A Peevish Start

Well, it’s a Monday again. A brand-new week. Yes, I know weeks are imaginary constructs, but so is money and we need that to survive too.

I did a deep-dive Twitch stream on the Valentine series on Saturday; the hour-and-a-half of me talking about imaginary people (it turned into a Japhrimel discussion, since I get so many questions about him) will stay up for a few days.

I like knitting and talking, though I only got a few rows on that scarf done, being occupied gesturing with steel knitting needles instead of actually knitting for most of the stream. Normally I use bamboo, because it catches the yarn just as I prefer and makes the entire process easier, but I didn’t have a set of size-3s and the very thin, fine cashmere needed a much smaller needle than I usually work in.

At least it’s cooling off at night, so we can sleep in some comfort. Small mercies–the only kind we ever get, right?

It’s not that I’m in a pessimistic mood, I think? For one thing, I have coffee. Sweet, blessed caffeine is about to sink into my tissues and provide the strength to get through the day.

I can’t wait.

Today is for some administrivia, a chapter in Hell’s Acre (remember, you can read the first bit of the serial for free here), and getting seriously underway on Sons of Ymre revisions. The latter needs the majority of my attention for the foreseeable future, though what I’d really like to be doing is writing the second book of Cold North. The pressure on that book will mount the longer I stay away, though, so I can afford to let it boil a bit. I know exactly how the rest of the trilogy goes, which is both curse and blessing.

I also have Moon’s Knight–the portal fantasy I wrote at white heat last year–working its way through the publishing process with a placeholder cover while some other moving bits fall into place. One more proof pass and the actual-factual cover, and we’ll be good to go. Preorder links are slowly populating, so there’s that.

It’s nice to have a surfeit of work, though I’m disappointed about a few recent developments on the publishing front. That’s fine, it’s all part of the career, and it won’t kill me. I’ll just be peeved about it for a wee bit.

It’s a peevish kind of morning, and my choice of office jam (thrash metal) isn’t helping. I can already tell I’ll be harnessing the power of irritation to get through the day. It’s not a bad thing–any fuel will do on a Monday–but I will have to make very, very certain I don’t bite or claw without cause.

And the dogs are eager for walkies, so I must attempt some breakfast once the coffee has settled my stomach, then take them rambling. The marine layer providing nice, reasonably-cool mornings is a gift and a blessing; the damage from the latest heat dome is everywhere. It hurts a little to see crisped vegetation and dead leaves, knowing what’s responsible and that the train won’t halt anytime soon.

…maybe I am slightly pessimistic, but I can blame it on Monday and curl up in my dark cave of an office to treat ill temper with a dose of work. Time to switch out the music–I think some Massive Attack will soothe my savagery somewhat–and wander towards the fancy-dancy new toaster.

May your Monday go smoothly, beloveds. Stay cool out there.

A Hot Blue Monday

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Yes, it’s an historic heatwave. We trembled at 111F for a bit yesterday; today is looking to be just as awful before a marine push brings back “regular” summer weather.

Helluva time for the sprinkler system to stop working. *sigh* At least I’ll always have New Order.

Something diurnal has been ripping out seedlings, too. I think it’s the squirrels, though what they want with a cucumber, pennyroyal, sage, and a couple other squash is beyond me. The little arboreal fucks dig the poor seedling out and leave it, and I don’t find it until the wilt has set in irreparably. If I ever catch one of them in the act there will be Hell To Pay, because gods damn it, if they just waited a bit there would be food for everyone.

I’m sure there’s some behavioral reason why they’re doing it, but it’s irritating as all get-out.

I sent off line edits for the third and last Hostage to Empire book; now that project is done except for the last round of CEs and proofs. July 4 is coming up, which means publishing will go on another one of its grind-to-a-halt holidays.

I’m in the wrong end of the profession. Writers don’t get salary or vacays, more’s the pity. And we’re creating the thing the entire industry rests upon. Go figure.

In any case, the only thing on the docket today is planning the next few months’ worth of work in finer detail, since some moving parts haven’t quite, well, moved. (At least the Cold North zero can be crossed off the list, well ahead of schedule.) I’m just irritable enough from the heat to take care of finicky details, with plenty of hydration and frequent breaks–since my office, naturally, is on the other side of the house from the bloody AC.

