Some Victories, Not All

The dogs are quite upset that I won’t go anywhere without finishing my coffee. I try to tell them it’s for the best, that dragging me anywhere uncaffeinated is a Very Bad Idea, but since they’ve never known1 the glory of tea or a latte they are unwilling to be convinced.

Yesterday was… not very productive. I should have known that two days of normal work would require a day of threadbare wandering the house, muttering to myself and being utterly unable to settle or produce anything like real text. I did roll around in a couple trunk novels and change a hair color in the portal fantasy–what on earth did we ever do without Ctrl-F, I ask you–and savaged myself internally for being so apparently lazy I can’t produce at my usual rate during a pandemic and attempted fascist coup.

I’ll take “Things you say to yourself that you would never dream of saying to a friend” for $400, Alex.2

I do know what we did without Ctrl-F; I wrote two novellas on a manual typewriter when I was a very young sprout. Both are resting safely in a landfill somewhere; I couldn’t go back to retrieve them like a gecko running back to eat a tail they left in a predator’s claws, even if I wanted to. Still, both burn in me, and sometimes I think of them and my old diaries, safe amid tons of rubbish.

When you have to throw away things that matter to you to survive, their ghosts can still comfort you. The important thing was that my adult caregivers–I don’t really want to call them parents–couldn’t grab and befoul them. Some victories, even though Pyrrhic, are still worth celebrating.

Not all. Just some.

Anyway, I’m vertical, if not technically awake, and sucking on some lovely espresso-ground caffeine sent by a dear friend. The dogs are patrolling up and down the hall, ready to nudge me for where the leashes hang near the sliding glass door to the deck upon the very instant I seem ready to take them for walkies. Yesterday held no thunderstorms–for which said dogs are grateful, even if I am slightly disappointed–despite the unsettled rain-sun-rain bands moving through. That’s probably the cause of the throbbing headache I barely even noticed all day, being occupied with kicking myself for being unable to work.

I even went so far as to think “it’s raining, I don’t deserve to be in this house because I’m not working, I should go out and stand in the rain and be miserable.” I know it doesn’t make sense, but apparently control over making myself feel bad is the only control I feel like I have left with the world spinning so violently.

Fortunately I did not go stand in the rain. For one thing, the dogs would insist on accompanying me, and I didn’t want them cold or wet. For another, I realized it was a ridiculous thought, though it recurred at jet-takeoff volume inside my head all throughout the day. Instead, I made myself hot chocolate, texted friends, snuggled the dogs, attempted to read, touched shelves of books, and tried to watch Richard Armitage smoldering in a cravat.

Finally, I settled in bed last night with old war documentaries. I don’t know why they’re so soothing–probably the fact that the situations in them are long done with, nothing I can affect either way, and the narrator’s voice stays at a steady droning pitch throughout, maybe. It does mean my dreams are mostly in sepia with weird flashes of hypersaturated color instead of all-color, which gave me a bit of startlement when I surfaced this morning. I thought holy shit, have I lost dreaming in color too?

I have absorbed a bare minimum of caffeine now, so am probably safe to leave the house for dog-walking and the running of the Boxnoggin. Said Boxnoggin is prancing up and down the hall, attempting to drag me forth by sheer force of will; Miss B has settled on my feet as I type, on the principle that the instant I move she will be alerted and ready to supervise and heeeeerd me.

Suppose I’d best get going, then. This is the downside of priding oneself on sheer endurance; one can’t even mope in the rain like a silly romantic poet.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know it’s rough, but it’s survival, and that is a victory. A non-Pyrrhic one, even.

Over and out.

Celebratory Tiramisu

So last weekend, when the news came that the election was no longer in doubt, I double-masked, grabbed hand sanitizer, staggered out, and brought home a celebratory tiramisu.

The tiny local bakery (always my first choice) was jammed with (masked) customers so I didn’t even get out of the car; there was nothing in one supermarket bakery, so back into the car it was. I lucked out in the third, and carried my prize home.

We put a tea light on it, and the Little Prince–as our newest registered voter–got to make a wish for democracy and blew the candle out.

It’s been a week, hasn’t it. The nightmare is not over, but the chances of a coup are slowly–sloooooowly!–receding. We’re not out of the woods yet, but as Churchill intoned sententiously, it may very well be the end of the beginning.

I’m tired, and still a little ill. I know you’re tired too, my beloveds. I have grown to dislike hope over the last five-six years, since it hurts so much when that hope is ripped away by fascism. Still, like a cockroach, hope survives in hidden cracks, and I have been feeling it these past few days.

