Glass Apple, Silence, Flames

The glass apples along my office windowsill are all dusted, because I take them down and play with them sometimes while a story hides in my brain-folds. A lot of people don’t understand how physical a job writing really is–after all, you’re just sitting there, right? Just typing.

But everything you write lodges in your body. Not just that, though–characters speak while you’re in the shower, while you’re exercising, while you’re driving and thinking of something else. Getting up and moving to work out a plot problem or block out a scene becomes a habit.

The kids–and my writing partner–know that when I stop in a middle of a sentence and stare into the distance, sometimes it’s because a story has decided now is the time to express a few home truths, or make a connection. “I can see the story going on behind your eyes,” is what my writing partner says.

The kids, having grown up with me, are used to me checking out mid-sentence to work on a particular plot problem, solving or marking it, then coming back and finishing my sentence as if no time has passed. Oddly, for me, no time has. Sometimes I’m vaguely aware I’ve stopped to solve a story problem, but mostly I return to ordinary consciousness like flicking a light switch and continue with what I was saying.

Story-time exists on some other plane, I suppose. Of course the check-outs never occur while I’m operating heavy machinery, so to speak. One must feel safe before one can stop in the middle of a sentence, knowing that one’s interlocutor will give you space and time to finish.

My writing partner does it too, you know. Often, especially when we’re at lunch or dinner together, one of us will stop talking and gaze into the distance, our version of the thousand-yard stare. The other will wait, quietly, until they come back. It’s a good thing, to be able to trust someone with the quiet like that. Everyone is the star of their own movie, of course, but it’s rare and wonderful to find someone who doesn’t mind being the type of star who lets their best friend finish a chain of thought in peace, and doesn’t make them pay for the momentary inattention later.

The kids have their own moments of wanting to finish thoughts in peace, and I’ve seen them giving each other that space and gift. It seems good training, even if other people will probably take advantage of it. But at least they have the skill, and can deploy it when needed.

…I was going to write about other things today, but I’m curled in a tight little armored ball. I am very close to finishing a zero of The Bloody Throne–messy and full of bracketed notes, but still, the whole corpse will be out and on the table, ready for resting before revision begins. I can’t imagine what it will feel like to be done with this book. The entire series has had a difficult birth; I haven’t had this sort of emotional trouble with a book since Afterwar. Of course it’s not the same type of trouble, or in the same degree, and the problems that plagued Afterwar‘s publication process aren’t plaguing this series. Still, being orphaned midway, added to pandemic and fascist coup, means it’s been extraordinarily difficult to persevere through the end of an epic fantasy.

I mean, how dare I write about court intrigue and pretty dresses and love triangles when the world is burning? How dare I write a love song while everything is in flames?

I have no choice. I have to sing, even through the fire. I’ll go mad if I don’t, but it doesn’t stop the feeling that somehow, in some way, I’m failing because I’m Not Helping Enough.

So. Today is for chipping away at the book, accelerating through the crisis I saw from the very first sentence, writing what I’ve been working towards for years. I knew how the entire thing was going to play out from the beginning, and maybe that’s part of the problem. In a book, justice is a possibility.

I’m beginning to feel like outside the pages I write, it never is. Hope, mercy, redemption… in a book, these things are possible.

Outside? Well.

I suppose we’ll see.

Head Contents

Another lovely grey foggy morning, and the fog is not bearing a tinge of smoke. I did wake up with a cold wet nose in my armpit, which explains some of the dreams.

It was Boxnoggin, of course. I was amazed he could breathe, but he seemed perfectly fine. In fact, when I moved, the damn dog slithered closer and settled his nose as close to my armpit as possible once more.

I can’t think it was pleasant for him, but he seemed determined.

I have coffee, and am looking over yesterday’s work. Stopping for a weekend day, even though it no doubt bolstered my sanity and will give me long-haul endurance, was upsetting in the extreme because I knew it would also give me a Monday of just-barely-enough wordcount instead of the type I need.