We have every fan out and running, too.

There’s breakfast that needs having, though one doesn’t feel much like eating under these conditions. Yesterday I worked my way through a box of prepared ice cream cones; it was the only thing I felt even remotely capable of ingesting.

Worst of all, I can’t run in this nonsense. It didn’t dip below 80F last night–and before you scoff saying, “That’s a normal summer night in MY part of the world,” just stop and don’t, because it is not normal here. Barely thirty percent of local domiciles have AC, and the unhoused are having a positively dreadful time of it too. We just don’t have the infrastructure to handle this weather.

Maybe I’ll crawl into some other werewolf story today. Or maybe I’ll just move slowly through the scheduling process, taking several breaks to swear, and finish by flopping on the couch as soon as possible, turning into a puddle until the temperature goes down a bit and I can re-congeal.

Either way, it’s going to be a Monday. Ugh. I feel like some part of me is stuck back in 2020. Time has lost all meaning, and so has everything other than lying in front of a fan with a spray bottle.

Stay cool out there, beloveds. Mask up, hydrate, wash your hands, get your vaccine if you can. We’re still in the thick of it.

Over and out.

Stop, Whoops

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This happened a while ago, but the picture’s too good to leave languishing. I call it “Whoops.” Looks like someone had an awful night.

I’m still in recovery. Having a book slide out so easily does not, unfortunately, mean the recovery process is shorter. If anything, it’s longer, because the flywheel takes more time to spin down. Or so it seems.

Be careful this weekend, my beloveds. There’s a heat wave on, and tempers are short this time of year. I’ll be hiding in the dark cave of my office, sucking on ice cubes or limeade, trying desperately not to develop heat prostration or a rash.

Ugh.

Damp Sledgehammer Monday

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Rain! Marvelous, glorious rain all yesterday. I do have to dump out the basins and catchers under the seedling pots, and even though today is already quite busy I should get some of said seedlings in the ground to take advantage of all the nice skywater.

It’s almost enough to make me tranquil. Except revisions have landed, there’s a million chores I didn’t get to yesterday, and school administrators are doubling down on their bullshit instead of simply doing the necessary thing and moving on.

The fact that I just knew they were going to continue with the bullshit when they were called on it makes it even more irritating.

Anyway, there’s the rain to listen to, the dogs to walk, a run in lovely warm summer damp to accomplish, and revisions on the third and final Hostage to Empire book to begin. If I get those final edits out the door this week I might be able to knock off the Sons of Ymre edits next week and be ahead of the game–except for I also need to be producing on Hell’s Acre that entire time. I’m ahead, of course, but not as comfortably as I like to be in a serial. At least the combat scene isn’t giving me trouble.

A scene that takes a writer weeks to craft might be read in a few moments, and sometimes people think it detracts from the value of the writer’s labor. Far from, my friends, far from.

What I really want to be doing is lunging for the end of Cold North. Sol the elementalist and her merry band of companions are in a bad fix indeed; though I know how they get out I am not entirely sure a few of them will make it alive. I suspect, of course, and I’m pulling for them…and yet. It’s hard on a writer’s nerves, not knowing which of the characters will meet a bad fate in the text.

I mean, there are intimations, and occasionally I absolutely know when a character is doomed, but most of the time it’s a surprise even to me. An uncomfortable one, to say the least.

Miss B is very ready for walkies, and is nudging at my knee. Time to get out the door and embarked upon a Monday which has started very Monday indeed and looks fair to continue.

It’s enough to make me grab the goggles and reach for a sledgehammer. I’m ready to tango.

Admin Games

Yesterday was the Prince’s very last day of high school, ever. That’s right, both my kids are officially done with basic edumacation.

Seniors traditionally get out of school a week or so early, so graduation can be arranged before the end of the technical “school year”.1 Which means I’ve spent a couple weeks in a constant round of emails, literally forcing school administrators to do their jobs so the process will go as smoothly as possible for my youngest child.

The teachers have been wonderful all through this. But administration is another kettle of fish entirely. I am forced to the conclusion that in education, as in many other industries, a vast proportion of petty Napoleons habitually rise to the level of their incompetence and do their level best to keep their jobs by inflicting needless torment and paperwork upon the rest of us.

Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

The Prince started the day by getting up early, going over the list we’d made the night before of all necessary items, then tucking a mask in his pocket and shouldering his backpack to walk down to the school. It’s not a long ramble; it’s even enjoyable in good weather. He could have biked, walked, or rode the bus in any normal school year; the pandemic, of course, meant “remote learning”.

I will say the school district’s relatively long-ago decision to invest in cheap but robust laptops for all high school students was a good decision–one of the few. We’re privileged enough to have the hardware for him to do the remote learning without that help, but it was nice to have the school-issued gear and frankly, I would not have sent him into the petri dish during lockdown like the superintendent was making noises about insisting on. I’d’ve pulled him out and just let him take the GED test when things calmed down.

I did not spend millions of calories raising this child to have the malignant neglect of an administrator infect and literally kill him. No, indeed.

Anyway, yesterday was Seniors’ Last Day, which meant turning the laptops and all paperwork in. Of course none of it could be done early, partly because of lockdown and partly because they want to squeeze every last ounce of control over the kids to the max.

And it was, as anticipated, an utter shitshow from an organizational point of view.

Admin: “This is all the paperwork you need to graduate.”
Me: “This is ALL the paperwork? In toto? This is EVERY PIECE of paperwork? There are no hidden pieces?”
Admin: “Why would you ask that? This is everything.”
Me: “This is absolutely everything? You are prepared to swear in writing this is everything necessary?”
Admin: “Why don’t you phone us so we can chat?”
Me: “Because I want a record of everything said. You swear in writing this is everything necessary, every piece of paperwork necessary for graduation?”
Admin: “Yes. We swear.”
The Prince: *walks to school* *turns in everything on the list* “Now, this is everything, right?”
Admin: “Well, there’s one more piece. And it requires running all over the school.”
The Prince: “You mean the school where kids below the vaccination-age are attending classes? You mean a senior who might not have been able to get vaccinated yet2 has to run around the ENTIRE school filling this out?”
Admin: “Of course.” *pause* “Oh, and it needs a parental and counselor signature too.”
The Prince: *texting me* “Um, Mum? They did it…”

Of course we knew they were going to pull some bullshit. But that wasn’t even the final touch. The “senior counselor”3–whose signature was necessary on this piece of paperwork they were dropping on kids at the last minute–had decided yesterday was a marvelous time to take a half-day off.

So the Prince brought the piece of paper home. I signed it, put on my heels4, and drove him back to the damn school after the “senior counselor’s” expected arrival. Then I waited in the parking lot, engine running, and by the gods if I had to turn the car off and go into that complex of buildings, there were going to be fireworks.

Some time later, the Prince strode out, head high, and I knew from his body language that all had been a success. He got in the car, tossed his backpack into the back seat, tore his mask off, and heaved a sigh. “It was,” he said, “a circus in there.”5

I contented myself with two words. “All done?”

If the answer had been no I would have slapped on a mask and gone forth to do battle. But thankfully, my youngest child grinned at me and announced, “All done. I’m free.”

On the bright side, learning how to work an unwieldy bureaucracy, leveraging any inch of privilege one has, is a highly useful life skill. And, as I told him, sadly this sort of thing is the rule rather than the exception in adult life. It’s good to get the lesson and attendant practice out of the way early; they’ve seen me problem-solve this sort of thing all their lives.

I must mention the one piece of school bureaucracy which had its shit together6 was the library crew, who where stellar and which surprises me not at all.

We returned home in victory, had celebratory pho–his favorite meal, one we haven’t had since lockdown started because he kind of prefers the restaurant experience–delivered for lunch, and the Princess came home early from work. Upon hearing the tale she grinned with relief. “Yeah, *senior counselor*’s always been useless. I’d’ve been in the office at 6am to prep for the seniors’ last day.”

Which made the Prince and I laugh like hyenas, because it was exactly what I’d said in the car.

All vastly improved from there, with the Prince retreating to his room for video games, the Princess baking a special celebratory Oreo cake, and a quiet afternoon while the dogs calmed down because omg the humans had left them aloooooone in the hoooooouse for a half-hoooooooour.7

I couldn’t settle, so I was extremely online the rest of the day. And after dinner, we lit a candle and sang the family anthem, and that was wonderful. I was misty-eyed.

