Frustration, Climbing Out

I’ve been rolling my eyes so hard this morning they threaten to pop right out of my head. The howling by authoritarian corporate dinosaurs attempting to return to exploitative pre-pandemic practices and meeting any faint resistance at all is bleakly amusing. I’m sure they’ll attempt to use the militarization of the corporate state to stamp out any resurgence of workers’ rights, but at the moment I’m savoring their baffled cries of “but we’re offering STARVATION WAGES, why won’t you let us abuse yooooou?”

There are a lot of frustrations in freelancing, and I am incredibly privileged and lucky to have the job I have. I know very well that I bucked the odds, but still, if the Princess hadn’t been working over the past year and a half, we’d probably be homeless. She didn’t want to quit, despite my fear of losing her to the plague.

I actively resent the government and corporate malfeasance, not to mention visible, public, sociopathic glee at the pain of the poor among that orange blivet and his coevals, putting us in this position. I’m also furious at the caving and caviling of Democrats to the Republicans who made all this inevitable. There’s half a million Americans plus dead, and the toll is only mounting despite the bare minimum of social safety net and help watered down at the insistence of rich Republicans.

It didn’t have to be this way. Everyone was warned. People screamed their heads off about this all the way through and were belittled, ignored, and mocked.

And the federal government has the temerity to charge me taxes for last year, too. It’s bloody maddening.

…I should stop looking at the news first thing in the morning. *sigh*

Yesterday was eaten up with (masked) errands and (video-only) social duties. Today I’m itching to get back to the second book of Black God’s Heart. The race to the finish of a zero won’t happen this week, but if I work through the weekend, possibly next? I’m possessed with the idea that this book is the last bit of 2020’s gauntlet to run through.

It’s an irrational conviction. I fully understand the irrationality. But I can’t shake it. I spent last year focusing on the next thing, then the next, then the next, going from handhold to handhold because if I slowed or looked down even for a fraction of a second, I’d be lost. Perhaps the recent physical collapse is a function of that.

You can only run the engine so hard, for so long, before things start to shake loose and ping around the compartment.

In any case, I’m up for more than twenty minutes at a time now, and despite still being exhausted I’m managing a fair amount of work. I write, I cook dinner, I go to bed. That’s it. The sum of my life now. The essentials, as it were.

I don’t have any ringing conclusion today. I barely have the wherewithal to get out the door to walk the dogs, who are somewhat impatiently waiting to prance sniffing around the block. The movement will do me good, and today will be spent with the book. Intellectually, I know that once I finish this zero draft I’ll find another book to obsess over, but maybe the recovery period will allow me to take a breath.

Maybe.

Take care of yourselves today, beloveds. It’s looking like we might have made it through the worst, but the hole is so deep that just stopping the digging isn’t the victory it could be.

Climbing out will still be a bitch.

Constancy, Uncertainty, Trepidation

I spent the weekend veering between half-lucid struggling to get some chores done and transcribing what I could of last week’s longhand work. It was unexpectedly soothing. Of course I’m super behind and that’s irksome, but at least some work was accomplished. More than I’d hoped, actually.

The shadows are very sharp this morning. it might be because I’m half in the world of Black God’s Heart, where they bear terrifying things. Even spring sunlight isn’t as helpful as it could be, since I keep looking at said shadows and waiting for them to twitch.

On the bright side, the second book is almost half done. So there’s that. Everything in in place and moving; today’s work will involve naps and a combat scene. The latter has to be done before I can move on but I’m still a bit physically miserable; there will be some blocking it out in my office and much wincing and groaning.

I don’t know about other writers, but I feel everything my characters do. They are not me–I’m always very clear about that–but I do feel with them. It’s a very specific hyperactive empathy. To be a writer is to observe human beings and the rest of the world with sharp interest; I have often wondered where the line between empathy and voyeurism resides in we who create in this fashion.

Everything, even my own pain, is material. I’ve hung upside down in a car after an accident (winter road, deer, don’t ask) and while part of me was reacting to the situation in realtime the writer in the back of my head was taking furious notes. So this is how it feels…remember that bit…oh, okay, that makes sense…

I don’t know how much of that is also tangled up with the processing-of-trauma function writing fiction can serve. Themes are not always trauma, but when something bubbles to the surface in a story it’s good to run with it, because there’s power there.

The fear is where the power is, many a time. Again, not always…but many times.

Our state is about to open vaccinations for everyone, not just the most at-risk. I’m incredibly nervous waiting for that, because I’m sure a lot of selfish assholes will want to Chad and Karen around without masks and endanger people who aren’t lucky enough to get vaccinated yet or immunosuppressed folks. The selfishness on display over the last year and a half is still there, still murderous. And corporations are already making noises about reasserting physical control of their workers, dragging them into offices before vaccination is widespread. How on earth are we supposed to trust companies or coworkers again, after what we’ve just endured, after what we’ve seen some people do?

