Mountain, Fork

twain3-00 Ever have one of those days where the sheer amount of things needing to be done in the upcoming weeks produces vapor-lock, and you are paralyzed by overwhelming anxiety?

Yeah. That was (sort of) yesterday, and is shaping up to be today. The only cure is putting my head down and performing small manageable chunks of larger tasks, but even then it feels like moving a mountain with a fork. Self-care becomes of primary importance in situations like this–because without it, the anxiety can eat you alive.

It has, after all, happened before.

I don’t talk a great deal about my anxiety disorder. (Or the goddamn depression.) One reason is that other people speak about it far more eloquently than I can. Another is the stigma of “mental illness”–though one way to break the stigma is to speak openly, sometimes I don’t have the fucking spoons. Then there’s the inevitable response that I need to “grow a thicker skin” or “get over it”. If I could “get over it” with sheer willpower, I would have done so. Lack of willpower is never something I’ve suffered. (I am, after all, still in publishing after a decade, not to mention still alive.) I tried the willpower route for years, and even when I was seeing Calm Therapist I resisted any suggestion that perhaps I might need a little more help. I’ve tried going off the meds, with Frau Doktor’s careful help, but the side effects of that have been…well, let’s just say there’s a reason I’m still on them and never miss a dose, though I loathe the very thought of taking pills for various reasons.

I am familiar with people who go off their meds regularly and use the occasion to spiral into an orgy of emotional (and physical) destruction of everyone around them–then go back on and blame the pills for the whole thing to escape responsibility for their actions. This is, in part, why I resisted taking pills at all; I do not ever want to even get close to being That Person. I am terrified of missing a dose; this makes me, I am told, one of the patients Frau Doktor worries about the least. (Which is nice.)

I still struggle with the feeling of being “weak” or “lesser” because the pharmaceutical help is necessary if I want not to wear my body out with its wonky over-response to stress. Life involves discomfort (thank you, Gautama Buddha) but, as Frau Doktor points out often, there’s regular discomfort and then there’s your body trying to hurt itself because of genetics and upbringing, and it only makes sense to treat the latter.

Even if you don’t have brain chemistry that actively tries to do you in, self-care is important. Yes, that voice in your head will always say “people are depending on me, I have to, I have to!” That’s all well and good, but one must care for oneself so one has the resources to care for everyone else.

So I’m off for a run, despite the anxiety screaming at me that I shouldn’t waste time on that when there’s so much work to be done. And I continue, day after day, holding my nose and taking the pills I don’t want to, because doing what’s necessary even when distasteful is what a responsible adult does. There is no room for the comforts of martyrdom when one has kids and dogs to feed, not to mention a house to keep from sliding into chaos.

Anyway, that’s the state of Chez Saintcrow today. (This is also the last day of the current coupon code at Payhip, if one is so inclined.) A morning run, using a fork to move a mountain, and remembering to eat.

When I put it that way, it sounds almost doable.

Rejection Game

what i do The smartmouth genie story (with extra added Ontario Cowboy Stripper) proceeds apace. Cormorant Run is due to start stacking up a body count today, or I’m going to get cross with it. Not that this particular story cares, I suppose. That’s part of its charm. What dubious charm this story possesses. It’s eating my head and it has to get out, but I’m not sure I particularly like anyone in it.

It’s a bright morning; before I run today, though, I have coffee to finish and administrivia to wade through. That will put me in a mood to swear and sweat, I suspect. The huge glaring yellow thing in the sky is out to get me; I am a creature of cloud cover and most productive when it rains.

Rattlesnake Wind got a rejection yesterday. An editor loved it but couldn’t interest a committee in it, which is very usual for my books. (I never do well in committee.) It has a teenage protagonist, so of course people want to pigeonhole it in YA. The trouble is, it’s also brutally honest and more than a little sad, so YA publishers don’t see it as a “safe bet.” I am of two minds about this. On one hand, my agent tells me I have good prospects and a dedicated fanbase in YA; on the other, dealing with the pushback from publishers on anything they think an Easily Offended Bible Belt Housewife might possibly take an exception to is tiring. I almost want to tell my agent to submit it to litfic imprints, but since my name is openly female and I’m a genre author, I don’t think there will be much interest.

Sure, there’s a sting in being told “not good enough”, but it’s a familiar one, and caused me only about a half-hour of irritation. I did have a moment of thinking “well, let’s put a male pseudonym on this and see if it sells, JUST AS AN EXPERIMENT,” but I don’t have the time or energy to deal with the various ramifications of that strategy.

