Small Signs

After a morning spent chasing the sound of squirrels on the roof and attempting to break down the sliding glass door because one of the little fuzzy bastards was on the deck, the dogs demanded walkies. I was forced to comply, with the hope that said walkies would wear them the fuck out and halt the sonic assault, not to mention the bowling-me-over thing.

There are small signs the smoke is thinning–things have shadows now, the sky is dingy white instead of nicotine yellow, and (amazingly!) I saw the sun behind a shifting veil of smoke and vapor. Not to mention the birds are screaming in every tree they can find, and the squirrels are out in force looking for snacks. It’s warmer, too–the eerie chill of the past few days is breaking in bits and pieces.

Back home now. The walkies were too short, just barely scratching the canine itches for movement, but it was getting hard to breathe. The deep drilling pain in my lungs is matched by the eye-watering, my nose filling up, and even my ears aching. I’m so ready for this to be over.

Today is for avocado toast (I have one ripe avocado left and plenty of good sourdough) and an epic battle scene, not to mention a villain-motivation scene. If I can just get those two done I can call it a day. I suspect it’ll be easier now that the smoke is thinking somewhat, though not nearly quick enough to suit.

At least Boxnoggin hasn’t attempted to fling himself through the sliding glass door more than once this morning. Small mercies. The light is strengthening outside my window; I never thought I’d miss blue sky. I’m generally more comfortable with the grey of a rainy Pacific Northwest winter, but I find myself longing for a clear day. Being able to run will do me no end of good; the smoke has worked its way into the garage so even the treadmill is off. I haven’t quite collapsed in a breathless puddle yet, but my lungs are telling me it’s close.

And now, breakfast. Tuesday is looking to be as quiet as can be expected. Maybe I can even curl up for a nap sometime this afternoon. Frankly the prospect of crawling back into bed is the only thing getting me through today, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Onward to a morass of blood, swords, cavalry, and trumpeted charges–no, in the book, not out here in meatspace, although the way things are going I wouldn’t be surprised. 2020’s looking to fill everyone’s bingo card.

See you around.

Smoke, Lens, Still

I had hoped for a break in the smoke today.

The weekend was… eerie. Saturday was dead silent outside, with no trace of birds, squirrels, rabbits, stray cats, or any of the other local fauna. The sky was a dirty yellow lens, sheer and featureless; there wasn’t even a bright spot to show where the sun was hanging.

Sunday there was some movement, and the fog slowly turned white over the course of the day. This morning it’s not as fuggy-close, but it’s getting all your minerals in one breath out there. We need rain; falling water shouldn’t be uncommon in September in the Pacific Northwest, but here we are.

Climate change is a helluva thing.

The strangest thing about the smoke is the unsettling quiet. No leaf blowers, no animals, very few people out walking, very little traffic. The combination of fog and smoke swallows all sound. It’s still close to a London pea-souper out there. I half expect to see Jack the Ripper leaning against a streetlamp post.

On the bright side (assuming there is one) I only worked a half day on Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend cleaning and stuffing new media into my head. I watched The Blue Angel and Fritz Lang’s M because I finished reading Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. I also watched Goedam, a series of eight-minute Korean horror films, and the first episode of Arthdal Chronicles. And half a Humphrey Bogart movie just to round things out.

I suppose I’m adapting to apocalypse. But I hate that any of us have to.

If not for the treadmill, I probably would go mad. But at least I can run in the garage and my lungs don’t feel like dry Brillo pads afterward. Small mercies.

I’m eyeing my Monday warily. As long as we can agree not to hurt each other, we’ll get through the start of the week fine. I have some combat scenes I want to write, especially since we’re getting into the part of The Bloody Throne where the barbarians arrive and all three warring countries are in the field. Big sweeping epic battles are some of my favorite things to construct, next to individual combat and scenes full of fashion snappy multilayered dialogue. (I’m also fond of angst and forehead kisses, but then, we knew that about me and I contain multitudes.) And plenty of characters who deserve it (as well as one or two who don’t) aren’t going to make it out of this story alive.

If you imagine me as a raccoon rubbing its paws together and giggling, you’re pretty close to how I look this morning. Smoke be damned, there’s a story to write, and I suppose I’d best get to it.

See you around.

Smoke, High-Strung

The sun is a red disc hanging low in the sky, it reeks of smoke, and I can’t stop coughing. Running today is going to be an adventure, I can just tell. At least this is what we have the treadmill for; I can run inside and not perish. At least, hopefully.

The smoke is from the California and Oregon fires; we’re right on the border between Oregon and Washington. Come afternoon it will probably stream out to sea, but in the meantime we’re breathing it. I can barely imagine what it must be like in California right now. Last night my writing partner remarked “I said 2020 could go die in a fire, and I guess it took me up on the offer.”