Ah well. The barbarians have reached the capital and now the general to the north has gained word of a few things. This sets up the endgame; today I think I write the new emperor going violently bonkers, not to mention more of the siege. I should also do the ride of the southern army, and there’s a lady in waiting with a single blade versus several heavily armed guards to write as well.

I can barely stand to look at social media, let alone the news. I suppose I’m close to despair; even when it’s so manifestly obvious that hatred is a losing game, so many people are still determined to stay until the bitter end. They could walk away–all of them could simply find something else to do that isn’t mass murder, suicide by virus, and hatefulness. It lies well within their power to just… stop.

And yet they won’t.

Of all the difficult-to-swallow things lately, the number of people absolutely determined to keep propping up a death cult with their own bodies and health because it once paid them a bit more than the average serf is perhaps the most personally shocking. I fully admit I did not grasp the extent to which white supremacists not only wish death on others but also seek it in the most painful and degrading way possible for themselves. Dying of choking on your own sputum while a cytokine storm rages through your body is deeply unpleasant, but I suppose they think whiteness and ill-gotten gains will save them.

The money might make misery slightly more comfortable, but in the end you’re choking to death on your own snot anyway, not to mention carrying the burden of all the people your selfishness infected. It boggles the mind that these people worship death and white supremacy so much they actively pursue such an undignified end.

…these are the contents of my head this morning, and they’re not pleasant or comfortable. I’m already tired and waiting for the caffeine to kick in, hoping beyond hope I can finish this damn zero draft this week and maybe, maybe find a little hope somewhere in the world.

At least finishing the zero is something I have a small amount of control over. Hope seems beyond me at this point. I wrote a whole goddamn book warning people about the risks of putting Corona Caligula and his criminal cabal in charge, I’ve been telling people for decades that regressives (those people who call themselves “conservatives”) are dangerous, murderous, racist asshats, and nobody listened. Even now a significant proportion of people aren’t listening, or are minimizing the depths of the emergency in which we find ourselves.

I’m tired. I’m so tired. Even the coffee isn’t helping, and dragging myself through the end of a zero today seems insurmountable.

So it’s time to take the dogs for their morning constitutional, force myself to run, and do all the things I know I should. There is no happiness for me today, merely habit to carry me through until I can perhaps find some tomorrow. Or the day after. It’s endurance now, and while I am quite good at sheer stubborn enduring it’s also exhausting.

Be gentle with yourselves today, beloveds. And if you have a little hope, good. I have none today; keep and burnish it for me.

Over and out.

Zero, Acceleration

Super Chonk Squirl

It’s a lovely grey morning. I took yesterday off and watched some movies; I had never seen Kobayashi’s Kwaidan before, but I read Hearn’s book earlier this year (at least, I think it was earlier this year; time is doing strange things) and decided why not? It, along with a book on the mystical tradition of a certain bodhisattva, was a good break from everything else, and now with Max Richter on the playlist and my running togs all clean and folded (because yesterday was also laundry day) I am somewhat ready for more of the damn epic fantasy.

I did get the barbarians to invest the capital city. Now it’s a siege, and I have the armies marching both north and south. The big problem will be showing the Emperor going quite mad in the little time I have left, but I have faith that can be accomplished–if not here, then in revision.

I just want this damn zero draft done. I might have to get the lady in waiting (who is now a princess in her own right) dragged to the dungeons; that’s a sticky problem that needs to be solved rather soon.

Both dogs are extremely active this morning. Miss B in particular wants her walk, and wants it now. Boxnoggin, of course, feeds on her excitement and has refused to eat his brekkie, so I’m sure there will be many pinecones menaced while we ramble.

At least with them egging each other on I managed to get my shoes tied without help this morning. It’s the little things. I’m also super hopeful that the beehive I saw a few weeks ago is still functioning, being left alone by humans to Do Its Thing.

