Rot, Ikon

Like a Byzantine mosaic…

This is one of the trees downed by the freak snowstorm…last week? The week before? (Tommyknockers, tommyknockers, knocking at my door…) It made me think of a mosaic sun–do you see it, with the branches as the rays? Those branches, though dead and brittle, speared deep into soft wet dirt, holding the trunk up like a magician’s trick. If the tree isn’t hauled off it will keep rotting, providing nourishment to the grass, homes for nesting things, a purchase for mycelium that undergirds the existence of more complex life on earth.

I stood and looked at it for a while, thinking of Byzantine mosaic ikons, with their vivid colors and eerie depth. Those feed one, too. Any art, even that of rot and disgust, is a banquet. And it teaches us to glimpse the world through another’s eyes, if only for a moment.

I’m taking a sanity break from social media, and the news at large. I simply can’t handle one more piece of bad news. Especially when it might be some rancid piece of fuckery I predicted years ago and was told “oh, you’re overreacting, oh, you’re overemotional, oh, you’re so liberal.” If being possessed of a respect for reality, a working brain, and the usual portion of human decency and empathy is “liberal”, then yes, I’m one, and if you’re calling that a bad thing it says more about you than it does about me.

Be kind to yourselves and each other this weekend, my beloveds. If you’re struggling with All This, you’re absolutely not alone.

See you in a bit.

Where I Stand

Afterwar

The news that the Supreme Court will gut Roe vs. Wade dropped yesterday evening. Sure, it’s “just a draft opinion.” But it’s what rancid, racist, power-hungry sociopaths have been working toward for decades. According to these misogynistic fuckheads, a woman has less right to her own living body than a corpse to its dead organs. Forced birth is violence, it has always been violence, and now in America it will be state violence once again. It’s a marriage of fascism and racism ending in Lebensborn camps. Safe abortions will be outlawed, and people will bleed to agonizing death after suffering backalley ones. Rich white women will still be able to get theirs–for a time.

Only for a time.

And if you’re about to bloviate about the rights of a fetus, read your fucking history. White American evangelicals didn’t have a problem with abortion until the Civil Rights Act. In other words, it’s about the racism, stupid, with the added fillip of forcing pain and degradation onto women. A neat little package, huh?

Do I sound upset? You bet your bippy. If you think it’s okay, or even faintly morally right, to force women to endure pregnancy against their will, then fuck off. There’s the door. Get thee gone, go with your hateful little gods, I will not miss you one iota. Don’t read my work, don’t buy my books, don’t put my name in your goddamn lying, racist, fascist mouth. This is all of a piece. The racism, the anti-trans bigotry, the misogyny, the “right” to breathe disease over everyone else because you “don’t want” to wear a scrap of cloth over your facial contagion-holes–it’s all the same. The Venn diagram of all these things is a perfect circle.

We know what–and who–these people are, and what they stand for. If you choose to join yourself to them in unholy political or social matrimony, you are no friend or reader of mine. My friends–and dear Readers–are better than that.

I want that exceedingly clear, so I am saying it publicly here. I want there to be zero ambiguity or confusion about where I stand, where I have always stood. And I’ll say one more thing, too: We told you so.

We fucking told you so. I have been screaming my head off about this for decades. I even wrote a whole goddamn book about where this fuckery will take us, I warned you the best way I know how, and I was ignored. So were civil rights activists, queer activists, and pro-choice activists. We were ignored because serving the racism and misogyny of powerful (white) men in the hopes of getting a few crumbs off the table–or a few chances to be violent, vile, and abusive without consequence–was, and is, profitable.

I am furious, and hopeless. I don’t see this stopping, or ending well. It’s an unending cavalcade of blood and brutality, the Party’s boot on a human face forever and ever. Studying history means watching the hateful and powerful repeat it over and over, while screaming yourself hoarse in warning and receiving nothing but a fist to the gut for one’s pains. And the people we voted in during 2020’s long hideous fight are sitting idly by, watching it happen. They won’t even put a treasonous orange fascist felon and his violently traitorous coevals in prison where they belong. All they can do, apparently, is wring their hands and talk about “bipartisanship” while collecting lobbyist money and political perks.

The long arc of history might bend toward justice, but that is no comfort to me right now. All I feel is despair. No wonder I can’t settle to work. The world is burning, and the water has been stolen by rich racist fascists who own media empires. Why should I bother telling stories? Why should I bother with anything?

Intellectually I know the work is important even if it only provides temporary escape for those groaning under the lash. But oh, my heart hurts, and a writer’s responsibility to never look away means I am glued to the chair, my eyelids held open, and forced to watch. I am so tired, and so hopeless right now, and the battering continues.