But the administration wasn’t done. There had to be a final fuck-you from them to surpass their usual practice for both kids’ school careers and crown the further mess of the damn pandemic year.

Yes, my beloveds, I got an automated call that evening from the school, informing me that my student “had been absent unexcused for one or more class periods today.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve been engaged in sort of a running skirmish with the attendance office all damn year-plus-long lockdown, because they have not bothered to get their ducks in a row and put some goddamn protocols and procedures in place for the kids (at first ALL the students, then later just a SIGNIFICANT PROPORTION) doing remote learning. It appears completely beyond them, though there are at least three adults in that single office alone whose entire job remit is “attendance.”

So I had to email them one last time, politely pointing out that there was no way my senior could have attended classes since it was the last day and the damn laptop used for sign-in had been turned in as the school had requested, and they would reply with verification that they had fixed the problem and furthermore would not do this again for the rest of the school year or I would be in touch. Because I wouldn’t put it past them to hold his diploma or transcripts hostage if every last i wasn’t dotted and t wasn’t crossed.

I will, gods willing, never have to force those people to do their jobs ever again. The Princess, of course, fixed me with a mischievous look when I muttered as much at the dinner table.

“Just watch,” she said. “You’re going to foster some kid, and they’re going to go to school, and the school’s gonna try something. And then they’ll see your name pop up in their email notifications and the earth will tremble.”

It’s not that I like being adversarial, I swear. It’s just that when you’re dealing with a child I have taken responsibility for, by every god that ever was, you will behave properly or I will make you, and if you still refuse to behave properly, I will end you. It’s that simple. I don’t ask for special treatment, I am content with you doing your goddamn stated job.

*sigh*

I’m sure I sound bitchy and rude, but when it comes to protecting one’s spawn, well, I’ll be as bitchy as I have to be. And again, the teachers have been stellar8, it’s just the petty, bullying faux-Napoleons who have turned in (far, far) less-than-satisfactory performance.

Same as it ever was, I’m sure. Petty bureaucratic bullshit will be with us lo unto the crack of doom. Otherwise things just might be too easy, and we can’t have that.

But it’s all done now. I’ve gotten both children through high school. I suppose a wee bit of pride is justified, though all I feel is the weary exhaustion and decompression of a major life goal reached. It was an Experience right down to the wire, as they say.

And…well, my children are hilarious, beautiful, kind, crackerjack-brilliant human beings. I can’t wait to see what they do next, and I’m utterly grateful both of them want me in their lives to witness it.

All’s well that ends well, and all that. I’ve got to get back to work…

…but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Ridiculous Heat

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The heat put paid to any real work yesterday, despite my best efforts and the air conditioning. Of course, I’ve been going without any real rest for a while, so the Muse just threw up her hands and brought everything to a screeching halt. On the bright side, now I know the next handhold to swing to in Cold North, and the next combat scene in Hell’s Acre is just about settled in my head. The only thing I have to get down is the entrance to the battlefield and the first few moves. The rest of the fight depends on the attacker getting to a certain point in the room, and the most efficient way of doing that will break his cover, which he needs until the very last moment. So he might have to amble, or let the opponents get a few shots in while they’re dragging him to meet their boss–which is precisely where he wants to be.

…they take only short time to read, but combat scenes often take a ruddy long time to write. Everything has to be just so.

On the bright side I can go down to the punching bag and work off some angst blocking out the close-quarters part of the fight. I have quite a few Tuckerizations courtesy of my lovely subscribers–sometimes I put out a call for character names, and mostly those walk-ons die in terribly gruesome ways.

So, yesterday was suboptimal but the heat seems to have broken, which means I can walk the dogs and get a nice reasonable run in, as well as leave my office window open a bit to cool it down–unless, of course, the weird alarm in the neighbor over the back fence’s yard keeps going off. I think he meant it as a squirrel deterrent, but it goes off at the least breath of wind and the thing is annoying.