The vast majority of us quietly did what we were supposed to, locking down as far as we could and carefully masking up. The assholes get more airtime because the media’s hungry for ad money and ratings, and that makes the rest of us–the people who did our best and rearranged our lives as far as we could while swallowing our deep fear and powering through the trauma–unheard and unseen.

We’re never going back to the way things were. I haven’t even begun to think about how that might affect the stories I tell. Due to the nature of publishing I spent last year working on things that had been written before the world changed (and still am, truth be told) except for the portal fantasy, which was (I can admit) pure escapism because I needed an escape.1

Once both my kids have at least the first jab I suspect the relief will wallop what shaky scaffolding I have right out from under me. I haven’t even thought about what my own shot(s) will do. Honestly? I don’t think I expected to survive.

Now that I have, what on earth am I going to do? I don’t even know how to write about that. The fear is where the power is, but what resides in the numbness?

I don’t know, and I’m wary of finding out. But this book still has to be written, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, as always. And the dogs still have to be walked, every morn, world without end, amen.

It’s nice to have some constants in the uncertainty. But I won’t deny a certain trepidation. I feel like Black God’s Heart is the last wicket I have to run through before I can put 2020 finally to bed.2 The problem is, I’m sure there will be a great deal of unquiet dreaming from that particular sleeping-cave.

We’ve seen the monster. I’m not at all sanguine about seeing what it dreams after slouching to Bethlehem.

And with that cheerful thought, I’m off to walk the dogs.

Tired Work, In Longhand

I slept most of yesterday–proper sleep, not the falling into a black void for most of the day that’s been happening lately. There seem to be no other symptoms left, or if there are I’m too tired to notice them. The only thing I’m suffering is exhaustion so deep and wide it mimics total apathy. Even breathing seems like hard work.

Still, I woke this morning with what is probably a short-term burst of energy and the urge to listen to old-school Madonna. And I’ve gotten a fair amount of work done in longhand, which I’ll have to transcribe when I can sit up for longer periods of time.

If I’m indeed recovering, the trick will be not pushing too hard. Every time I get ill or injured, I make it worse by putting off any rest as long as possible and then leaping back into the fray the instant I start feeling the least bit better. I know I shouldn’t, of course–I’m always on friends and loved ones to be gentle with themselves after illness or injury.

I give very good advice, but very seldom follow it.

It doesn’t help that over the past few years I’ve witnessed pandemic, rising authoritarianism, and ongoing fascist coup. Even my ability to find silver linings or transmute pain into art is creaking under the strain. This comic strip sums it up perfectly–and also gives me some hope, because it’s pain (you guessed it) transmuted into art.

I should feel better. I should be grateful to be so lucky, so immensely privileged to be able to rest at least a little. I should be happier.

But I’m not. And it feels like a very personal failing.

At least I felt like eating this morning, and the void seems to have retreated. I’m going to have to work twice as hard to catch up; my job requires a constant juggling of chainsaws. Any halt means a rain of buzzing gas-powered sawblades, and who needs that? Not me, that’s for sure.

I’m hoping my optimism–such as it is–will come back. If all else fails, there’s sheer spite, which has kept me going through personal disasters and might as well be pressed into service for worldwide ones. I’d really like to be a nicer person, but if spite is what it takes to survive, well, that’s what I’ll use.

So, while this temporary flush of energy lasts, I’ll let the dogs drag me around the block and see what fires remain in my email inbox. I’ll work as long as I can, and probably end up sacked out on the office floor at some point in the day. The nice thing about that is the dogs will be overjoyed to have me so accessible, and probably stomp on both my kidneys and my liver to boot. I’ll call it “canine massage.”

In about a week vaccinations should be open in our state. That means the Prince and I have a shot (ha ha) at getting appointments. I suspect I’ll feel a lot better once both kids have at least the first jab, and once we’re all three thoroughly immunized I’ll probably have some variety of crying fit from sheer relief. If I focus on that–and on the fact that I have to finish the second book of Black God’s Heart–I can ignore everything else. At least I’m making progress on the latter, if only in longhand. It’s even soothing to write in a spiral-bound notebook again; my gods, how that takes me back.

Boxnoggin is resting his chin on my knee and Miss B is right behind him, crowding close and giving me the full benefit of sad doggy eyes. They want their walkies; who am I to deny them such a small pleasure? Wish me luck, or at least enough energy to get around the block.

Over and out.

Quiet, Silver Linings

The house is quiet. The dogs know I haven’t finished my coffee yet, though when I do they’ll prance down the hall, attempting to herd me out for walkies. Sometimes it’s vexing, but then I think of how baffling plenty of things must seem to them. Ritual and habit are comforting when one hasn’t much control. Even a canine can feel upset at a lack of agency.