I’m going to go have breakfast, and walk the dogs. At least they listen. (Well, some of the time.) And at least they aren’t cruel. Cruelty is an entirely human game.

And, apparently, one that pays a few rancid douchebags so well we will all drown in its blood-tainted backwash, while the entire planet fries.

Blank Day

Woke up to snow–winter’s last gasp, and will probably be gone by tomorrow–and normally that would be exciting. Normally I’d be thrilled, and watching the dogs cavort in a frosty wonderland would make me smile. I might even try some sort of tokking and tikking, or Insta reeling, in honour of the weather.

But not today. The news was horrid last night and just keeps on getting worse and worse today.

There’s no sense to be made of it except the fact that bullies suffering no pushback will continue to escalate. Large or small, a bully just…keeps going, until they’re met with actual consequences for their actions. Caving doesn’t work. Attempting to “understand” and console the bullies doesn’t work–and I say that as someone who firmly believes understanding brings compassion.

Compassion should never be mistaken for weakness. Yet bullies consistently do just that, and the cost mounts to a terrible level before humanity mounts an immune response to the infection. The idea that the sickness might be endemic torments me.

From the local to the national to the international level, we’ve put up with bullies, coddled and propitiated them, for far too long. They’re great at divide-and-conquer, of course–bullies use the method because it works. Yet their playbook is thin. Domestic abusers, bigots, and dictators all work off the same timeworn strategies, weaponizing the empathy and distraction of the rest of us. It’s an effective set of tactics because it strikes right at the heart of the cooperation that is humanity’s biggest feature and advantage. It works partly because we have a deep need to get along, and partly because sociopaths and malignant narcissists do not feel the shame the rest of us do. Rather, they are rewarded for their brutality, turned into highly paid CEOs and lauded as “strong rulers.” Then they terrorize the rest of us, even though we outnumber them by several orders of magnitude.

You’d think we would have learned by now. You’d think history would have taught us.

My heart hurts, and so does the rest of me. I can’t look away, and while I know I need to focus on telling stories so others can find some hope or relief, I just…I can’t. I don’t know what to do today.

The dogs are, of course, unconcerned. They are simply, wildly ecstatic at the fact of snow, even Boxnoggin, who downright loathes being cold. We’re all safe at the Chez, but for how much longer? And how much more of this can I watch before I break?

I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Monday’s Scorecard

haha, no

So the plumbers were out again yesterday. The problem appeared to be fixed. I walked the dogs, took a shower, made lunch, letting the fix sit and think about things.

Maybe that was my mistake.

Because as soon as I washed dishes after lunch I found the problem was, indeed, not fixed. I gather this happens a lot with plumbing, but dear gods and garters, I was unamused.

To put it mildly.

At least the appliance repairman who came out to deal with the dishwasher (an entirely separate problem) proved effective (so far). He listened carefully to my description of dishwasher events, nodding thoughtfully, and said, “I think I know what’s going on, based on that.”

I learned that my dishwasher isn’t plugged in but hard-wired through the floor, and in any case I wouldn’t have needed to take it out to look behind it in order to fix the damn thing. The problem appeared to be some shifting as the door was opened and closed, moving some padding, which put pressure on some wires, and is actually quite a common complaint. “Happens a lot, especially with these new types. Let me just run a few more tests to make sure there’s not another problem hanging out in there…”

Then, when he had run all the tests, he peered at the top of the frame and said, “The installers didn’t…huh.”

“The last guy to own this house was a Do-It-Yourselfer,” I offered, a bit faintly. I couldn’t believe things were going so well, and was braced for disaster. “They didn’t put those screws in because of the countertop, you see how it…”

“Oh yeah, I see,” he said, in a tone half wonder, half confirmed-suspicion. “Seen this before too. Let me just…”

He dug in a capacious assortment of screws, washers, nails, and other tiny bits (all neatly organized in a plastic container), found what he wanted, and badda-boom, had the metal tabs at the top screwed into the underside of the counter, with zero fuss. “Now it won’t tip, and that stuff below might not work loose again. But just in case…” He picked up his phone and started tapping. “I’m gonna add notes to your file, so if the problem isn’t just those wires getting pinched we can replace the whole circuit board under there. Sometimes the wire nuts heat up and things get iffy. Don’t you worry, ma’am. It’s going to be all right.”

Have you ever wanted to burst into tears when a stranger says that? Dearly beloveds, I longed to dissolve into sobs. However, I swallowed them, put on a professional face, and made the fellow some coffee, because as he said, “I love caffeine. Love it. Best thing that ever happened to the world.”

