Unstuck in Time

Well. Release day has come and gone, it’s the last day of two sales, and I woke up convinced down to my marrow that it was Friday. I have, like Billy Pilgrim, come unstuck in time.

Not that I was ever too firmly nailed into Cronos’s river to begin with, since I step out to enter other universes on a daily basis. And frankly, what with events on this timeline and all, other worlds are looking better and better each moment. Yes, I know it’s terrible to dream of leaving what with all this mess around…but I can’t help it, and it’s a fantasy that has very little chance of being fulfilled so just let me have it, please.

I have already had to apply stinging (though polite) rebukes to two separate businesses involved in hijinks today, and can’t help but think that will set the tone for the entire Thursday, so–

I had to check the date on my desktop once more. Yes. It’s Thursday. How did I forget in the space of two paragraphs?

I know why this is happening: Stress, and successive traumas. Pandemic, ongoing fascist coup (said coup attempt is not over), war, and non-plague-related health issues are all jumping on the bandwagon, and my sense of time has been shoved off to make its way home as best it can. Yet I’ve had the great good fortune to be able to work from home with very little disruption, not to mention the fact that both the kids are out of school now–well, the Prince’s last two years of schooling were interrupted by this, but we fought for and won the remote learning option. Otherwise I’d’ve yanked him out and let him take his GED, and that would be that. But I can’t imagine what it’s like for, say, a few of our neighbors, who have toddlers and elementary-school children.

Pretty sure they’re drifting in time, too.

The sun is out this morning, and the dogs have no idea why I’m so slow, not to mention perturbed. They can sense the stress, whether by smell or simple observation. Miss B sticks to me like glue, attempting to supervise me into peace, and Boxnoggin makes circuits of the house, patrolling the bounds. See, he seems to be saying, I am on guard, you needn’t worry.

They’re trying to help. The kids and I talk about what’s happening at dinnertime, and there are extra hugs and check-ins during the day. It’s somewhat of a comfort that even though adult, neither of them turn down the opportunity to grab a Mum hug. Each time I ask, “Would you like–” they immediately say, “YES.” Maybe they know it soothes me too.

I’m pretty tightly scheduled and have electronic nags on phone, desktop, and tablet keeping me on-track; I find myself obsessively checking my digital calendars, dead convinced I’ve missed something important. If not for to-do lists I wouldn’t get a damn thing done, and maybe that’s why I feel so disjointed; I crossed off everything on yesterday’s list and didn’t immediately make today’s. I should update the master list as well, since I’ve crossed off four zero drafts on it and need to finish four more.

Huh. Maybe I have been working enough lately. It’s weird to think that the persistent sense of not-doing-as-much-as-I-should could be lying to me. I don’t know why I’m surprised, I’m fully aware that feeling is a lying liar who lies, and yet it creeps in with many different forms, poking and tormenting.

In any case, finding out it’s Thursday means I have a completely different set of tasks than the one I was braced for, but also means I feel like I have a whole extra day this week to get things done. Between the release and a couple other things, I’ve been playing catch-up and unable to really work for a few days, and it’s been a torment. I thought I’d have Sons of Ymre #2 finished by now, but…that’s not happening.

I just heaved a giant sigh, and the dogs think that means brekkie-time. I suppose I should go and get that sorted, and walk the beasts. They will be content with their noses buried in hedges for most of it, and I can take some joy in their absolute commitment to the Now.

It’s Thursday, I know it’s Thursday, and yet I just had to check the calendar again. I suspect I’ll be doing it all day. There’s some comfort in knowing I’m not alone in the maneuver, I suppose.

See you around, my friends.

Swimming, Smile

The morning has started with Boxnoggin jostling Miss B into punching Yours Truly in the mouth with her paw. Of course when I let out a short blurt of surprise and recoiled, both dogs realized their human was hurt in some fashion and scrambled to attempt aid. Which meant stepping upon my recumbent self, nose-punching me in the eye, scraping my shoulder with doggie nails, and then getting into a shoving match with each other. I had a swollen lip before I even rolled out of bed, and my eye is still watering.

This doesn’t bode well for Thursday, but maybe the day’s just getting everything out of its system early?

At least I have coffee. Some days the java just tastes better, and this is one of them.

I only got 450 or so words on HOOD‘s Season Three before dark yesterday. Once the sun went down, though, things got better and I ended up with a solid 2k+. Of course I’ll have to look today to see if any of them are good words that can be retained.

No silver lining without a cloud, naturally.

Once I get the zero of Season Three out, it’ll be time to cross that off my big to-do list and figure out the next six months’ worth of writing. Normally I juggle one serial, two trad publisher books, and one project Just For Me at a time, with small breaks for revisions, copyedits, and the like. With the loss of productivity due to pandemic, fascist coup, and related stress, I’m not sure if that’s do-able.

But if I don’t write, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. Not to mention I can’t go a day without writing at least something, or I start to feel diamond-tipped insect-feet itches under my skin.1 It’s just easier to continue pushing myself than to allow any sort of break.

It’s very… sharklike. Keep swimming so I don’t suffocate, and wear a smile.

So. Thursday is antsy, but so am I. My coffee has cooled rapidly while typing this, and the dogs are very eager for walkies. I find myself eager to get out for a run; getting rid of cortisol and other stress chemicals through sweat has been a real sanity-saver. Of course, it doesn’t balance out the stress-eating, but then again nothing’s perfect.

Except for dogs, that is. Even when they punch me in the face first thing in the morning.

All right, Thursday. We’re not going to hurt each other (any more), are we? Because I’m in a mood to lay some napalm if you get dodgy.

Over and out.

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.