Resentment, Body, Détente

So. 6k+ on HOOD‘s Season Three yesterday. The crisis is written–the apex of the season and incidentally of the entire serial–and now all that remains is a few scenes’ worth of falling action. I could have pushed through an all-nighter and gotten at least the scaffolding of those in, but it would mean more work later fixing fatigue errors. So I did the Reasonable, Adult thing and went to bed, resenting every moment of it.

There’s a particular state where I do indeed actively resent anything that isn’t writing. I’m still there this morning. Even this blog post is only glancingly acceptable because it involves typing. What I really want to be doing is writing that falling action, getting the characters to the new equilibrium.

Which means Guy of Gisbourne, Alan-a-dale, and Robin Hood have a scene that needs to happen, Maid Marian and Little John need to have a conversation followed by Guy’s visit to the woman he’s loved since childhood, and Robin needs to stand in the ruins of his own childhood home. I think I can do it in three scenes, now that I’ve gotten some sleep and food in my reluctant corpse.

I shouldn’t be so mean to my body. It’s hauled me around, largely uncomplaining except with good goddamn reason, for a very long time now. We have somewhat of an armed détente; we’ve both done things we regret. Parents, men, and society have tried to make me hate my closest and oldest friend, the flesh that carries me. Working against that current is difficult, especially when I’m used to escaping into worlds of my own creation.

The fact remains that my body is my ally, and when I stopped lobbing shells at her, she was more than happy to relax into a peace without negotiation, pettiness, or ill feeling. I don’t deserve that grace, but she offered it without rue or anger. Better than I deserve, I suppose. We can’t live without each other, so I should stop being cruel to her and myself.

I suspect that particular trick will take a long, long while; I’ve been working on it for about a decade. It’s hard to shake the first thirty-odd years of training and the constant cultural (and advertising) yelling to lose weight, be fuckable, you’re too old, you’re too ugly, buy this product, starve yourself, who do you think you are?

Patriarchy’s biggest victory is getting women to hurt themselves. Wrestling that weapon away from the grasping invisible hand of the market is huge, uphill labor.

I’m sure my body will like a few days off with the relief of finishing this zero draft. Before that can happen, though, I’ve got to finish absorbing the coffee both of us like, walk the dogs, and give the ol’ corpse the running it craves to purge stress hormones and stretch the lungs. Then it’s back to writing, where each word echoes in the secret hollows of my bones, the threads of my capillaries.

Writing is hard on the delicate structures of the wrists, it’s hard on the back; I don’t know about other scribes, but every combat scene or narrow escape hikes my adrenaline and fills me with characters’ pain or uncertainty. Ironic that the thing I long to escape into relies upon my body; every word is intimately bound with my flesh.

Even when I’ve hated her, she’s given her help unstintingly. She throws herself, often to the limits of endurance, at every task I set her to. She does her best, despite the ill treatment I’ve made her endure. Her complaints are always founded in deep effort; she never wants to betray me. I’m going to spend the rest of my life undoing the damage inflicted during the first few decades while she winds down, doing her absolute best to carry me while time, ill chance, and mortality gnaw at us both.

I wish I’d learned to treat her better earlier, but at least I have this opportunity now. Gods grant I don’t squander it.

In any case, it’s time to care for the corpse before I can achieve the end of the story we’ve both been working on for a long while now. Plus, the dogs are patiently (but energetically) waiting for their morning ramble. All of them are kinder to me than perhaps they should be.

May they teach me to be better, each in their own way.

Time Loop, Recovery

Between various bodily aches and canine upset tummies (Miss B is an Elderly Statesdog, and has Elderly Statesdog Problems) I was up and down all night. I really could have used some sleep after the weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. Groundhog Day is, after all, here.

Again.