I sent off Jake the Appliance Repair Gumshoe with a quad-shot of espresso, cut with some heavy cream. He was most grateful, and gave me a cheery thumb’s-up before pulling out of the driveway, leaving me to my own devices with a (hopefully) fully repaired dishwasher, at least.

So the score for Monday was: Plumbers 0/2, third game next week; Appliance Repairman undefeated (so far); Yours Truly, don’t ask, I’m trying not to scream.

I know these are first-world problems and others are dealing with far, far more. There’s a load of numbing, crushing in guilt in this being the damn straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends me raving into the desert night. I am trying like hell to find the funny side of this, of anything, because once I start laughing it’ll be all right.

To that end I watched Deadpool again last night, and the cartoon-y violence was 100% what I needed. I feel bad for that being the thing that helped, in however small a dose, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.

The dishwasher seems to be holding up. Each time I press the start button it’s with a whispered prayer. It drains below the leaky portion of the below-sink pipes, too, so that’s a tiny victory. Of course we have buckets to catch the drips, but that’s hardly the point.

Anyway, I’m still fighting. I’m trying to find the funny side in all this, or indeed in anything. At least I can escape a little today, burying myself in work since there will be no strangers visiting. Getting ready for polite social interaction is a burden I can well do without at this point. Just let me burrow into my hole.

So I’m off to get some brekkie and walk the dogs. No matter what else is going on, they need their walkies, dammit, and the rain means we probably won’t see anyone else as we amble. That will be nice.

Hang in there, everyone. Sooner or later things will get better. They have to. I’m not prepared to accept any other outcome.

Over and out.

Low End of the Pool

I can’t decide if I’m feeling this way because some good luck is finally coming ’round the bend, or because I’ve finally hit the end of my ability to deal with the goddamn worldwide dumpster fire. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, really.

Things seem to be shaking loose in a few areas. Pretty much everyone I personally know is vaccinated (except for those under 12, who I am still worrying for with every breath) and that’s one relief. The four books I tested with a certain print distro are all sorted (it only took over two months and too many emails to count, but it’s done) and there should be no more problems there. A couple contracts are wending their way through the process, my kids are both healthy and having a reasonably good time (for some value of “good” in the current state of things) and it appears we might survive some of this relatively intact.

The massive survivor’s guilt hasn’t hit yet, but I can feel its rumblings. Mourning is staved off by numbness, because we are certainly not out of the woods yet and as Jessie Ventura once growled around a wad of tobacco, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” (Yes, I’m too busy ducking.)

I can feel the wave of “Processing Those Emotions, What, You Thought They’d Just Go Away?” lingering in the near distance, like a slo-mo anime explosion. You know the kind–everything is silent, and one watches the approaching shockwave numbly, unable to move. All the grief and anger and anxiety and other tangled emotions I didn’t have time for while sheer survival was the priority are threatening to burst the dam I shoved them behind. I absolutely know the crisis is ongoing, so I keep patching the dam and waiting, waiting, waiting for yet another shoe to drop.

I say this not to complain (much) but so others know they’re not alone. I’m flexible in the face of disaster, I know how to endure–yet even my endurance has its limits, and I’m tired.

I’m so tired.

At the same time I wonder if this feeling is because any good luck at all, for the past *counts on fingers* *gives up* multiple years has been carrying an even bigger load of terrible things behind it. All during Mango Mussolini’s tenure, every inch of hope I had was repeatedly kicked in the teeth, and while it was familiar–I spent my entire childhood that way–it’s still not ideal. Hell, it’s something nobody should have had to suffer, and yet we did.

And it’s still not done. Papaya Pol Pot and his criminal cabal are still fucking things up whenever and wherever they can.

Not only that, but the acute discomfort of knowing we’re privileged, the shameful gratitude I feel because so far my own cohort has escaped relatively lightly, eats at me.

So I’m feeling rather low end of the pool today, my beloveds, and I suspect even my usual panacea–working myself down to the bone–won’t help. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop; the words, after all, must flow. But…again, I’m so goddamn tired.

The dogs know I’m a bit under today, so they are graciously allowing me to finish my coffee with a minimum of canine supervision. It’s a chill morning, but there’s no rain yet, which means Boxnoggin will not step outside and give me a sidelong “what the hell did you DO, mother?” look.

Small mercies, the only kind we get these days. Still, their quality isn’t strained.

If you’re feeling exhausted, my beloveds, if you’re at the end of your rope, if you’re frayed down to a single strand and there’s no real rest anywhere–you’re not alone. There might be some comfort in that. At least, I hope there is.

Just hold onto your end of the line, and I’ll hang onto mine. We’ll get through Thursday together.