There are still other publishers to approach, but most of them are YA, so I don’t know. The chances aren’t good, and I’m not sure my heart could take self-pubbing this particular book. It was painful to write, like lancing a very deep boil. There was a certain relief to it, but I wouldn’t willingly revisit the place where it came from now that I’ve said goodbye.

This is part of the publishing business: dealing with the rejections and understanding that even things you pour your heart into aren’t necessarily going to interest the bean-counters or the marketing committees. It’s okay to finish a book and know it won’t find a home easily or at all. At least it wasn’t on spec, it was something I had to write for my own sanity. So it’s not like I was cheated out of that (unpaid) working time. It can safely go in a drawer for a while.

After 50ish books dragged through the publication process, rejection is still the name of the game. (And people wonder why authors stereotypically drink.) And while self-publishing is more available than it’s ever been, there are still instances where and reasons why it’s not the best fit for a particular book. The people who urge it as a panacea are not, I suspect, being quite honest in such urging, but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Miss B has found out that a little bit of my ankle is bare because of the gap between my exercise gear and my socks, and she is nosing that one part hopefully. It’s time to get out the door.

Over and out.

Full Time

ghandi01 Moving, shifting, creaking. Sometimes getting up a little early makes one think about possibilities. Morning t’ai chi. Stretching. Plenty of time instead of a rush all day.

Then, of course, I roll over and burrow back into warmth. Screw that noise, right? Except when I absolutely have to get up and drive someone somewhere.

Anyway. I was rousted early this morning and am still absorbing coffee that became stone-cold while I navigated morning traffic. Fortunately the way home was clear, and we all made it in one piece. The rest of today is for a short easy run and all sorts of wordcount. And piano practice. I have thrown Monday back onto the ropes, but I’m not sure it will ever surrender. The best we’ll achieve is an armed detente.

I spent the weekend playing hooky with a story that isn’t one of the Three Projects. It was nice to clear my head and work on something I didn’t have a clear idea for, just feeling my way from one edge to another. Never underestimate the ability of one story to make another jealous–it doesn’t even have to be a story one plans on finishing, really. I work on multiple projects at a time in order to shift between them when one gets stubborn. The key is to keep the pressure just steady enough to provide forward momentum, and reined in just enough to make it seem like one is stealing time to work on something forbidden. That feeling of illicit work, of thieving around the edges of something else, heart in mouth and skin alive with anticipation, brings all sorts of immediacy to the table.

Now that the week’s started, though, I go back to the projects on tap, and the pressure now comes from getting wordcount in so I can go play later. So much of living is finding ways to trick or game yourself into doing the unpleasant but necessary. Keeping one step ahead of my own desperate desire to just crawl in a hole and let the world go on without me is a full-time occupation most of the time. So much so that thinking about it is a bit disheartening, so it’s time to actually go do something instead of planning.

Over and out.

Empathy Drawback

psychoanalysed Rolled out of bed this morning feeling I could cheerfully hex the face off anyone I did not give birth to. The kids are now safely at school, and I (and my bad humor) are safely locked in the office, tapping at a keyboard. Of course, I have to go for a run later, but if I time it right (and since the clouds have returned) I may not have to interact with anyone. A mercy to all involved, I suspect.

It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s that I get so much overwhelming information from them, even strangers. Being hyperaware of tone, expression, body language, bracing myself against drowning in other people’s feelings or being constantly on guard in case they suddenly explode…it’s exhausting. Years of the habit of observation from being a writer have only sharpened childhood’s leftover vigilance, and a healthy dose (maybe an overdose) of empathy only adds to the problem. I spend a lot of energy in crowds or public places just keeping the wall between me and other people’s feelings strong enough to keep me from going under.

Sometimes I wish I could shut it off. The wish never lasts very long, because I’ve seen people devoid of empathy and I never want to risk that. I know there’s a middle way, but when I get tired, it’s hard to keep my balance. The anti-anxiety meds help, too.

Characters can be just as difficult, just as draining. I feel them just as strongly, even the villains. Getting so far inside their heads I understand each tic and tiny action takes a toll. I am not my characters, I just…feel them. Ache for them. Understand them, and try to translate that understanding.

The mornings when I wake up and feel like hexing, or clawing, or practicing my resting bitchface so strangers don’t try talking to me (it rarely works, they seem to find me irresistible, especially in grocery store queues) aren’t because I dislike people. They’re because I don’t have the time or energy to respond to an ambush of my empathy. The internet is a godsend, really, because I can limit interactions and hold the entire field at arm’s length. I don’t risk going under the waves of someone else’s feelings quite so much.