The squirrels are getting fat for winter, though none have been able to surmount the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000. It’s kind of like having a mechanical bull in the backyard. Many are called, few are chosen, and even fewer manage to hold on for two seconds, let alone eight.

…there are all sorts of jokes I could make, right? I’m twelve inside, and snickering wildly.

So now I ramble the canines, run my own poor body ragged, and come back to a city under siege. It’ll be a good day, especially if I can drive the Emperor mad in due time. I mean, he was already halfway there when he–but that’s a spoiler, isn’t it. I should be careful with those.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. Keep those machetes handy. It certainly seems like the year’s accelerating, lunging for some utterly insane finish line.

Over and out.

Zeno’s After-Times

In the before-times, I would be finishing up a zero this week. I would be pushing from dawn to dusk, dumping out 8-10k a day, swinging from handhold to handhold as an epic fantasy spikes to a finish. Even yesterday’s agonizing over who pours the damn tea during a fictional imperial banquet wouldn’t have slowed me down much.

But these are the after-times, and I barely got 4k in yesterday. So maybe there will be an October surprise; maybe this monster of a book will finally be finished next week.

Or maybe I’m caught in a hell of never being able to finish this damn story. Zeno’s Paradox in book form.

The Zeno’s feeling is a common one at this point in the process, a familiar friend. It rarely lasts this long, though, because as soon as I start feeling it all my internal engines bend to the task at hand and all else falls by the wayside as I hunch over the keyboard.

Unfortunately, so much of my energy is going towards simply staying afloat on a day to day basis, I’m only operating at about forty percent capacity. Which means I’m going to be in Zeno-land for a while yet, and that’s terrible because I hate it and it wears my nerves well past bare.

But the Banquet of Death is done, we’ve reached the bloody endgame of the succession struggle, the northern armies are on the move, the barbarians have almost reached the capital, the southern army is just about to get underway, every character has something they want badly at this stage, and we’re about to have huge battles in the pouring autumn rain or smoke-filled fog while smaller personal battles play out inside a besieged city.

That will be fun. I know exactly what happens, I just have to get there.

I hate not being able to work on more than one project at a time. I hate that most of my energy is going to just barely keeping my head above water. I absolutely loathe the feeling of being helpless to protect those I care for. And then there’s the nightmares I can’t even turn into stories.

*sigh*

I know I’ll finish this book eventually. It’s bloody well personal now, and stubborn endurance is my trademark. Part of the problem is that I had to ask for an extension to get it done, and I hate being behind. I do my best to hit all my deadlines, if only because missing them jacks up every fear I have about my career to eleven–hell, to bloody fifteen.

At least I have new running shoes; my back will thank me for that after today. And at least it’s a lovely misty morning that doesn’t reek of smoke but instead of autumn. The rains will come, and eventually this zero draft will be done.

I have to believe that, or walking into the sea becomes a real option.

Happy Thursday, everyone. I have some neat stuff on tap for subscribers today–thank you, all of you, for your wonderful support. I always worry I’m not giving enough for the various tiers, but I suppose if I wasn’t, nobody would sign up, so I try to tell myself that and lay the worry to rest.

It doesn’t want to go down, but like with zero drafts, if I just keep stabbing eventually it’ll die. And with that cheerful thought, my beloveds, I shall embark upon dog-walking, a nice relatively easy six kilometers of running while I plan the day’s work, and returning to the aftermath of the Banquet of Death.

See you around.

Coffee, Cats, Banquet

My goodness, I get mail. Do I ever get mail.

In response to several recent questions, no, there is not a projected date for The Highlands War, which is book 4 of Steelflower. The ongoing piracy means I can’t afford to take time to write it, frankly. Yelling at me because you want to download it for free off a torrent site is not going to make me work on it, either.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s a Tuesday, and the only thing dragging me out of bed was the prospect of coffee. Well, that and the fact that the dogs needed a loo break after a hard night spent trying to get under me to sleep. They both long to be as close as possible, though Miss B is, like many elderly beings, a light sleeper and is up and down several times a night to seek the tile floor in the loo when she gets too warm.