I’ve been using the D&D fanfic to keep myself going. There’s a certain Murder Himbo NPC my character’s getting involved with, which is a lot of fun. In game and in fiction, it’s super hot. In real life, it’s a restraining order waiting to happen, and I’m exquisitely glad for that division. It’s fun to play my psychotic teenage id constrained only by dice rolls and the whim of the DM, but it’s also good to crawl into my nice safe bed with the dogs each night.

I mean, I love me a good murder himbo, but I wouldn’t want one around the house. Imagine the cleanup.

Today is for dropping a lit match onto the carefully stacked kindling in The Bloody Throne. Throne is Book 3 (The Poison Prince comes out in November), so it’s the payoff I’ve been building towards for two and a half massive chunks of text. I’m also in the last half of the third season of HOOD, and just about to write Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and Little John breaking a planetary embargo to bring back King Richard and end Prince John’s reckless, despotic rule. So each writing session is slow but paradoxically mentally a bit easier than usual, because I’ve stacked all the blocks carefully and now just have to make sure they fall in the correct pattern when I yank the keystone out.

That’s a lot of mixed metaphors, but you get the idea.

I may have to take a couple days off soon, because my wrists are still hashed from the portal fantasy I wrote during my semi-nervous breakdown and also from spending the weekend dumping out 16k or so of the D&D fanfic on top of regular work. The spirit is more than willing–work, running, or game sessions are the only times I forget everything else happening in the world–but my flesh is beginning to think I’m a bit of a martinet.

Ah well. Ice, stretching, and ibuprofen are the order of the day. I am wondering if it’s worth taking the dogs out for a walk in this smoke-haze. Boxnoggin is a Sensitive, Nervous Fellow, and is already skittish from the few days of high winds. He really, really doesn’t like the smell of burning. Miss B is sanguine, of course–not much disturbs her as long as I’m nearby. She has largely consigned both winds and smoke to the realm of “things my goddess does I don’t understand” and leaves them to me to sort out. Which is as it should be, but Boxnoggin still thinks he has some sort of responsibility to Take Care Of It, and of course he’s manifestly unfit so it stresses him out.

I keep getting nervous, high-strung pets nobody else will take. Gee, I wonder why.

I’m glad of my own precarious bubble of safety today; I wish I could share it with everyone on earth. Be kind to yourselves, dearly beloveds. Right now, survival–in whatever forming whatever fashion–is winning. Illegitimati non carborundum, and all that.

Bastard Latin, yes, but it gets the point across. Happy Thursday, over and out.

To The Leashes

Well, I’m awake. At least, some simulacrum of awake, I suppose, since my eyes are open and I seem to be enduring consciousness.

I wasn’t allowed to work once I started making dinner on Saturday, so yesterday was spent with chores and poking at things that don’t qualify as work, per se. I’m not sure if this means a return to normal productivity or I’m just using all the dread as fuel the way I used to harness deep anxiety; I suppose time will tell.

The most fun I had this weekend was dumping out a fair chunk of text loosely based on our D&D sessions. It feels like writing fanfic, and in a way I suppose it is. But it’s hilarious, it’s zany, and it’s not work, so I was allowed to spend most of yesterday rolling around in it and chortling happily to myself.

My nerves are a little steadier this week. Like grieving, adjusting to disaster requires certain stages, and while one might go through two or three of them at once, they all have to be at least touched or one won’t reach the other side.

Not sure if there’s another side to reach, but I am balanced delicately on surface tension like a water bug, and attempting to keep my step light indeed.

The heat doesn’t help, but then again, when does it ever? The dogs are at least as grateful for the air conditioning as I am, though, and spend most of their time sprawled on cool tile or hardwood. Boxnoggin is taking his mandate to keep Miss B alive very seriously; she is an old lady and really needs a companion to boss around in order to live her best life. He doesn’t mind being bossed since he just does as he pleases anyway, and the resultant spite from being balked in her quest to supervise his fuzzy ass is keeping Miss B young.

Just goes to show one always needs something to live for. Sheer stubborn spite will do.

So. It’s a Monday, I have a full day’s work before me even though it’s a holiday. But since it’s a holiday, I won’t work too hard, just hard enough to scratch the itch of writing a combat scene or two. Plus, I’ve got to get out the door before the heat builds. The fur-beasts need walking, and even though I can use the deep anxiety for fuel, I also need to work off the edge of it with running so it doesn’t wear my body and brain out like a well-loved toy.

And now, to the leashes. The dogs can’t walk themselves, and the books won’t write themselves. It is, not gonna lie, nice to be necessary for both.