I suppose I could have gotten up and done some knitting, but instead I lay in the dark and thought about things. The mind is always a sack of squirrels; it never, ever shuts off. I suppose some part of it is the genetic predisposition to anxiety triggered and reinforced by my upbringing. Consequently my main strategy to gain some rest is pushing myself to exhausted collapse, which isn’t exactly optimal.

On the bright side, I got a character stabbed yesterday, and since there’s no run today (the body simply won’t have it, for once) I can work through the consequences for long uninterrupted hours. That’s the plan, anyway. Anticipating uninterrupted work hours is a sure way to ruin and disappointment, but I can’t help myself. I long for some time to simply roll around in a world of my own creation, escaping from this one.

It might not be healthy, but it’s my job, and I like it. If I were caught in a time-loop I’d probably spend the day doing the same thing, for at least a century or so.

At least Miss B appears to have no lingering ill effects from the night’s games. She is, in fact, her usual spiteful, jealous, stubborn, lovely self. I’ve rarely been so pleased to see her muscling Boxnoggin aside to get in on pets and treats, or patrolling the hall as she attempts, once more, to boss every human in the house into a single room where she can supervise us. We don’t listen, of course, but without something to herd she is at somewhat of a loss, and Boxnoggin has decided he wants to be curled upon his fancy memory-foam bed in the living room until it’s time for walkies.

Part of recovery is the spinning mental merry-go-round married to physical lethargy. The tension between the two is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s just one of those things one has to get through. The body will not let go until it’s processed everything one pushed aside to survive an awful event, no matter how one ducks and dodges. Might as well sink into it, let it happen, deal, cry, scream, use the heavy bag, so forth, so on. Fighting the processing gets one nowhere.

I should say it’s never gotten me anywhere. The only way out, as I tell the kids, is through. Trying to avoid processing just burns energy I could use for other things, like getting this damn zero finished, getting through the epic fantasy revisions (third and last of a triptych, my gods), and figuring out the next serial–which I think will be Hell’s Acre, my alt-Victorian melding of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and The Da Vinci Code, with plenty of other things (the Roman Empire never fell, for example) added in. I’m going back and forth between that and Mandeville & Starke; we’ll see what I finally land on.

So if your brain feels like a bag of methed-out cyborg squirrels and your body feels like it’s been beaten with a club, you might be simply processing the last few years’ worth of constant trauma. I keep saying you’re not alone because if I can help even one person through the woods, I consider it time and effort well spent. We must save each other; goodness knows nobody else is coming to.

Now Miss B is nudging at my knee, knowing from the way I’m breathing and shifting that I’m almost done typing, which means it’s almost time for walkies. (Dogs, as well as human toddlers, are great believers in habit and ritual.) When I stand, the creak of my chair will alert Boxnoggin, and despite my aching body and exploding brain, I will smile because he will thunder down the hall full of excitement.

It’s not a time loop, but it’s a nice reminder nonetheless. It’s Groundhog Day, again. I don’t know how many more I’ll have with Miss B, but I plan to use each one to the full.

Over and out.

The Muse and the Spanner

I spent a long while on Cold North yesterday (that’s the Viking werewolves/elementalist story) though I really should have been working on HOOD. But the latter has some things it needs to cogitate upon if it’s not going to take the ending I had prepared for it.

Goddamn Muse. If she thinks I’ll let her off the hook now, she’s dreaming. She can fight all she wants, but we are finishing this goddamn serial. And if she wants to throw a spanner in the works now, she’ll find out I have a bigger one to bounce off her pretty fairy-dusted skull.

I do hold the Muse in some caution and an appropriate amount of reverence, but we’ve been working together for decades now and sometimes one (or both) of us need(s) a brick upside the head. Pretty sure when the Viking elementalist realizes she’s surrounded by werewolves and the first troll shows up, the Muse will decide I am the one who needs said brick.

Mutual application of head trauma is a certain sign of affection between a writer and her angel, I should think.