I should add that social media is only easier for me because of tools like the GGAutoblocker and a very tight curating of my FB friends. Muting, blocking, and being able to just not respond to certain things has managed to keep the regular harassment from being a Woman on the Internet (especially with Opinions) to a minimum, which is an outright boon for anyone with any sensitivity at all.

So I’m about to take myself and my face-hexing mood out for a run, and then settle into a long day of harnessing my weird brain chemistry to pull the writing plow. It makes me feel far less stabby and hex-y to realize this is probably the only job I’m fit for, and I’m definitely very lucky to be able to shut my office door and do it.

Over and out.

Strange-Built Monkeys

stabbity A light frost last night, so I’m waiting for more warmth before I take Miss B out. The last thing I need is for either of us to trip and break a leg. Of course, the leg broken will likely be mine, since B is more agile, closer to the ground, and just generally more graceful than top-heavy ol’ me. She thinks monkeys are built strangely, but can’t deny the opposable thumbs and the ability to buy kibble more than make up for it, though.

On the bright side (there’s always one) the sunshine today will do good things for the garden. And tomorrow it’s back to rain, which is at least warmer during the night. The glass apples on my office windowsill are glowing. Of course, my office is a total and complete disaster, but at least the apples are cheerful. Creative mess, to be sure, and at the point I’m at–three different projects cooking at once–it helps to have a certain amount of disorder around. Wordcount comes more easily when I am not in a surgically clean environment.

With the dogs and kids around, there has never been anything close. It was worse when I was cleaning up after my ex-husband too, but that’s another story. *eyeroll* February means I need to start setting aside a few minutes every day for filing paperwork, as the end of the year has come and gone. That will cut down on the clutter, but never fear–it won’t make the damn mess any less creative.

Well. I’ve been coming back to this post multiple times over an hour and a half, and I only have 300ish words to show for it. That’s a signal I need to get out the door and run, so I can settle somewhat. My irritation level is cresting, and Miss B is a right nuisance when she knows I have my running clothes on but haven’t taken her out yet.

Over and out…

Compost SquirrelTerror

Really Odd Trundles wishes to inform you all that it is RAINING, and he does not like getting his paws wet in order to Do His Business outside. He further wishes to inform you that Mum is very busy and will not throw the bestest toy for him another ten times, and that his breakfast was not satisfactory because it is now gone. He is a dog of discriminating taste and many talents, and the least we could do is give him an eternal, infinite brekkie.

Clearly I am the cruelest puppy-mommy in the whole UNIVERSE, and he told me so in ten solid minutes of groaning and sighing before settling with his face on the heater, basking and snoring.

Poor Trundles. He does not understand that Mum has to stare at the glowing screen and do weird tiptap things with her monkey paws in order to assure his supply of kibble. The monkey paws are, in his humble opinion, for giving him ear-skritches and feeding him lots of treats. CLEARLY I am falling down on my duties, but he will magnanimously allow me to make it up to him with the aforesaid infinite breakfast and many skritches. After, of course, he finishes broiling his face on the heater.

Every so often he actually licks the heater’s surface. (It’s one of those portable heated-oil thingummies.) I am deadly afraid he’ll burn himself, but he hasn’t yet. The little weirdo must, despite all appearances, have some sense of self-preservation. Faint and fading, but there it is.

Moxie the squirrel, however, does not seem to. She was in the compost heap again yesterday, and there was a brief but glorious second where Miss B thought she had finally achieved her life’s dream (again) of catching one of the little rodents. (This time, for once, I believe Miss B had plans for what to do afterwards.) There was an explosion of decaying matter, Moxie went flying (screaming “FWEEDOM!” and something about “HAUNTH THE NIGHTHTHTHTHHHHP!”) and Miss B got half-stuck in the bin. I had to drag her out and try to brush her off, all while she twisted and moaned in my grip, a blackened banana peel caught on her rump, while Moxie sprawled dazed under the lilacs still chittering something about “GET DANGEROUTH!”

I did not let go of Miss B’s ruff until Moxie had gathered afresh some of her, well, moxie. Once Moxie was staggering for the fence I let B go, and she bolted straight for the punch-drunk arboreal rodent.

Who gathered herself enough to scream “FWEEDOM!” again, and by that point Odd Trundles had noticed something was going on. As I struggled to get banana peels and other crap off a wriggling Miss B, he had begun scuttling across the yard. Though he is only capable of short bursts at top speed, once he has achieved it, momentum provides him with a great deal of force. He was not barking, for once, he was too excited at the prospect of NEWFRIEND*snortwhistle*NEWFRIENDNEWFRIEND!!! to utter a single sound. (Plus, he was probably out of breath in a big way by the time he had achieved full steam.)

So, I let go of Miss B just as Odd appeared in my peripheral vision as a cream-and-brown blur.

