre needs a gangfight instead of the assassination I had planned (and he was anticipating), so as soon as I stopped trying to think through the latter a cork was pulled and the story began moving again. And the second Sons of Ymre took off too, a good 2k written instead of the measly 600 or so I was anticipating. An edit letter dropped for the third project, which means I have to shift gears to revision instead of moving ahead on Book 2, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

There’s my usual doldrums and fury at processing an edit letter as well. It’s the same each time–first I have to read the letter, get irate, and throw the damn thing in a drawer (physical or electronic) for about a week while I rage internally at the unfairness of not understanding my geeeenyus and how dare you tell me my book baby isn’t perfect? Nobody needs to hear that bitching, much less the editor who is, after all, only doing their job, 100% committed to making the book better, and probably right in 95% of cases. It’s up to me to deal with those feelings and get them out of the way so the work can continue, and I build that Week of Being Mad into my schedule as a matter of course.

It’s still profoundly uncomfortable to endure each time. A whole galaxy of nasty feelings has to be allowed to whirl around and spend themselves. Shoving them down or trying to ignore them does no good; one simply has to breathe through and get them out of the way much like squeezing poison from a wound.

The heat is mounting so I’d best get Boxnoggin walked and my own corpse run–assuming the temperature isn’t unlivable by the time I finish the former, of course. Maybe I’ll feel better after some physical effort, though it will ride the fine sharp edge of heat sensitivity.

I might also end this day hiding under my desk, sucking on a glass of ice water and snarling at any attempt to extract me from my cave. Heaven knows that sounds like a perfectly reasonable response to current conditions. We’ll see.

Happy Tuesday, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves; we’re all creaking at the seams a bit.

Cardio, Conundrum


I got all my cardio before coffee this morning so I’m shaky and sweating, crouching on the new (well, not new anymore) office chair and sucking at coffee hoping for a sedative effect. There’s also a mini heatwave (90F+, apparently) today and tomorrow, so that’ll be pleasant, I’m sure. At least all the nonsense is now out of the way early–unless there’s more waiting as soon as I decide what the hell.

…I just sat and stared for at least half a minute, unable to figure out what I had hazily planned to write. There’s a round-robin of songs playing inside my head, as if my mental radio can’t quite decide which station to settle on. It doesn’t usually do that unless I am super disturbed, so I suppose I just wait for the silt to settle. After a bit of brekkie things should calm down a bit, and then I’ll make decisions about running today. I know exactly what the day’s work entails otherwise; I’m back to juggling three projects at once and couldn’t be happier, though it does mean I am not allowed to do more than glance at the news.

I’m struggling with not looking, though. Part of it is the hypnotized stare of an animal watching something terrible creep closer and closer; I also suspect it’s partly like watching an avalanche one has foretold move with majestic, deceptive slowness down a mountainside. None of this is surprising, it was always depressingly obvious, nobody listened, why should I bother with further witness? Cassandra has done lost her voice.

At the same time, I have always felt that it’s a writer’s duty to bear witness, not to shy away. Still, I can’t do my own work effectively while watching the (predicted and predictable) collapse. It’s a quandary. I still have to hit my deadlines and care for my household, not to mention my small tribe, as best I can. So the system lurches on.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the Tamam Shud case. It reminds me of Goddard’s In Pale Battalions for some reason. I’m sure the explanation is prosaic, but the mystery endures. We love a good conundrum, us humans. I think we like the questions more than the answers, because of the possibilities–at least, many of us do. There are some who dislike ambiguity, who want everything cut-and-dried.

I am not the writer for them.

My pulse has returned to its usual pace, though I’m still a bit shaky from adrenaline. A run probably is necessary to purge all that, then I can rinse off and settle to the day’s work. In Hell’s Acre I need Avery Black and his boyos to prepare for a certain event, the second Sons of Ymre needs the transition to the second act, and the Tolkien Viking Werewolves, while given a good start, needs some serious word count and worldbuilding. It’s good to have clearly defined goals for the day–but breakfast first, and maybe just a wee bit more caffeine.

Purely because it seems a good idea, mind. Not because I’m putting off having to run with the promise of heat dragging at my limbs. Certainly not that…

Shingle Games

Remember the giant freak snowstorm we had in April? Finally, finally we’re getting some repairs. Well, a new roof, at least. The fences and deck will never be the same–no insurance company is a good neighbor, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

It’s been plain awful. First there was the bloody insurance company–the adjustor was a gentleman, but he was hamstrung by “company policies”–and then there was the mortgage company insisting on inserting themselves in the process where literally nobody wanted them. Then there was getting several different estimates, and then scheduling the actual work. I figured we’d be lucky to get the roof done before autumn rains moved in.

And we’re lucky, yes. Yesterday morning was the stress of being awake at 3am plus the agony of getting everything set up, and the afternoon was full of thumping, banging, one of the roofers singing along with the radio (he has a fine voice), Boxnoggin beside himself at all the ruckus, a midday video appointment, and finally my nerves were so shot I decided cake for dinner was acceptable. I haven’t cooked for a couple days, between the heat wave and this; I should really do something with the tomatoes on the counter.

It will be nice when it’s finished, and what a first-world problem to have, really–I’m very aware of that. But it’s still stressful; I zonked out hard last night, facedown in a book on the Thirty Years’ War. I hadn’t realized all three fellows survived the Defenestration of Prague. It was a fifty-foot drop, after all, and one of them injured himself on his own sword after the landing. That was as far as I got before sleep claimed me, and I barely woke up at 2am with the bedside lamp still on and a drool spot on the corner of the hardback.

I wasn’t able to work a lick yesterday, and I suspect today will be the same except for making sure the subscription drop has no issues. Which is fine, it’s why I worked all the way through the weekend…but still, Hell’s Acre needs some uninterrupted time. The plague has been super hard on that story; it requires some love. At least with the roof done a major worry will be cleared and I can use all the energy freed up to catch up, so to speak.

This morning Boxnoggin has been showing his displeasure by treating me as if the chez is some sort of democracy instead of a benevolent dictatorship where he’s concerned. If he made better choices, he would be right. But he doesn’t, so he was gently scolded and driven up the stairs with a click of the tongue and some firm but emphatic pointing. He is refusing his breakfast in protest–at least until I drop a toast crust in–and will be upset when the roofers arrive to finish the job, but such is life.

The funny thing is, by the time they’re done he will be dead certain the footsteps and crashing overhead have always been happening, and the quiet will give him the wiggins. He needs a good long ramble this morning before the workers arrive, so I’d best get the coffee swilled and my toast dealt with beforehand.

At least we’ve had wonderful weather for it–not too hot, which I was worried about with the 95+ days earlier in the week, but not rainy either. So all in all it’s worked out really well, and we’ve kept the roofers supplied with snacks and lemonade. I suppose I should view it as all working out for the best, given how it could have gone. Looking on the bright side is a defense mechanism at this point, I might as well continue. I’m grateful no squirrels have ended up in the mix. I mean, can you imagine?

Happy Thursday, my beloveds. I wish us all luck getting through; I’m gonna keep repeating “could be worse, could be worse,” under my breath…