Time is still doing strange things, stretching like taffy and yet slamming into me over and over like machine-gun spray. Intellectually I know it’s the trauma of the last four-five years (because it started well before the 2016 election) plus pandemic messing with my brain’s wiring, but that knowledge doesn’t stop the strange sick feeling when time begins to get all wonky or I realize that something did, in fact, only happen a week ago instead of months, or a month ago instead of years, or a year ago instead of yesterday.

At least I have a few more chapters of the serial to send to subscribers, so that’s good. I was beginning to think I was either going to have to pause all subscriptions and take a week off or have another nervous breakdown, but things have eased a little. Only a little, but I’m using the pause for all it’s worth.

The news is zany, but not as malignant as it was two weeks ago. I know the damage isn’t anywhere close to being fixed and work is needed holding elected officials’ feet to the fire, but it’s so nice not to be checking hellsite over and over and getting punched in the gut by the sheer malignant sociopathy in power each time. I’ll take it.

It’s about time to tie my shoes and get the dogs out for walkies, though neither of them is particularly excited about the notion for once. Miss B is sulking after being caught in the compost pile (long story) and Boxnoggin keeps looking at me like “Are you nuts? It’s cold out there!”

He’s from Texas, after all. Things were a bit different there, and though he’s been with us for YEARS he won’t let us forget it.

At least I’m still able to run. And it’s probably during today’s workout that I’ll find a solution for the spanner that damn Muse decided to toss into the works. It might be that I’m struggling against finishing because HOOD‘s been one of the things keeping me going through the last year-and-change of hell, and I might not be quite ready to let go of the characters.

But I think I have the next story lined up, which is nice. I can’t wait to share this one with you, too. But first, the dogs and I both need our ramble.

Be gentle with yourselves, my beloveds. Healing takes time, and our survival is still resistance.

Over and out.

Bit Up and Down

I started yesterday by taking the dogs out, feeding them, then returning to bed with the iPad to watch the inauguration. Balancing the electronic on my chest, I clutched a smaller electronic–my trusty phone–in my free hand and was almost too scared to glance at either.

It wasn’t until the poetry that I began to breathe again. I didn’t relax until noon EST had passed and it was official, Sunkist Stalin had no more usable nuclear codes. I can’t describe the depth of the relief and fresh pain sweeping through me. Relief because there hadn’t been an explosion of violence at the last moment, because the worst of the nightmare was finally over, because some of us have survived. Fresh pain because of all we’ve lost, the amount of work still waiting for us after the earth-scorching and looting of our public weal, and how many didn’t survive to see new hope at all.

I had meant to get some actual work done yesterday too, but… yeah, no, didn’t happen, I shouldn’t have even tried. The Princess was off work too, so both the children were home and we took the day very, very easy indeed.

I’m still on a rollercoaster of emotions. I dreaded (and thought quite likely there would be) fresh violence on MLK Day, and even more on Inauguration Day. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. I’m flat-out ecstatic upon that point, while also struggling with huge waves of feelings I couldn’t give any time or energy to for the last five or so years. They’ve burst their bonds and demand to be sorted right-bloody-now, thank you very much, while I would much rather they just kind of… vanish.

But feelings don’t vanish, especially ones shoved aside during trauma. They will lie in wait like gat-damn tigers, like Jawas looking for ships crashed in the desert, like writers searching for an unwary word. They will demand their time to be processed.

So don’t be alarmed if your own feelings are a bit up-and-down today, dearly beloveds. It’s absolutely normal. Survival was resistance, now we take stock of what we’ve lost. We’ve emerged from the crash blinking and dazed, staring at the wreckage and patting ourselves down, not quite sure whether we’re alive and/or intact. Resistance becomes the work of healing and pushing those we fought so hard to elect in the right direction, which is another variety of thankless task.

All the stuff we said “I’ll deal with that when the bleeding stops,” about is still hanging around, wanting its turn. Be gentle with yourself right now. The pounding has stopped, and we need a breath or two. Yes, there’s a lot of work; no, we’re not done yet. But we need a moment (or two) of rest in order to run (or stagger) into the future.