So I call upon patience, of which my stock is slender indeed lately. The exhaustion makes everything twice as difficult as it should be, especially bureaucratic paperwork–which I attempted yesterday, and am about at the point where I’d love to burn everything down and walk into the forest, never to be seen again.

…I’m only half joking.

I suppose I should be heartened that I’m (evidently) processing some of the last year and a half. It means I’m safe enough and have enough bandwidth to deal with it, which is supposed to be a good thing. Unfortunately I don’t want to deal with it. I want to just continue coping and not have to feel this, because frankly? It sucks.

It doesn’t help that I’m furious at the abdication of responsibility by government last year, either. We’re personally lucky, here at Chez Saintcrow, to have survived in the shape we did, but it’s still touch and go, and no help is coming because, well, I’m a freelancer. I’m sure someone will bleat “Well, you shouldn’t have chosen this career”, but a single mother with two toddlers had to make what shift she could, and now I suppose I’m unfit for an office job because my tolerance for petty bullshit is close to nil.

Not that it was ever very high, indeed.

So I’m waiting for the moment the absurdity of all this will provoke me into screechy laughter, and meanwhile searching for silver linings. Like said dogs, like the fact that both kids are healthy and one has had the first vaccine dose, like the fact that the words are still showing up reliably, like the lilacs greening at their branch-tips.

My twenty minutes of coherence is all but up. So I have to bolt the rest of the coffee, brush my teeth, and collapse for a short while to gather enough strength for walkies. The dogs, of course, will take stomping on my kidneys for a short while in lieu of getting the leashes and harnesses on.

But at least I have kidneys to stomp on, and dogs to do the stomping, and both kids are tucked safe in their beds. The Prince is on spring break and the Princess has a couple days off work, so they’ll be up to housebound hijinks later today, I’m sure. I’m just glad the Prince’s cough has fled.

See? Silver linings. One must relentlessly pursue them, especially if the alternative is too grim to be contemplated.

And with that cheerful thought, I wish you a lovely Tuesday, my beloveds, and bid you a pleasant adieu.

Luck to Get Through

I’m pretty sure it’s not the plague.

Of course when I start watching a series of lectures on the Black Plague1 and reading John Kelly’s The Great Mortality2, the Prince develops a deep cough and I’m afflicted with postnasal drip and a fatigue so deep I feel like I’m under a mile or two of clear water. Of course, I don’t know why I expected anything different. We’re both coughing in spates, though we can both smell so it’s probably not the current plague.

Though it would be ironic, don’t you think? So close to vaccines being at least theoretically available. (The appointments to get them jammed into your arm are somewhat less than available; there’s always a catch. Always.)

Work proceeds apace. Sending off the revision for Book 1 of Black God’s Heart means now I can really get started on Book 2, swinging from one handhold to the next. The other spot in my working day is taken up with Hell’s Acre, which is beginning to move into my skull and make itself very comfortable indeed. And I just saw cover drafts for it, which are going to be amazing.

While I’m juggling those two, Cold North will be a refuge, and a way to make them both behave. Either you tell me what happens next or I go to the Tolkien Viking werewolves is a helluva threat.3 It might even make the steampunk sit up and take notice.

Regardless of how exhausted I am, work needs to get done and dogs need to be walked. I’m only hoping for the luck to get through this, whatever it is, and have it not be plague. I’m hoping it’s just the result of a pretty intense pollen season; anecdotal evidence has the cherry blossoms and forsythia filling the air with a vengeance this year. I’m somewhat at a loss to figure out how the illness found us in lockdown, but even with masks and the Prince’s distance learning we still have some points of interaction with others, like the Princess’s job and my own venturing out for things that can’t be delivered.

All the same, we haven’t had nearly the cold/flu season we’re wonted to in this area, for which I can only thank the masks and hope they stay.

I can still smell coffee, and the Prince says he feels much better this morning. (Since he actually went to bed at a decent hour, but that’s another story.) So maybe it’s not quite as bad as I feared yesterday, but I’m still so tired. My eyelid isn’t twitching, but even my hair feels exhausted at this point.

Here’s to hope. I hate feeling it, since the last year and a half have been full of hope rising only to be kicked in the teeth. It just keeps coming back, whether I will or no.

And with that cheerful note, I’m off to let the dogs drag me around the block. Fortunately they know exactly where to go, and habit will keep them mostly behaving. Habit will also pull me through another day’s work.

Suppose I’d best get started.

Third-Quarter Temper

Keeping a deathgrip on my temper is harder than usual lately. I think it’s a result of the “third quarter of the pandemic” thing. Not only am I retracting inside my shell even harder than lockdown requires, but I’m also more likely to just scorch the earth around a question than deal with any attempted bad faith.