Ambitious Blue-Word Hilarity

It is a lovely grey morning. I get to run today, after tweaking my ankle last week on the stairs. Everything should be healed up and ready for another brutal road-thumping session.

I can’t wait.

Before that, though, coffee must be absorbed, the dogs need walking, and some breakfast probably wouldn’t go amiss. Once I get all that done and my corpse pushed through a few kilometers at what passes for high speed, the rest of the morning will be given to administrivia like answering correspondence, since there seems to be a fresh crop springing up like mushrooms after rain.

But the afternoon, ah! The afternoon will be for a combat scene (Hell’s Acre is coming along nicely) and some hilarity in a short story (She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero) for my subscribers. I might also be able to shoehorn a bit of Klemp’s book in, too. I am ambitious today.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to feel ambitious. Maybe I’m adapting.

Last week ended with a great deal of hilarity. Someone was very upset at the fact that there are (gasp!) bad words in my books, and that the protagonist of Moon’s Knight standing at the funeral of her best friend was angry at a god.

What precisely have you been reading of my work, that this is a surprise?

I find this fascinating as well as risible. I did a whole five-book series about a Necromance, a seven-book series about a hellbreed hunter whose feelings on her own Catholic god are complex at best, both full of bad words galore, and all my books have violence and questionable content, let alone wrestling with questions of belief and going toe-to-toe with the divine. Said books, not to mention my social media feeds, let alone this very blog, are stuffed with four-letter and blue words deployed for maximum effect, hilarity, or emphasis.

What, precisely, about a grieving character thinking–not saying aloud, mind you, but thinking–a few bad words in a sky-fairy’s direction while standing at the side of her best friend’s grave offended in a way that the constant use of every bloody-blue word I wish to employ doesn’t? How exactly could this ever be a surprise to anyone with even a cursory relationship to my work? It’s baffling and hilarious at once.

I don’t mind the one-star rating–you do you, Anonymous Reader, you’re entirely entitled to your opinion–but the pearl-clutching does irritate me a bit. It seems just a teensy tad disingenuous, considering my oeuvre. And yes, the only reason I’m highlighting this is because said person is entirely anonymous and will stay that way. Otherwise my amusement would be entirely private.

Though no less intense.

At least I can laugh at the absurdity. It’s always nice to have a chuckle or two on a Monday. Sets everything going in the right direction.

The dogs are crowding close, expressing their ardent desire to get out the door for their usual sniff-and-trot. Miss B is reminding me I am, after all, made of meat, and Boxnoggin is using the strategy of giant dark puppy eyes to slather on a layer of guilt. I suppose I should get moving instead of snort-laughing while I type.

Let’s kick Monday in the pants, my friends. See you, as my grandfather used to say, in the funny pages.

Back to Scratching Itch

I’m settling down to my blog post a little late this Thursday, mostly because I’ve been fighting with print distributors. Well, fighting is a strong word. I’m simply being very clear about expectations and deadlines.

*sips tea*

I tested a new-ish print distro with four books, and have seen a 75% failure rate. Certainly not ideal by any measure, and let’s not even talk about people not bothering to read an email before they cut-and-paste a reply. To be fair, I know the reps are quite probably overworked–which is why I try to make it easy, giving all details for maximum clarity in every. single. email.

To be even more fair, the matter has finally escalated to the level where something has a chance of actually getting done, so that’s a good thing.

Had I been in publishing less than almost two decades (my, how the time has flown) I would probably just have given up on all four editions, but I know when to be stubborn by now. I have been treading the edge of Karen as this thing wears on, because by the gods, I will not be undone by a bureaucracy.

I will say the irritation was great fuel for the morning’s run. I woke up with grandson’s “Oh No!!!” in my head at high volume, so that was on repeat for a nontrivial number of kilometers. I’m still a bit sore (and dotted with various bruises) from the swift and complete moving job we did for a friend Tuesday, too. Stretching, a tonne of hydration, and going to bed early tonight will probably make me right as rain.

Today I get a burrito for lunch, some fun subscription stuff drops for my beloveds, the dogs are relatively calm, and while very warm the weather is not overly awful. And I get to throw both a heroine and her suitor into a Very Dangerous Situation, with bullets flying.

It feels good to be writing again, instead of dealing with distribution hassles, formatting, edits, or proofs. Just scratching the itch for twenty minutes or so on a day when I’m exhausted juggling other chainsaws is not optional. For the rest of this month I’m back to producing new words instead of dealing with the ones I’ve already written, and it is marvelous.

I wish you a lovely Thursday, my friends. May we all get a chance to do something we like today, instead of enduring what we must.

Over and out.