At least we have a future to stagger into, now. Which means I have a scene revolving between Giz, Marah, and Robb to write today. If I burst into tears a few times during the task, it’ll just mean I use a few more tissues than normal.

Before hope, write words and carry water. After hope… write words, carry water. (To coin an aphorism.)

See you around.

Forgetting Shoes

There was something in my shoe. I could feel it digging into my right heel like a pea through several princess-stacked mattresses. But I needed coffee before I could sort that out, so I put together the Moka pot and was standing there waiting, thinking about nothing very much in particular–

Huh? Oh, yes, I mean, I’m always thinking about something, the brain never stops while I’m even faintly conscious. (This, I suspect, is part of the foundation of my insomnia.) So I suppose, if I were to be absolutely honest, I was thinking about Richard Armitage as Thornton in a very well-laundered cravat.

Look, one takes one’s pleasures where one finds them, and that man has a lovely nose.

Anyway, I stood there waiting for coffee before it occurred to me, quite naturally, that the thing in my shoe was a problem I could conceivably solve without the assistance of caffeine.

And, as I sometimes do when a thought strikes me, I took immediate action and almost fell over. I banged my hip a good one on the oven door and my temple narrowly missed a counter-corner.

That isn’t even the funny part, although my aggrieved, uncaffeinated swearing was probably hilarious if anyone’d been in range to see the whole thing. The real joke was, there was absolutely nothing in my damn shoe.

A little while later, retreated to my office to drink the finally arrived sweet sweet java, I had the bright idea of tying said shoes in order to avoid further high-speed applications of gravity ending in deceleration trauma to my poor body. Again, I embarked suddenly upon the course that seemed best to me, forgetting one crucial factor.

That factor was Boxnoggin, who no doubt heard my office chair squeak in the particular way that means tying shoes, and of course tying shoes is a chore he feels requires his supervision, close coordination, and most ardent attempts to aid me in. Which meant he scurried into the office at high speed, nose-punched me in the eye, tried to eat my tied shoe, and sat on my untied one–with my foot still in it, naturally–in order to “help” me to the utmost of his ability.

So that is why I’m sitting here with my coffee, my hip aching and my eye watering, one shoe tied properly and the other left to its own devices while I blink at a glowing screen and every once in a while mutter, “Don’t forget your shoes, Lili.”

Of course I will forget. I will, I am certain, be halfway down the hall with both dogs dancing around me and eager for walkies (because after the coffee and the tooth-brushing, it is WALKIES TIME, and may the gods help those who interfere with the habits of dogs) and it will be a miracle if someone does not step upon untied laces and topple me like a certain clay-footed statue.

I’d blame 2020 but I’m certain this is just Tuesday being Tuesday. I never got the hang of Tuesdays, or indeed any day of the week, and there are three scenes to write in The Black God’s Heart before I can count the zero of Book One done.

I might even get there today, if I can just tie my bloody shoes.

Wish me luck.

Last Monday, 2020 Edition

It’s the last Monday in 2020. I just read John Scalzi’s reflection on the year–my own is closely parallel. On paper, it wasn’t a massively bad trip around the sun. Our day to day life didn’t change much with lockdown, except for my son not going into the building for his last year of school. (Frankly, he likes home learning better. So would I, in his shoes.) I have a new agent, I sold some books. We’re largely still healthy here.

But that’s on paper. Out here where the rest of me lives, 2020’s been almost as stressful as buying the house, or the terrible Divorce Year. At least during Divorce Year and house-buying I had some kind of goal, I knew things would Get Better.

2020 has given me no such assurance. I’m forced to regard simply surviving the year as a badge of honor, and even if 2021 is worse we can be proud of surviving its predecessor.

At least, so I think.