At that third supermarket bakery, the lady behind the case nodded when I asked if everyone else was celebrating Pennsylvania declaring for the forces of good, too. “Oh yeah,” she said, quietly, the corners of her eyes crinkling with a broad smile behind her mask. “Everyone’s tired, but so happy about it. Want ten percent off?”

Bless you, Bakery Case Lady. Bless you, bless you deeply.

So. Last Saturday the kids and I gorged on tiramisu and hope at once. After a long time in dark hopelessness, we are hungry for the good.

Here’s to hoping, then. (Even I can’t eradicate that cockroach.) Here’s to hoping, and to kindness, and to working together; here’s to a ringing defeat of fascism and its fellow travelers. Here’s to the end of the beginning.

There’s a lot of work ahead of us, I know. And it’s a Friday the 13th in 2020. May Freyja grant us light and strength for the road ahead.

Oh, and cake, too.

Informal Hope

The French lesson this morning was très unsatisfactory. For one thing, it was ground into me all through four years of French and Spanish in high school that the informal address is absolutely not to be used on strangers, but apparently all sorts of modern language-learning programs force one to use the informal as a matter of course.

This burns my biscuits, as my grandmother might have said. Americans are already gauche, selfish, and rude enough when they sally past their own borders; there’s no need to make it worse.

Anyway, I’m itching to get back to work today. I’m only allowed a half-day, since I will beyond question hurt myself if left to my own devices. A coughing fit this morning scared me into wondering if I’ve the plague–sure would be nice to have actual tests and a functioning federal government, wouldn’t it.

There’s another season of Unsolved Mysteries to absorb, so that will eat up some of the day. And maybe I can go to bed early. Really I just want to be working while I’m conscious, or sleeping; I don’t want to mess about with things like eating or washing or interacting. I just want to crawl into my stories and pull the wormhole shut behind me.

I’m tired on a much deeper level than the physical, and there’s still November to get through. While talking with a friend last night I realized I don’t even want to hope, because it hurts so badly when hope is ripped away and stamped on. I knew there were cruel, awful people in the world–I was raised by some of them–but I had no idea there were so many, or that others were on the fence and would be emboldened by open fascism.

It’s somewhat of a shock to look at my earlier self and think that the lady was indeed a sweet optimistic summer child. It strikes right at the root of who I thought I was; I thought well, I’ve survived hell more than once, not much else can disturb me.

I hate being wrong about things like that.

But there’s still coffee, and I still have to walk the dogs. And once I’ve walked them, I’m already in my running clothes so I might as well run, and once I do that I might as well have lunch. I’ve set up my life to force myself into at least the minimum of daily self-care. It’s just little things, like setting out my running clothes before I go to bed and keeping a calorie counter so I have to eat or get a notification–and gods help me, I hate phone notifications and will do almost anything to avoid them.

If I am very, very good and get the self-care done, I will be allowed to crawl into a story and forget, for a few hours, the crushing burden of living in a world populated by far many more cruel people than even I ever believed possible. And if I am superlative I may even reward myself with some of the alien romance, or the occult detective story I am absolutely not playing hooky with, no ma’am, perish the thought.

Maybe I’ll even pause in front of the beehive and whisper a thank you to the tiny dancing creatures. At least they–and the dogs–aren’t cruel.

What’s giving you joy today, my beloveds? Or if not joy, what’s giving you the strength to carry on? Drop it in the comments; strength is bolstered when it’s shared, and I could do with a little reinforcement. I think we all could.

Zero, Acceleration

Super Chonk Squirl

It’s a lovely grey morning. I took yesterday off and watched some movies; I had never seen Kobayashi’s Kwaidan before, but I read Hearn’s book earlier this year (at least, I think it was earlier this year; time is doing strange things) and decided why not? It, along with a book on the mystical tradition of a certain bodhisattva, was a good break from everything else, and now with Max Richter on the playlist and my running togs all clean and folded (because yesterday was also laundry day) I am somewhat ready for more of the damn epic fantasy.

I did get the barbarians to invest the capital city. Now it’s a siege, and I have the armies marching both north and south. The big problem will be showing the Emperor going quite mad in the little time I have left, but I have faith that can be accomplished–if not here, then in revision.

I just want this damn zero draft done. I might have to get the lady in waiting (who is now a princess in her own right) dragged to the dungeons; that’s a sticky problem that needs to be solved rather soon.