Happy Labour Day, my chickadees. May we all labor only as much as we wish to today, and may those who would oppress us roast upon their own fires.

Over and out.

Tree, Arc, Next Life, Climb

Yesterday was gasping-hot and utterly humid, although it did cool off at night. Still, that sort of thing wears on one’s body. I have become a temperate beast, and cannot imagine how people live in tropical greenhouses. I’ll probably spend my next life as a moss-hung tree on the Olympic Peninsula, gulping at rain and communing with the mycelium at my roots.

This morning is cool but still humid, and they say it’ll reach 94F. And I was just exchanging relieved emails with my writing partner earlier this week about how it seemed to worst of the heat had passed.

Ah well. It’s always something, and at least in this house we have AC. Take the small luxuries where you find them.

This week has been all about the epic fantasy. I need to reread to catch the rhythm before jumping in again; the zero draft has to be done by November. Plus the last half of the last season of HOOD is spiking for a finish. If I drive myself to bare nerves again I think I can get both done, which just leaves the question of deciding the next serial for my very dear subscribers.

If I think only about that–the sheer amount of work ahead of me–I can almost forget the conditions we’re all laboring under. I want to retreat into my writing cave and just not watch the world burn anymore. I can’t stand it; the number of people who apparently long to risk their own lives worshipfully licking fascist boots is far more than I ever imagined.

I have spent my entire life believing humanity is worth saving, and I suppose I still do. I just… have doubts, sometimes. We could end suffering in short order, if we refused to obey greedy bastards and their hateful henchmen.

It’s the henchmen that are the largest problem, seduced by the idea that if they just hate hard enough, if they’re just cruel enough, they too can be greedy bastards at the top of the pile. If not for helping henchman hands, the one percent could very well be forced to surrender their ill-gotten gains with relative ease and the politics of hate and disaster capitalism could be left in the dustbin of history where they belong.

But the rest of us are kept scrabbling too hard for survival, not to mention turned against each other, to do it. The arc of said history may bend towards justice, but I see precious little of it lying about right now.

I know there’s hope somewhere, I’m just not seeing it today. All I want to do is tell a few stories, maybe provide a few people with a little surcease from the agony. Sometimes even that seems impossible.

Miss B is under my desk, blissfully unaware of such things. To her, the world is simple–breakfast, walkies, pets, dinner, bedtime, and in between are naps and the supervising of her poor dim non-furry humans, who may be gods of the can opener and the den where we spend out days but seem not very bright when it comes to the business of noses, fur, and herding. Lord Boxnoggin is similarly blissful, though his duties include alerting when any damn thing–dog, human, car, delivery truck, stray leaf–wanders down the road before the house.

Neither of them care about politics; their sole concern is dinner with a soup├žon of gathering their pack in one place so they can be certain all are accounted for. Sometimes I wish I had so few concerns. But I worry so they don’t have to, the way I do for my children. If there is an arc towards justice, it seems to lie there.

I try. But the worry grinds past my nerves, stripping the insulation and drawing sparks. There’s only so much one lone mad writer can do. My doubts sometimes rise like ghouls from the grave, slavering and ravenous-quick; the only hope I have is to run far enough, write fast enough, love hard enough to outstrip them.

So far I’ve managed. But I’m tired, my friends. I’m so, so tired. Even my usual pick-me-up of performing an act or two of care for others isn’t renewing me as much as it might. I feel like I’m trying to put out a five-alarm fire with an eyedropper of gasoline.

I know you’re probably exhausted too. It kind of helps to know one isn’t alone, even when one feels it dreadfully and is forced to put a brave face on things. I long to stop swimming for a few moments, but I can’t risk sinking.

So it’s onward, my eyes fixed on the next few drafts to finish, the next few hugs the kids need, the next few dinners the dogs require, the next few jokes I’ll spin for online friends, the next few steps in the endurance run called life. There’s a point in any climb when all one can focus on is the next few handholds. You can’t spare the energy to think about the finish, all you can do is perform the next few moves. You can’t even hope you’ll be able to solve the problems after that; there isn’t enough fuel.

Honestly, if I’m a tree next time, it’ll be a nice change. I just hope I’m put somewhere relatively inaccessible so the chainsaws don’t happen along.

Good heavens. I’m even pessimistic about my next life. I suppose that means I should get back to work.

Catch you later, my beloveds. I’ll keep climbing if you will; if you’re tired, rest for a bit. I’ve got the rope.

Sooner or later we’ll make it.

Dry Run

The marine layer has returned in the mornings, keeping them cool and grey enough to suit me. I selfishly can’t wait for the rains to come in; I’m just not productive enough during the dry season.