Of course I yelled “OH FUCK NO–” It wouldn’t be a squirrel story if I didn’t.

Anyway, Moxie made it to the noble laurel at the corner of the fence and began climbing for her life. Miss B probably planned to levitate after her, and was gaining speed. Odd Trundles, having veered just slightly to account for Moxie’s flight path…

…crashed headlong into that corner of the fence, bounced off, picked himself up, and tried to throw himself at it again. I believe he thought some insidious monster mimicking a fence-pole overgrown with laurel branches had eaten his new friend, whom he was now desperate to save. Miss B leapt, I screamed another cavalcade of obscenities, and Odd staggered backward in a semicircle. His high-pointed ass struck the fence near the apple tree and he jumped, thinking it was an attack, and in his dazed condition he reverted to default: Bark, and hightail it toward the safest place in the world.

I.e., right between my ankles. At least B didn’t land on him (again). She hit the ground, levitated again, Moxie began screaming words I hesitate to repeat (though I believe “nutfucker” is not purely a squirrel term) and B, balked twice and full of compost, decided the only thing she could do was take off on a running tour of the yard. (I should mention: I WAS WEARING ACTUAL SHOES. HALLELUJAH.)

Miss B, bless her tiny doggie brain, is capable of amazing speed, but that didn’t worry me. What did worry me was the imminent arrival of sixty pounds of terrified bulldog at my ankles. I barely had time to throw a foot out and drop into the most beautiful demi-plie in second I’ve done in years.

So it was that Odd Trundles sped right between my ankles, dig his nails in, and created a furrow all the way to the compost bin, which he crashed into the front of and consequently almost broke the plank holding the pile back. (There is a definite dent there.)

I took advantage of Odd’s being stunned to coax him toward the stairs, while Miss B ran in circles yapping. Finally, to finish everything off, she zoomed to her favorite denning site behind a rhododendron and began digging frantically. I believe at that point she had forgotten about Moxie, who I am sure had reached the safety of her Sooper-Sekrit Arboreal Rat Lair and was nursing her shattered nerves.

So it was that I had to give Odd a muscle relaxer (head trauma is bad for his spine) and pet and make much of him. I did not let Miss B in until I brushed all the gunk (and fresh dirt from her denning) away. Thank every god there is that an Aussie’s coat is wash-and-wear; all sorts of things just dry up and flake off. I am sure there are bits of compost all over the house by now, though. And the two of them are relatively quiet this morning. I believe yesterday’s fun and games, when added to a five kilometer run for Miss B and the intense excitement of houseguests screaming the names of landmark court cases (teenagers studying for an AP Gov final), require much napping to speed recovery.

And that, my darling chickadees, is how a bulldog and an Australian shepherd team up with a squirrel to turn my compost pile so I don’t have to.

Rinse the Tolstoy Off

Cat teeth It’s Tuesday, and the kids are back at school. I should catch up on laundry I didn’t do over the long weekend, I should load the dishwasher, I know as soon as breakfast settles I’m sure for a run in the rain. So much to do, an empty house to do it in…

…but all I want to do is write this funny little book about a woman who buys a cursed ring for a Halloween party and ends up with a smartmouth, extremely hot genie. Oh, and another one about an amulet maker. I can see today is going to be a Pomodoro timer type of day.

So. I read The Kreutzer Sonata Variations after I read War & Peace, and I have to say, Tolstoy is kind of ruined for me. It seems like his hypocrisy and misogyny just got more and and more virulent as he aged, which should not surprise me, but somehow I expected…more from him.

I know, I know, product of his time, and all that. The same man who wrote the heartbreaking scene where Rostopchin gives the poor boy to the crowd can contain the same man who wrote the ugliness of the protagonist of the Kreutzer Sonata, human beings are complex as fuck. It’s going to take a while for me to be able to read more Tolstoy without being furious, though.

I’ve shifted to Taken at the Flood–not Agatha Christie, but an examination of the Roman conquest of Greece. I am amused that one of the reviews calls it “biased” and says “read Polybius and Livy instead.” As if those two weren’t a weensy bit biased themselves. (This is like not realizing that Shakespeare was writing for a Tudor audience and had to badmouth the Plantagenets.) I had mad thoughts of attempting the Brothers Karamazov, but I think I need to rinse the Tolstoy off before I can manage more Russian lit. Generally Dostoevsky is more my type, but still.

So. Wordcount with a genie, then running, then setting my timer and alternating between more writing and the work of keeping the household from sinking into a mire of filth. All in all, I’m swamped. Which is, after all, just the way I like it.

Onward and inward, then.