Both dogs are extremely active this morning. Miss B in particular wants her walk, and wants it now. Boxnoggin, of course, feeds on her excitement and has refused to eat his brekkie, so I’m sure there will be many pinecones menaced while we ramble.

At least with them egging each other on I managed to get my shoes tied without help this morning. It’s the little things. I’m also super hopeful that the beehive I saw a few weeks ago is still functioning, being left alone by humans to Do Its Thing.

The squirrels are getting fat for winter, though none have been able to surmount the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000. It’s kind of like having a mechanical bull in the backyard. Many are called, few are chosen, and even fewer manage to hold on for two seconds, let alone eight.

…there are all sorts of jokes I could make, right? I’m twelve inside, and snickering wildly.

So now I ramble the canines, run my own poor body ragged, and come back to a city under siege. It’ll be a good day, especially if I can drive the Emperor mad in due time. I mean, he was already halfway there when he–but that’s a spoiler, isn’t it. I should be careful with those.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. Keep those machetes handy. It certainly seems like the year’s accelerating, lunging for some utterly insane finish line.

Over and out.

Zeno’s After-Times

In the before-times, I would be finishing up a zero this week. I would be pushing from dawn to dusk, dumping out 8-10k a day, swinging from handhold to handhold as an epic fantasy spikes to a finish. Even yesterday’s agonizing over who pours the damn tea during a fictional imperial banquet wouldn’t have slowed me down much.

But these are the after-times, and I barely got 4k in yesterday. So maybe there will be an October surprise; maybe this monster of a book will finally be finished next week.

Or maybe I’m caught in a hell of never being able to finish this damn story. Zeno’s Paradox in book form.

The Zeno’s feeling is a common one at this point in the process, a familiar friend. It rarely lasts this long, though, because as soon as I start feeling it all my internal engines bend to the task at hand and all else falls by the wayside as I hunch over the keyboard.

Unfortunately, so much of my energy is going towards simply staying afloat on a day to day basis, I’m only operating at about forty percent capacity. Which means I’m going to be in Zeno-land for a while yet, and that’s terrible because I hate it and it wears my nerves well past bare.

But the Banquet of Death is done, we’ve reached the bloody endgame of the succession struggle, the northern armies are on the move, the barbarians have almost reached the capital, the southern army is just about to get underway, every character has something they want badly at this stage, and we’re about to have huge battles in the pouring autumn rain or smoke-filled fog while smaller personal battles play out inside a besieged city.

That will be fun. I know exactly what happens, I just have to get there.

I hate not being able to work on more than one project at a time. I hate that most of my energy is going to just barely keeping my head above water. I absolutely loathe the feeling of being helpless to protect those I care for. And then there’s the nightmares I can’t even turn into stories.

*sigh*

I know I’ll finish this book eventually. It’s bloody well personal now, and stubborn endurance is my trademark. Part of the problem is that I had to ask for an extension to get it done, and I hate being behind. I do my best to hit all my deadlines, if only because missing them jacks up every fear I have about my career to eleven–hell, to bloody fifteen.

At least I have new running shoes; my back will thank me for that after today. And at least it’s a lovely misty morning that doesn’t reek of smoke but instead of autumn. The rains will come, and eventually this zero draft will be done.

I have to believe that, or walking into the sea becomes a real option.

Happy Thursday, everyone. I have some neat stuff on tap for subscribers today–thank you, all of you, for your wonderful support. I always worry I’m not giving enough for the various tiers, but I suppose if I wasn’t, nobody would sign up, so I try to tell myself that and lay the worry to rest.

It doesn’t want to go down, but like with zero drafts, if I just keep stabbing eventually it’ll die. And with that cheerful thought, my beloveds, I shall embark upon dog-walking, a nice relatively easy six kilometers of running while I plan the day’s work, and returning to the aftermath of the Banquet of Death.

See you around.

Slightly Beside, Running

I am standing slightly beside myself today; I took half the weekend off even though The Bloody Throne is itching under my skin, desperately trying to gather enough momentum to lunge for the finish. This week will probably see the zero draft done if I can just work hard enough.

All this has taken such a toll on my productivity. I’m used to a bare minimum of two projects at once, three is where I’m most comfortable juggling, but now I can barely manage one at a time. The shifting between projects, usually so effortless, is like stripping each gear in a manual while you’re trying to get on the freeway.

In other words, it’s terrible and I hate it, hate it, hate it.

At least there’s no smoke. Rain has cleared the air and the local fires are out, I think. I have a bit of a cough and some nasal drip left over–at least, I’m blaming it on the smoke instead of the plague, because the latter is just too terrifying to think about even if I am in generally good health and taking my vitamin D supplements.