I did finish that book on Rome and the Silk Road; I’ve moved on to a WWII memoir. I’m saving a scholarly Viking book for when a certain question involving Cold North is settled. At least I got some reading in during the heat, between lying on the floor as a puddle and making questionable food choices. (I regret nothing, though my digestion is a bit unhappy. NOTHING, I TELL YOU.)

I knew things were getting ridiculous yesterday when I realized it was 2pm already and I hadn’t even gotten a hundred words. That set off a death spiral where I was convinced, convinced my career was over and I’d never write again. It was a sign I needed some kind of break, so I carried said book to the floor and settled into reading and internal grousing, while the dogs did not pile onto me–it was too warm–but were extremely proximal, attempting to soothe.

They were paid for their care in French fries, and considered that quite acceptable indeed.

So, today I finish an elementalist and a shieldmaid having a heart-to-heart, then get an elf stabbed with a poisoned blade. And for good measure, I get a certain Hellion to the precise spot in a pub’s private room where he can commit maximum mayhem. Pretty sure he’s going to defenestrate someone–by request, actually, a soon-to-be-Tuckerized subscriber really wanted death by window ejection and I have no objection.

For I love my darling Readers and beloved subscribers, and if a little thing like tossing a character through a window will make them happy, who am I to deny it?

My mood has lifted considerably now that I’ve talked my way into defenestration. I suppose that’s the Thursday mood.

Over and out.

Outlandish Dread

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I keep thinking Cold North is going to slow down, but apparently Viking werewolves don’t know how to “relax.” I mean, they’re under a centuries-long siege from basically-a-god, and even though the elementalist is telling them “I’m not the girl for you,” they still insist on thinking she’s the solution to the endless warfare.

It’s, uh, not going to end well. At least not for two and a half more books. Even then the ending’s going to be more “right” than “happy”, and I’m sure that will upset some people.

I have coffee sinking in, trying to make sense of everything. I’m listening to RJD2’s Ghostwriter on repeat, and I should really be doing some reformatting instead of sinking 80% of my working time into Cold North, which after all hasn’t even sold yet.

But…I can’t stop, and might as well strike while the iron is hot.

Yesterday was very social, with video meetings and mentoring. Consequently, this wee introvert is withdrawing into a cave for a few days to recharge–and Saturday is the second and final vaccine poke for both the Prince and my own sweet self. I’m scheduling a couple days of very low intensity work after that in case the side effects (physiological or otherwise) stage a comeback.

I’m sure the feeling of relief will be so deep as to completely wreck me. It did the first time around, naturally, and this wave will only be more intense. Maybe I’ll finish a zero draft in a blaze of inspiration, and finally get some of this book’s possession-grip loosened.

There’s also Hell’s Acre to work on, and the said reformatting, not to mention I should stick a third writing project in the queue just to keep myself producing at a reasonable rate. I normally have at least one romance going at a time, and the editor for Sons of Ymre wants Jake’s story. (I’m thinking it will involve a vet tech and Jake getting his ass bitten by not only regular animals but also chthonic horrors; if ever a character deserved it he does.)

But that decision’s for after the second jab. Until then I’ll be useless for anything but the Viking elementalist, werewolves, and elves banding together to reach a hidden city after one of the elvish strongholds in the North has undergone a sudden, dragon-assisted change of inhabitants and contours. If I’m focusing on their problems I’m not brooding over the million things that could go wrong before we get to the mass vaccination site in a few days’ time.

2020 taught me to twitch-worry at everything. I mean, I already did so before, but last year was like an Olympic masterclass. Absolutely nothing is too outlandish for me to dread.

And yet the dogs still need their walk, and someone’s running a leaf blower.

Yesterday it was some kind of grinding or cutting metal, from around 8am to about 4pm. It was coming from the direction of Mike’s Deck1 but there was no accompanying crashing or shouting, so I’m cautiously hopeful everything, er, went well. Of course, I can’t see anything, so it might be another house entirely.

The leaf blower is coming from an entirely different direction, and it’s just close enough to drag the noise over my nerves like a sawblade. Which means putting in earbuds, walking the dogs, and running my weary carcass will be not only good for said physical carcass but also my temper.

Said dogs are waiting patiently for me to stop staring at the glowing box and muttering imprecations upon leaf-moving devices yea unto the seventh generation, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.