Pretty, Survive

It’s still dark outside, though dawn is coming up. The marine layer is often so thick we don’t see the sun for days in winter, and while that was disconcerting during the summer smokestorm, it’s pleasant and cheerful now, like a warm blanket. At least the gloom is natural, things still have shadows, and there’s no tinge of burning to make the animal muscle just below my occipital ridge tighten.

I took Sunday all the way off. No work allowed (after a 4k push on The Bloody Throne on Saturday), only housecleaning (the fall purge and nesting is well underway) and watching movies. I watched a Shyamalan flick everyone panned but I thought was pretty good, an episode of Generation War which was difficult, and a weird low-budget WWII horror film, which shall remain unlinked because I’m not at all sure about the intentions of the people who funded it.

Consequently I’m up early, and the caffeine is soaking in. Two weeks ago I thought I’d finish this zero, now I’m just tired and plodding, head-down. It’s like that moment in any action movie where the protagonist is so physically damaged one almost can’t bear to look, but I don’t have to be pretty when this ends.

I just have to survive.

I meant to get some friend-reading done–the reading one does for writer friends, that it–but the broken and stripped wires inside my head meant I didn’t have the bandwidth. Still, this morning I managed a little while still in bed before dawn, the dogs still dead asleep and heavy against my shoulder, hip, and knee.

They do like to spread out.

Anyway, I’m privileged to read a draft of The Silent Places, and it’s good. It’s really good. So good I’m resenting having to lay it aside and turn to my own work, which is a sign of recovery in and of itself.

Slowly, hand over hand, I’m climbing free of the pit. But I’m not out yet, and this zero has to die. I have two revisions due in mid-November, too, so I have got to get this off my plate. Yet I can’t push at the pace I want; for one, I literally can’t physically sustain it and for another, the book will balk. It takes the time it needs.

May we all take the time we need today. It’s hard, especially with disaster barking at our heels, excited to make our acquaintance. But I hope, my beloveds, that you get to take a deep breath today, and that there is some moment of grace lurking between the tasks that must be finished, the posts that must be doomscrolled past, and the breathless hurrying in the face of catastrophe.

I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but a tiny moment is all I have today so I’m sharing it with both hands. Autumn has arrived and we still endure, you and I. If you’re reading this, you’ve survived this far. And that–as I keep saying–is the victory. We’re still alive, Koroku, we’ll manage somehow.

Pretty or not, here we are.

Chalk Punkin

This cheerful fellow showed up on my run yesterday. It means it’s finally my favorite time of year again.

I woke up this morning, looked at the news, gasped, and now I have stress hives. It’s probably only going to get worse from here, but at least I have a D&D session tonight and maybe, if I sink myself in work all weekend instead of resting, I’ll have a finished zero to show for it.

I can’t decide. Maybe I’ll wait for the coffee to soak in before making any plans. The prickling painful itch from the hives can’t be treated with antihistamine until after I run, but maybe said run will purge a little of the stress.

At least I can hope, and at least there will be pumpkins and skeletons everywhere. It’s the one time a year my aesthetics are reflected in the larger world, and for that I am grateful. Heaven knows we need something in this benighted year.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. Turn off the news if you must, take deep breaths, hydrate and rest all you can.

What’s that? I should take my own advice? Oh, you know I’m not good at that… but for you, I’ll try.

Like I keep saying, survival is a victory. May we be victorious as fuck.

Rested Monday

I’ve surfaced blinking into Monday, wondering what the hell happened. I actually slept last night, I have caffeine standing ready as I type, and the birds are going mad in the back yard. The smoke is gone, and weather-heads are using words like “fire-season-ending rain” for later in the week.

It can’t happen soon enough according to yours truly. I’ve missed falling water with a passion, as I do every summer, but the smoke just put a capper on the longing. Also, the dogs were exhausted from being on high alert for basically an entire week, nervously waiting for the fire they could smell to engulf us, so they barely moved all night too.

Consequently I’m starting Monday rather late but feeling somewhat rested, which is not at all a usual thing lately. And an idea for a new romantic suspense (Romancing the Stone meets Treasure of the Sierra Madre) crawled inside my head and doubled this weekend, too, though I didn’t write any of it–just dropped a sentence or two into a throwaway Scrivener file and let it go. If it wants its time at centre stage, it’s going to have to wait until the paid projects grind through.

I did spend some time with Seeker, Slinger, though. It was nice to poke at something solely for home consumption.

My email tells me a box of author copies will arrive today. I’m just not sure which book. Normally this would mean putting together a giveaway, but lockdown being what it is the less time I spend in public places (like the post office) the better. I do have some audiobook codes; maybe that will do for a giveaway. Or maybe I might skip this month.