It would be nice to live in a functional country, but… here we are. I read a piece this past weekend about how America is already in collapse, and rather than sending me into the doldrums, it was the last piece I needed to sort of come to terms with all this. The thought “well, I did everything I could, I warned everyone who would listen, but now we’re strapped onto the rollercoaster and there’s no getting off, so I’d best make sure my seatmates are buckled in as well as I can make them,” is oddly soothing.

I was waiting for things to settle into the new normal, no matter how much I hate calling it that. Or, to be more precise, I was waiting for my emotional response to get through the few weeks that hit once I have scraped the bottom of my energy barrel responding to a crisis. The unsteady, gas-fume feeling of just waiting for a spark or a lit match has drained away to a deep, flinty determination to survive and carry those I love with me, so at least there’s that.

Grim determination in the face of disaster is definitely not my jam, but it’s familiar and I’m good at it. At least as a lifetime sufferer of anxiety and panic attacks, I feel relatively well equipped for all this bullshit; it’s somewhat soothing that for once my emotional response to events is absolutely not an overreaction.

…I had more to report, I suppose, but I’ve finished my coffee (I had to stand in front of my stove whispering “oh please, please give me caffeine” at my Moka pot this morning) and the dogs need walking. I long to jump straight into work, but I also need a run. This delicate emotional balance requires exercise endorphins to keep it afloat.

I even ordered new running shoes, since my old ones are getting worn and my back’s beginning to inform me I need more cushioning. (Some parts of getting old are less pleasant than others.) Which is a sign that some part of me believes there’s a future. Either that or I’m just swimming blindly until finality strikes.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose. And since the air is all clean now, I might as well do a deep scrub on my lungs by hauling my weary self through another six kilometers or so. At least it feels good when I stop.

I’ve a dynasty-ending battle to write, not to mention a junior prince making a bid for another empire’s throne, and maybe a lady in waiting apologizing to yet another prince for a princess’s death. It’s going to be a long day, and I hope someone else in the house has an idea for dinner. I made cocoanut chicken curry last night, and it was marvelous, but there’s very little left and I suspect it’s going to be a week of “get your own supper because Mum is exhausted.” Fortunately, after fifty-plus books (I’ve decided to quit counting) the kids are used to that, and both are old enough to cook.

Happy Monday, everyone. Make sure your own mask is on before attending to your neighbors’, and take a deep breath. We’re still here, we still endure.

It will have to be enough.

A JoCo Day, Calloo, Callay

A half-pony, half-monkey monster would be a distinct improvement over a lot of what’s happening right now.

…maybe I should back up. I’m listening to Skullcrusher Mountain this morning, since I woke up with Code Monkey playing inside my head. (Long story.) Pretty sure the day’s going to be all right, especially with that soundtrack.

It’d getting more and more difficult to crawl out of bed in the morning. The dogs need brekkie and loo breaks, of course, and that’s pretty much the only thing that dragged me forth this morn. It just doesn’t seem worth it to resurrect on my own account; suffocating myself with my pillows has rarely seemed so enticing.

Life goes on, of course. It could hardly do otherwise. There are books to write and a box of author copies arrived yesterday; I should open it today and see what lurks within. The dogs have had breakfast and a loo break, but they need their walkies like I need a daily run. The children need their mother, no matter that they’re adults now–and isn’t that strange?

I thought motherhood as a job–not an emotional state, which is constant–would be over once the kids reached a certain age. It’s somewhat of a relief to find out they still need their mum, albeit in different ways, as they embark upon adulthood. More relief springs from the fact that they actually seem to like their mother, and are not frantically attempting to escape me by chewing their own limbs off as I did at my son’s age.

Finding out I’ve raised a brace of adults who actually like their parental figure and actively want to spend time with me is a deep gift, one I’m absolutely grateful for. I suppose there really are things to get out of bed in the morning for.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s time for a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains to get the day truly started. Boxnoggin has interrupted the typing of this post at least four times now, excitedly informing me of such things as a leaf blowing down the street or someone walking a trio of dogs near our mailbox. Both events send poor ol’ Lord van der Sploot right over the damn edge.

He needs a walk; I suppose one wouldn’t do me any harm either. At least the smoke has cleared out again, and we’re looking at enough rain to extinguish the local forest fires. Small mercies; eventually, the rain always comes.

Exeunt, humming Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write goddamn login page himself“, pursued by politics…