Translation: Bringing petty bullshit to my yard right now is a very, very, VERY bad idea.

I could list the grievances currently boiling away, but that’s counterproductive. I’m trying to focus on good things instead–the strengthening availability of vaccines (though there are still rich bastards jumping the queue, as always) and the fact that we’ll get rain today, the words that are coming (though not in a project I’m being paid for, indeed, not in a project anyone will pay for) and the dogs being their usual dopey, happy selves. I’m trying to focus on “this feeling is temporary, and it will go away in a little while.”

I was also reading a graphic novel treatment of Parable of the Sower last night, and all the pain Lauren sees in that book feels like it’s lodged in my own bones as well. Usually when I’m in this state I read true crime or horror, since both give me a (probably false) sense that justice is available somehow–justice, or at least a narrative. So much in real life is so utterly, well, senseless. But even true crime isn’t helping, I keep flinching at all the pain.

I suppose I’m also cautious about lockdown potentially ending. So many people want to be out in public again, but I’m exactly the opposite. I don’t trust what will happen; nothing in the past two years gives me any confidence that anyone will behave in a reasonable manner once lockdown is eased. For one thing, it will probably be eased (because someone is eager for some kind of profit despite the danger) before vaccination is widespread, which means we’ll have another rash of purely avoidable deaths. For another, the reports I’m hearing of school districts across the country already pressuring parents to pack vulnerable children in poorly ventilated petri dishes are highly concerning.

Maybe it’s just a writer’s habit of running through alternatives. I can see so clearly how things will go wrong. Possible permutations are my stock-in-trade.

So if you’re feeling edgy, like your wires are bare of insulation and sparking, it might be the third-quarter thing. You’re absolutely not alone. I’m trying not to be a huge pessimist; I know things are getting better. We just started out so deep in a hole, it’s difficult for them to get better quickly, or evenly.

*sigh*

In any case, it’s going to rain today, so at least there’s that. And no matter how bad I’m feeling the dogs need walking and there’s a run to get in. Running will help. While I’m pounding the pavement I’m not thinking of what could go wrong on a global scale, only about the next intersection.

It will be a relief, although of too-short duration. Still, any relief is better than none, especially lately. I hope you have something that gives you a little relief today, beloveds.

Over and out.

Polite Raking, Sun-Mad

In the immortal words of Wesley Snipes, “some mothafuckas are always trying to ice skate uphill.”

Suffice to say I have been forced to polite raking of some people over glowing coals lately, using terms like “has there been any movement upon this matter yet?” and “I do not need or care for ‘explanation’, I fully understand how this happened, I simply require this checkbox filled and for this to NOT happen again.” Lockdown has made me even more icily formal with those who have Behaved Badly. It’s not even disdain, it’s that I don’t have time or energy for bullshit, so let’s just not have any, mmkay?

Anyway. The last season of HOOD is undergoing a hard proof pass at the moment, then I think it will be time for the whole shebang, in omnibus edition, to be sent off for a final proofing. There’s some trouble with earlier editions, but switching distributors should mend that. One of the things about serials is that I use their seasons to experiment with distribution and other publishing minutiae, and sometimes, well, it doesn’t go happily.

But I learn a lot, and it means a longer career, which means more stories for my beloved Readers. So there’s that, at least.

I took one look at the blue sky and bright sunshine this morning and decided, “…oh, hell no.” The sun seems to drive everyone in this part of the world mad, probably because we see it so rarely. I absolutely don’t mind sharing the sidewalk, but that’s just it–sharing, which doesn’t seem a strong suit for the sun-dazed. Also, on days like this there tend to be a lot of middle-aged white men letting their dogs roam offleash. The dogs absolutely aren’t a problem, they’re far nicer than their owners, but dogs do not make good choices and that’s why we have leashes.

…I just heaved a heavy sigh. It’s the third of the morning and I’m not even done with coffee yet.

On the bright side, this state of low-grade irritation makes me prickly and precise, and that’s exactly the right mindset for finding errata and tiny little typos. It lies cheek by jowl with a particular, very specialized form of performance anxiety, and once I’m done with this phase of this particular project I can switch to a different one that will ameliorate both my mood and said anxiety.

I’m going to be working through the weekend again, but this time it’ll be on The Black God’s Heart. And next week I have a cover reveal and preorders for a certain romance to post; subscribers will get a peek this week. All in all, despite the heavy sighs and prickliness, I have more work than I can handle and that’s my preferred state. Certainly it’s far better than not having enough.

So off I toddle to finish my coffee, and to maybe slay a few baddies. I don’t quite look as cool as Blade, but I will be wearing shades while walking the dogs.

It will have to do.