Boxnoggin, however, picks a spot and stays there, at least until B moves and he can get into a better spot. He’s a great believer in patience winning the battle of location. Although he rarely uses said patience for anything else in his canine life. Especially cats.

Man, does he ever want to catch a cat or two. Even the rabbits down the street don’t fill him with as much frustrated longing, although you’d think a terrier would be more into rodents than felines. But no, it’s a big juicy cat Boxnoggin wants, to love and lick and SHAKE.

I’ve tried explaining to him that they’ll last longer if he just cuddles them, but the terrier in him is absolutely baffled by this chain of logic and insists shaking is the proper way to show affection to small things. So, no cats for him, just toys.

It will frustrate him, but better that than the alternative.

Today I have a Banquet of Death to write in the epic fantasy. All sorts of stuff has been boiling away, and it’s about to bubble over. I realized last night I could cut a planned sub-arc and that will save me around 15-20k words, although the arc can be added in later if the rest of the book isn’t hanging properly. But I think it’ll be fine.

If I can turn in another few 5-6k days like yesterday, I might even finish a messy, hole-laden zero this week, which would be ever so nice. There’s a whole lot of brackets in this thing, though, since the entire last half of the book has been laboring under pandemic stress.

I suppose I’d best get to it. Tuesday is marshaling its forces, and I’d really like to get this particular Big Goal off my plate. All I need is to draw a line through the zero; that’s all I’m asking out of this week. We’ll see if it happens; be kind to yourselves today, my beloveds; remember, survival is the victory.

Slightly Beside, Running

I am standing slightly beside myself today; I took half the weekend off even though The Bloody Throne is itching under my skin, desperately trying to gather enough momentum to lunge for the finish. This week will probably see the zero draft done if I can just work hard enough.

All this has taken such a toll on my productivity. I’m used to a bare minimum of two projects at once, three is where I’m most comfortable juggling, but now I can barely manage one at a time. The shifting between projects, usually so effortless, is like stripping each gear in a manual while you’re trying to get on the freeway.

In other words, it’s terrible and I hate it, hate it, hate it.

At least there’s no smoke. Rain has cleared the air and the local fires are out, I think. I have a bit of a cough and some nasal drip left over–at least, I’m blaming it on the smoke instead of the plague, because the latter is just too terrifying to think about even if I am in generally good health and taking my vitamin D supplements.

It would be nice to live in a functional country, but… here we are. I read a piece this past weekend about how America is already in collapse, and rather than sending me into the doldrums, it was the last piece I needed to sort of come to terms with all this. The thought “well, I did everything I could, I warned everyone who would listen, but now we’re strapped onto the rollercoaster and there’s no getting off, so I’d best make sure my seatmates are buckled in as well as I can make them,” is oddly soothing.

I was waiting for things to settle into the new normal, no matter how much I hate calling it that. Or, to be more precise, I was waiting for my emotional response to get through the few weeks that hit once I have scraped the bottom of my energy barrel responding to a crisis. The unsteady, gas-fume feeling of just waiting for a spark or a lit match has drained away to a deep, flinty determination to survive and carry those I love with me, so at least there’s that.

Grim determination in the face of disaster is definitely not my jam, but it’s familiar and I’m good at it. At least as a lifetime sufferer of anxiety and panic attacks, I feel relatively well equipped for all this bullshit; it’s somewhat soothing that for once my emotional response to events is absolutely not an overreaction.

…I had more to report, I suppose, but I’ve finished my coffee (I had to stand in front of my stove whispering “oh please, please give me caffeine” at my Moka pot this morning) and the dogs need walking. I long to jump straight into work, but I also need a run. This delicate emotional balance requires exercise endorphins to keep it afloat.