I spent Boxing Day through the weekend doing what I could to refill the creative well, including a little bit on the Viking werewolf gothic story. It may turn out less “gothic” and more epic, but for right now I’m just playing, using it as a break from HOOD and Black God’s Heart. It’s always good to have an unsold book to make other projects jealous of.

Christmas was… difficult. There are good years and bad years, and this particular year was dragged over bare wires, the insulation stripped free.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be in-office before the official end of the year. I just want to hide in my closet, preferably with a bag of edibles, until 2020 is gone. I’m not the girl in a horror movie who comes out when she thinks it’s quiet, oh no. I’m staying in the bloody hiding spot until well after the credits. A final chase through the house might be in the script, but they’re gonna have to get another girl for that. I’m done.

The dogs don’t care about such things as calendars, and it’s a good thing, too. They know only that the Time of Ham (a blessed time that always happens in winter, its lore passed down from one dog to the next) is almost past and the Time of Running While Swearing At All These New People On The Road is about to begin. Things won’t calm down and get back to normal until the first week of March or so, when all the people who are going to continue running have found their routes and the rest have decided–probably wisely–to stay home. By then Boxnoggin will be used to running on my right side, and hopefully we’ll have less gravel to pick out of my skin.

Hopefully.

I have grand plans of wordcount today, but I’m not sure I’ll get there. I might celebrate it being the last Monday by continuing to poke at the Viking story. The protagonist has a very strong voice in that one, and I’m sure there might be a troll or two. In other words, big fun.

We’re in the home stretch. Be careful and hydrate, my friends. I’d hate to lose you now. If we’re trudging for the end of the year, at least we’re not doing it alone.

*wanders away muttering about standing stones*

Doldrums and Walkies

Did everything correctly to make coffee this morning EXCEPT put the coffee in the Moka pot.

*headdesk*

In my defense, the insomnia is pretty bad lately, and between holiday stress and vicious deep embarrassment I’m not surprised little things like “actually put the fuckin’ grounds in the basket” are slipping through the cracks. But I realized my error when I started to pour a liquid that was definitely not coffee into my cup, so there was only the problem of cooling the Moka pot down and then restarting the whole damn process.

Back to square one, in more ways than one.

I’m also in the doldrums of “intent doesn’t matter, the harm caused matters.” I’m really glad I was finally told there was a problem, I’m angry with myself that I didn’t know, and I’m sad it took months for the news to reach me. I should have known that enjoying myself to the extent that I did meant something was wrong, but I was so happy and excited I wasn’t looking. In any case, the problem is now visible and a fix is in process, and I’m really glad someone finally said something to me about it. Embarrassment is valuable; it means I won’t do it again. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.

Boxnoggin is Very Excited; I think he senses today we’re going to try running again. I’m going to have to switch him to my right side where Miss B usually ran, which means I need to make a sharp division between “walkies time”–he and Miss B on their usual sides–and “running time,” where he’ll be on my right. That will make sure he doesn’t go through me when startled by a bus again. All the scabs from last time seem to have mostly healed; I don’t need a new crop.

At least, that’s the plan. Dogs do not like change, and initially I thought it would be better to just keep him on one side for walkies and running. Patience and coaxing, along with several rounds of “you’re such a good boy,” will mean we probably don’t run far or fast, but that’s all right. We’re going to be doing this together for a long time, we can start slowly.

At least burying myself in work to escape from stress means I’m drawing nearer the end of Black God’s Heart. Book One is almost at its crisis point–the ride on a big black horse to a well under a cherry tree, thank you, KT Tunstall–and once the zero is finished it’ll be time to turn all my engines to HOOD‘s Season Three and deciding which serial to do next.

A surfeit of work is better than a paucity, amen.

But first I’ve to finish the coffee (finally), walk the dogs, and brace myself to get through another day. I can already tell it’s going to be a dilly, but at least everything is funny instead of heartbreaking now. If I’m laughing, I’m fine–they’ll probably put that on my urn.

See you ’round, beloveds.