Six months into a pandemic we could be dealing with effectively if there were non-fascist adults running the federal government, I am beginning to run out of both hope and energy. I’m told this is unavoidable, a sign of adjusting to a new normal. It makes sense, I just still don’t like it.

So today is for serious wordcount on The Bloody Throne and a new chapter in HOOD, which has just entered its final phase of its final season. Maid Marian, Little John, and Friar Tuck are off in a spaceship to find King Richard and bring him home, while those left planetoid are fending off Prince John’s advances, and poor Guy of Gisbourne is stuck in the middle. I do love a good villain redemption, as long-time readers will know.

I’ve been watching quite a few Donnie Yen movies lately. It’s extraordinarily healing to watch that man land a punch or two. Every time he kicks the shit out of someone on-screen, my heart gets glued a fraction or two back together.

Small pleasures, yes. But they’re mine, and on a Monday I shall cherish them. I wish you likewise joys, my friends.


That’s right, my lovelies! Today is the (long-awaited) day the sixth book in the Watchers series drops!

He’s not the only one watching her. . .

For years Jorie Camden has been quietly helping her police friends pursue cold cases, and she’s paid the price over and over again, her talent for Finding stretched to the limit. Now something different is stalking the streets, taking children–something old, and foul, and Dark. The cops won’t admit there’s a problem, so what can a Lightbringer do but solve the mystery on her own?

Caleb is a Watcher of Circle Lightfall, and his mission is simple: protect the witch he’s assigned to–the witch who just happens to be able to touch him without causing agonizing pain. It’s his one shot at redemption, and it’ll take every weapon he has, plus his willingness to play dirty. Even if his witch seems to be chasing something no one can see.

Yet something Dark is indeed in their city. And now that it’s aware of pursuit, it has plans for Jorie and her talent–plans not even Caleb might be able to stop. . .


It’s been a long, long time. This book has had a particularly difficult road to publication (though nothing like Afterwar, thank every god there ever was or will be) and honestly I never thought it would see the light of day. But it has, it’s finally here, and I’m super glad. A big shout-out goes to Brenda Chin, editor extraordinaire, who didn’t give up on the book (or me!) when the going got tough, plus the crew at Belle/ImaJinn who didn’t either. And, as always, a special thank you to my lovely Patreon and Gumroad subscribers, who got to see little bits of the book and cheered me over the finish line; last but not least, thank you to all the fans who wrote to reassure me that yes, you would like to read another book about the Circle’s black-leather knights.

I have other news in the pipeline, but today is for performing my usual release day feat of sticking my head in a bucket of ice water and staying there until the performance anxiety abates a bit. Soon enough I’ll be back at work, as usual; it’s nice to reach a mountaintop and gaze at all the peaks yet to climb, breathing deep and knowing you’ve at least scaled one.

Some days, one is enough.

Rock Possibilities

I saw this little fellow again while on walkies with Very Excited Dogs yesterday. The painted rocks move around the neighborhood in odd patterns; I half suspect someone knows I’m keeping an eye on them and moves them just to say hello. Or, you know, the rocks are moving of their own accord.

Of course the real reason is that the people who paint them are trading them, and people who like them are moving them around like goods in an economy. But I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t consider the other possibilities.

And, of course, there’s the fact that this particular stone seems to be following me. While I’m not sure about the “stay positive” message–unfounded optimism tends to give me the hives, not to mention the willies–I can get behind the “laugh” bit.

I’m waiting for everything to reach the pitch of absurdity that makes me break down in helpless laughter. That’s generally when I know I’m going to be all right. It’s taking a while, though–there’s nothing laughable about current national events, and indeed there rarely is. Rather, I start laughing at the absurdity of my own personal life.

Sooner or later I’ll get there, I’ll hear that peculiar internal snap, and the giggles will flood free. It’ll feel like lancing a boil, a painful relief, and I’ll know I’m going to be okay.

It might even be the next time I see this damn painted rock, so I suppose I’d best get out the door with the dogs soon. Whoever daubed it knew what they were doing.

And, since this is a Friday, I’m curious. Do you get the giggles when you snap too, dear Reader? What happens when you reach the end of your rope and fetch up against the knot? When do you know you’re going to be okay again? Tell me.

I’m all ears. And, apparently, amusement.

Spring’s Lady

My writing partner had a blood lily that made a whole new bulb, so she gave me the new one. Since then it’s died back every midwinter and returns every spring.

