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.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!


Where Planted

These two African violets and the spider plant go to the Princess’s best friend, who loves plants almost as much as I do. I’ve since brushed the growing medium off the violets’ leaves and sung a happy little welcoming song to them, and the spider plant has been getting daily encouragement to sink its roots into new soil–it was part of a very large duet in a very small pot, and is much happier now.

I had a hideous headache for most of yesterday, one I’m not calling a migraine only because there was no aura before it struck and I could still eat in very small bites through its claws. Even getting out into the garden and dealing with the compost pile didn’t help, although I got two very full wheelbarrows of black gold wriggling with worms.

The world is on fire and my heart hurts. But the dogs still need walks, and the garden still needs tending, and the houseplants need to be dusted, sung to, and trimmed. Those under my aegis still need to be fed. There’s no time to feel the twisting in my chest, mostly, and for that I’m grateful. When I’m working to conserve and protect, I don’t feel the sadness as much.

I wish you a pleasant weekend, my chickadees, and the peace to flower where you’re planted. Even if one is uprooted and placed elsewhere.

Open Soon

I found this scrawled on the brick wall of a local school, a plea facing the playground. I can’t tell if a parent wrote it, or a kid.

Everyone’s feeling the strain right now. Be gentle with yourself, my best beloveds. It is, after all, the prerequisite for being gentle with others too.

Happier With Surfeit

So things are very strange right now–not to mention terrifying–but I can’t slow down work at all. Mostly, the idea that I might still be alive when “all this” is over means I have to plan for the eventuality, which means everyone in the house will still need me functioning and providing.

On the bright side, that means I’m working on Season Three of HOOD, which starts going out to subscribers this Thursday. I only have a few scenes loaded into the cannon for this season, despite knowing everything that happens and roughly where all the moving parts go. (When I say “only a few” I mean “only a month or two ahead of my readers”, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.)

My “sure, I’ll only work on one project at a time this year!” expired in March–somewhat of a record for such resolutions–and a few things in my professional life have changed very quickly over the past few weeks. So my production schedule has received rather a shattering knock, but in the right direction–I now have three paying projects to work on at once, an embarrassment of riches.

So it’s HOOD‘s Season Three, book three of Hostage to Empire, and The Black God’s Heart splitting my time now. Weekends I’m going to reserve for writing whatever the hell I want, which last time around was Moon Knight and next weekend will probably be The Calling Knife if I can figure out what happens when Amon of the Desert appears before the reunited lovers.

If you’re confused, don’t worry–it’s natural around here. I have so many stories boiling in my head that even I get mixed up and turned around sometimes.

Anyway, I’m excited for HOOD‘s Season Three to begin this week. I have so much planned for my dear subscribers, and of course Season Two is available for preorder and goes live April 14. (If you’d like to order it through an indie store, go here.)

You know me–I’m happier with a surfeit of work than with the reverse. I feel mind-numbingly guilty that I’m having good luck when the rest of the world is suffering so badly. It makes me long to work myself until I drop just to make up for it, though that’s hardly healthy.

There’s also the dogs to walk and bread to bake, so I’d best get started. I like to have at least six months’ work put aside for the current serial; a mere month is nothing. I suppose I’d best get Robb out of jail, Giz further involved with Parl Jun’s plans, Marah even more determined to make some trouble, and Alladal doing what she loves most next to singing–planning mischief. (And that’s just in one book–for Hostage I need Yala married, Takshin briefly happy, Kai heartbroken and savage on a battlefield, Daoyan dragged back to Khir, the Tabrak sending more messengers, and Kiron of Shan having a very bad day.)

But at least I don’t have to do it all at once. I can break it up in little bites, and as long as I just concentrate on the next bite, and the next, I won’t worry so much about the rest of the world.

At least, that’s the plan.

I’m treating this week and the next as the first week in April, which means those Haggard Feathers posts will be free. We’ll be finishing up our marketing month; April will be all about self-care for the working writer.

We could all use it, frankly.