I even ordered new running shoes, since my old ones are getting worn and my back’s beginning to inform me I need more cushioning. (Some parts of getting old are less pleasant than others.) Which is a sign that some part of me believes there’s a future. Either that or I’m just swimming blindly until finality strikes.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose. And since the air is all clean now, I might as well do a deep scrub on my lungs by hauling my weary self through another six kilometers or so. At least it feels good when I stop.

I’ve a dynasty-ending battle to write, not to mention a junior prince making a bid for another empire’s throne, and maybe a lady in waiting apologizing to yet another prince for a princess’s death. It’s going to be a long day, and I hope someone else in the house has an idea for dinner. I made cocoanut chicken curry last night, and it was marvelous, but there’s very little left and I suspect it’s going to be a week of “get your own supper because Mum is exhausted.” Fortunately, after fifty-plus books (I’ve decided to quit counting) the kids are used to that, and both are old enough to cook.

Happy Monday, everyone. Make sure your own mask is on before attending to your neighbors’, and take a deep breath. We’re still here, we still endure.

It will have to be enough.

Fellini Dreams

I dreamed I was in a restaurant with very large fishtanks full of jellyfish, arguing/discussing/critiquing Fellini with Henry Cavill. I have no clue why my subconscious picked that particular actor, maybe because his nose reminds me of Marcello Mastroianni’s. But I do know I was drinking whiskey while discussing La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, and now I have the urge to take the day off and watch Fellini and Antonioni films. The two directors are somewhat indissolubly linked inside my head, more because I discovered their work in the same timeframe than for any other reason.

Anyway, I have coffee, and have had the morning French lesson. I was trying French, German, and Turkish at the same time, but then… lockdown happened, and the fascist coup is accelerating. At this point I’m thinking we’re due for twenty years or so of authoritarian rule unless the military removes that orange blivet from the Oval Office after the election, which will cause problems of its own.

Staring at what feels like the approaching end of the world (but is only the fall of a colonialist empire, I suppose) is playing havoc with my productivity. I’m trying not to read the news before a certain point in the day so I have at least a chance of some uninterrupted working time, but it filters in anyway.

Yesterday’s rains have washed sky and earth clean, at least. The air smells wonderful, cleansed of all smoke, though I still have a drilling pain in my lungs during extraordinarily deep breaths.

I know we got off lightly with just a few days of smoke; I’m grateful and yet feel guilty at the same time.

There’s the coffee to finish and the dogs to walk, a run to get in, and the day’s work is laid out before me. I keep chipping away at The Bloody Throne, expecting it to break loose and slide for the finish any… day… now. I’m in the phase where scenes I had planned fall by the wayside because they don’t fit the shape and momentum of what’s already been done, or I realize I already solved the problem approached by said scenes earlier in the book and just didn’t realize it. There’s also a lot of Clannad and Kpop on the writing playlist now, which goes together better than you’d think. Not quite PB&J, more like PB and banana on really tangy sourdough bread, which happens to be a particular favorite of mine.

The weekend is early enough for Fellini, despite me wanting to kick everything over and settle in for a mini film-fest today. Plus I’ve got to work enough that I can justify knocking off a tad early tomorrow for D&D–there’s a certain murder himbo my cleric is planning to hire as a meat shield, and I’ve been looking forward to that for a solid month now. I’ve got to get the paladin a date, and our ranger has a rendezvous with a dude who looks a little like Aidan Turner, so it’s going to be a really awesome session that will probably end in murder when we bust up an owlbear-fighting ring on an offshore rig.

…look, this is what happens when you have writers in your group. We start arguing over owlbear relocation projects and end up searching for himbos and catfish to seduce with a side of murder.

Or maybe that’s just D&D in general. In any case, I’d better get underway. The book isn’t going to write itself, more’s the pity. Although it’s nice to be needed to transmit said book, and fun to have a brain that serves up film critique and whiskey while I’m safe in bed.

It almost–almost–gives one hope.