I was feeling rather down last week (really, weren’t we all) until I noticed a tiny green nubbin. Which meant it was time to make sure the potting soil was good, and also time to bend over the pot nightly and whisper encouragement. Things like you’re going to grow so well this year and I’m so happy to see you and would you like to hear a story about a small green thing just like you?

Somehow, despite all the flowering outside, spring never feels really real until this lady returns. Now here she is, ready for another season.

May we all be as quietly resilient.

From Sugar Belle to Toki

Jozzie & Sugar Belle

I’m barely settled with coffee; I finally dropped off the edge of the earth into a deep sleep last night. I’ve been toss-turning restlessly for days, and was beginning to think I’d have to go back on anxiety meds.

It’s amazing what sleep will do for you. I feel damn near rested.

Anyway, I have good news! Every Wednesday during this quarantine I’m going to pick an item in my Gumroad store for pay-what-you-want. This week it’s Jozzie & Sugar Belle–just click here and pay what you want–including nada, zip, zilch, zero if you’re short on cash. Then you can download .epub or .mobi, and read about a hungover kangaroo shifter missing a Very Personal Bit, a snarky witch of the Virginia Belles, and the end of the world in Hollywood.

Well, sort of the end. As Sugar (and Jill Kismet, sometimes) points out, we’re dancing on a knife blade all the damn time.

Now, please note that I might not have a different work for pay-as-you-want each week. I’m frazzled and overwhelmed too, just like everyone else. But I’m doing my best, and if I can bring a smile or a catharsis to a reader or two in these troubled times, I’d like to.

I’ve swung wildly between “there might be hope” and “smoke ’em if you got ’em, we’re goin’ down” all week, sometimes with only a microsecond between the extremes. Which is bloody exhausting, and wears one’s nerves down to ribbons.

There is, however, an odd comfort in my anxiety actually being commensurate to the emergency. Nobody–not even my internal critic–is telling me calm down, it’ll be fine, you’re overreacting. Even the people whose judgment I rely on to keep me between the rails agree that running around screaming and waving one’s arms is a perfectly reasonable response to a bloody pandemic, thank you.

The thing I’ve drawn most strength from this week is a character from Princess Mononoke. There’s this scene where Irontown has been demolished, the great forge has gone out, a group of forge-girls and other workers have barely escaped. Kuroku, one of the forge-girl’s husbands and a particular variety of comic relief, is freaking the fuck out.

And his wife, the forge-girl Toki, snaps, “We’re still alive, Kuroku. We’ll manage somehow.”

The kids and I have watched Mononoke so much it’s quoted almost as much as Monty Python, The Princess Bride, or the Mummy movies at the dinner table. We all agree Toki (voiced by Jada Pinkett-Smith in the English language version) is a Whole Entire Mood, and every once in a while when someone in the house is dealing with what seems like a world-ending difficulty, one of us will say we’re still alive, Kuroku.

The line is all the more stunning because Toki is a former brothel worker, a woman who works the great forge of Irontown, a sharp-tongued unofficial leader. Lady Iboshi is Irontown’s brain and determination, but Toki is its guts. You get the idea Toki’s world has ended before, and she knows that even when you’re standing in the ashes, even when your body and mind have been violated, even when there is nothing left…

…you’re still alive, and you’ll manage somehow. Sometimes it’s from sheer stubborn spite (my favorite fuel) or anger, sometimes it’s from deep painful love, sometimes it’s just because there’s no other option or one is simply in the habit of enduring.

It’s the most poignant, true, and take-no-prisoners comment on the nature of hope I’ve ever run across, and it’s a single line that is almost, almost a throwaway except for the weight Miyazaki and Pinkett-Smith give it.

I get chills every time I hear it. (Along with Lady Iboshi’s calm “I’m going to show you how to kill a god,” and Kuroku’s wondering, “I didn’t know the Forest Spirit made the flowers grow.” Or a woman muttering to Iboshi’s guard, “Even if you were a woman you’d still be useless.”)

I suspect in the coming weeks I’m going to be muttering “we’re still alive, Kuroku, we’ll manage somehow” a lot.

Funny, isn’t it, how a fictional character can give a real person strength, how a story can provide comfort. We are creatures in search of meaning, which means we are creatures in search of stories. I didn’t know, when I began writing (at the tender age of Second Grade, my gods) that I was signing up to become an architect of the soul.

Maybe not a very good one, maybe not a very effective one, but after glimpsing the great cathedrals of creation at the core of every volcanic star and every human being (because what else do you think making a story is, if not building in the heart of a star?) I know I wouldn’t want to ever do anything else.

We’re still alive–you reading this, and me. We are still breathing. We are still here.

We’ll manage somehow.