Of course, the rains mean it’ll be worse for protestors and people will be driven inside, possibly catching the plague. So I can wait a while longer. Besides, with all this going on, I’m pretty sure productivity is a thing of the past.

This morning’s earworm is Portugal. The Man’s Feel it Still, which has a kicky groove. And the August Zombie Audio Giveaway is still going, so head on over and enter. Boxnoggin is lobbying hard for morning walkies; I wish I could get him nearly as interested in eating his brekkie or staying in his spot on runs. It would be nice to feel somewhat safer while running again.

I spent the weekend doing housework, attempting to re-wrap some of the insulation on my nerves, and poking at alien romance. I might not be able to put surprise!tentacles in this one, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it in another. I’m still not sure this one’s going to turn into anything more than a short attempt–a sort of dry run, if you will.

And I’m giggling into my sleeve because I’m twelve inside. But I can’t work on alien romance until next weekend, because the week belongs to a certain epic fantasy I need to reread some bits of before I start lunging for what should be an attempt to finish a zero soon. It will be messy and full of holes, but what zero isn’t? Epic fantasies don’t really take shape until the second draft, anyway. One more reason why they’re so difficult and draining to attempt.

Write an epic fantasy, I said. It’ll be fun, I said.

I’d be tired even if there wasn’t pandemic and fascist coup dragging at us all. I suppose next comes the moment when I realize the world is strapped onto this rollercoaster and there’s no way to hop off, and after that I’ll be calm. Or calm-ish.

The Prince’s school starts again this week. Fortunately the district chose to go with distance learning; I would not have sent my child into the Petri dish to die, thank you very much. I’d keep him out and let him do his GED before that, for God’s sake. He doesn’t mind distance learning at all; both my kids liked school well enough except for the other kids whose parents didn’t bother to teach them to behave reasonably. Distance learning suits us all, right down to the ground.

I know I’m lucky to live in a relatively sane little bubble, but even here I can see evidence of that thirty percent of racist authoritarians in the population. We’re as well as can be expected; I ache for all the parents who don’t have the luck and resources to do as we’re doing.

I ache for everyone right now, frankly, except for the greedy bastards whose blind grasping sociopathy means almost two hundred thousand deaths and counting as well as the approaching dictatorship.

Anyway, I need to get the barbarian horde to overrun a certain army and almost kill a prince, then get it to the gates of a city and have another prince sent to bring help. (I can hear the Thor and Loki “Get Help” comedy routine in my head now, thanks.) A couple more characters have to die before I can let the barbarians storm the gates. The book is resisting, or maybe I just didn’t see its shape clearly enough earlier.

Ah well. Bit by bit, mouthful by mouthful, the whale gets eaten. Complaining about it does no good after a certain point, I’ve just got to keep chewing.

It’s a quiet grey morning outside, and I hope against hope that Monday will remain this peaceful. I haven’t looked at the news yet; I’m somewhat afraid to. News or not, though, the dogs want to walk and I suppose I should take care of that. After all, they expect it, and I am made of meat so it’s probably best not to argue too hard.

Not at the moment, at least. A single day without argument would be a nice change.

Over and out.

Tea, Falafel, Strategy

Made chana masala last night, so that’s what we’ll be eating for a few days. And yet, my hunger for chickpeas has not abated, and I want falafel. I want falafel with the burning desire of a thousand suns, probably because I’m super hungry after the morning’s run and I haven’t had a chance to get anything but toast down, helped along with a prodigious amount of tea.

There is even more tea cooling next to the keyboard as I type this. I thought the run would sand off my smooth edges, but I am sharp in every direction today. My temper is so jagged I have retreated (of course with a tankard of English Breakfast) to the office, and I’m casting around for a scene to write that won’t suffer from my mood.

Fortunately, there’s more than one combat scene upcoming, so I can focus on those today. Despite getting up early I’ve been grousing about and now I feel like there’s not enough time left in the day. (And it’s barely bloody noon, fa cry-eye.)

The thing about operating under these conditions is that when a good day comes along hope starts to bloom again, but then a bad one arrives and since all your resilience has gone towards the cognitive load of dealing with ongoing disaster, there’s nothing left to dull the edges or insulate the nerves.

So it’s muttering into my tea and writing nasty things happening to characters I rather like. At least I can still work–creating, despite its cost, is the only thing that gives me any sense of agency anymore.

And humans do very poorly when robbed of a sense of agency.

What’s keeping you going, dearly beloveds? I confess I am asking on the off chance that someone might have a tactic I haven’t tried yet, but I figure the more we share of our various ideas and strategies, the better off we all are. So… is there anything giving you a sense of power or agency lately? What’s holding you afloat?