Midnight Sonic Assault

Some jackasses decided to break the law and set off fireworks late last night, which meant we were all jolted and the dogs spent a long time huddled against me, trembling furiously, before any of us could return to sleep. I don’t know if it’s a case of white supremacists attempting to place an entire neighborhood under siege (as has been happening in a lot of places where protests are ongoing) or it’s asshats who think their “fweedoms” include blowing shit up at midnight simply because voters supported the ordinance telling them not to. And good luck getting the police to persuade the asshats into behaving responsibly or arrest a few entitled bigots; I’m sure they’re too busy downtown trying to menace whatever protestors our community can produce.

I’m sure it will only get worse from here, since the Fourth is coming up. I am extremely nervous about what that might mean. Fireworks have been illegal in our city for a while now, though outlying rural areas cherish the “fweedom” to let loose the artillery and fill the emergency rooms with burns, amputations, and assorted other injuries every year.

I have never liked fireworks, personally. They always remind me of the sonic assaults my childhood abusers used during rageaholic sessions. You’d also think anyone who has a pet would take a look at the shuddering, the drooling, and the hiding most animals do when the fireworks start and think gee, maybe this isn’t a good idea, but apparently, selfishness and sadism reliably wins out for most people.

And it is sadism. If you have pets and you let off artillery for an abstract “celebration,” you are taking a direct hand in traumatizing your animals, betraying the implicit contract to protect and care for them. It’s that simple.

I’m sure people will scream “but what about fweeeeeedom! and patriotism!” and additionally moan that I’m a killjoy and have no right to accuse them of being sadists, that they love their Fido and Kitty and it really doesn’t upset their animals that much. I shall have no ruth for such bullshit, because my dogs were pressed against me shaking in fear for at least an hour and a half after the last boom reverberated through our otherwise quiet neighborhood while I lay internally raging against the selfishness of fuckwits and wishing I could explain to my poor furry companions.

I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of selfishness and fuckwittery. Some days it seems like there’s nothing else on this damn planet, at least as far as a certain species of bipedal primates is concerned.

I’m also worried about what the booms and crackles might cover. An entire army division could move in and announce martial law while racist asshats and their fuckwitted racist friends are busy blowing shit up for “fweedom” and we’d never know until too late. Don’t tell me it’s an outlandish notion, for God’s sake, just look at the news–outlandish shit is happening night and day.

“But it’s tradition!” some people will moan. So was bull-baiting and cockfights. “Tradition” is not a reason to keep doing fuckwitted, stupid, racist, sadistic, or abusive shit. It’s also not a defense.

…you can tell I’m feeling the lack of sleep. I’m annoyed, and even coffee isn’t soothing the urge to let my claws slip free. Maybe getting a run in will help, maybe not. I can probably let a little of it out on the heavy bag, and see if there’s a combat scene or two I can write today.

Time to take the dogs for a walk. And if there’s spent fireworks scattered in the street before particular houses, at least I’ll know which of my neighbors is a fuckwit. One always has one’s suspicions, of course, but confirmation is confirmation, to coin a phrase.

Christ, I wish people would just stop being fuckwits. But apparently asshattery will always be with us, lo unto the pearly gates. It’s enough to make even an optimist think there’s no redemption for our silly little species. Today I’m almost halfway there already, and if I have to go pick up milk I’m sure I’ll see something that will push me the rest of the distance.

Over and out.

Round and Round We Go

The Princess found out earlier this week that her favorite streamer–the one she’s been watching ever since she and her bestie were playing JRPGs in middle school–preys on underage girls. She’s watching the stories come out in realtime, and struggling with the games she loved because she watched this fellow play them. “Baby’s first internet rumble,” I remarked during brekkie this morning.

She made a face like she used to when she was nine and had just discovered sarcasm. “So what’s going on in your part of the internet?”

I was forced to admit, “Pretty much the same thing.” There’s another of the periodic reckonings in SFF authordom, where the stories about predatory douchebags have circulated for years and then, once they reach a certain mass or a victim decides to risk going public, a lot of other men show their asses and how little they value half of humanity by going to bat for said douchebags. Or, worse, attempting a finger-wagging “I’m an ALLY! I would NEVER do that!” and being called on behaving just as badly, for just as long.

“They all work off the same playbook,” I told her. “And this happens cyclically. Over and over.” Because it does. The dustups happen with depressing frequency, and they’re rarely a surprise–the whisper networks are pretty robust. At least mine are, for which I’m grateful.

The only new-ish thing is that I seem to have moved out of the victim pool and into the “useful for cover if I can just mislead her enough” pool. Part of that is the fact that I’m older and not seen as sexually available or attractive, part of it is that I have some tiny perceived power in the vast heterogenous ecosystem of publishing. I’m sure a wide lateral network of female peers who tend to warn me early and thoroughly is part of it, and makes me a less attractive target for cultivation, lovebombing, or negging.

I’m lucky.

Because I’m regarded as old, fat, and unattractive, not only do I escape some of the creepers but I also miss out on a lot of opportunities, since the biggest plums douchebags are empowered to hand out once they’ve reached a certain amount of success (lower difficulty settings, let’s not forget) tend to be reserved for the victims they want something from instead of the hags they cultivate for cover.

I stopped going to conventions partly because I couldn’t afford travel and childcare costs, which is one way society punishes women who dare to have actual careers. But mostly, I was tired of being creeped on, harassed, assaulted in elevators, cornered after panels, pinched, groped, negged by male small-press publishers, followed into parking garages, followed to my hotel room, propositioned in the dealer’s room, and the instances of having to defuse a (possibly inebriated) man who insisted I should drink from the glass he brought me so hard I suspected–no, I knew–it was adulterated somehow.

Instances. Plural. And there’s still the online stalkers/harassers, who I’m sure will mistake this post for blood in the water, but at least I can block their sock puppets over and over.

The first few times I saw these fandom or SFF publishing reckonings, I was naive enough to think maybe they would change something. But they happen with such regularity, and the douchebag harassing rape-y behavior reported each damn time never really changes. It’s never a reckoning, it’s more like the periodic release of tension so the system can continue as usual.

On my pessimistic days, I’m pretty sure racism and misogyny have humanity by the throat and won’t ever be pried free. On my optimistic ones, I’m pretty sure humanity will find a solution–once we’ve tried literally every other damn possibility twice or thrice. The simplest solution, of course, is stop being a fucking douchebag, but that seems beyond the power of a significant chunk of white males, or even males in general.

I’m sure someone will bleat “both sides!” and “women can be abusive too!” in the comments, but I don’t fucking care. I’ll start caring when we reach gender parity; until then, the problem is overwhelmingly on one side and that side needs to clean its fucking house, come get its people, and adult up.

“So it looks like X has finally been outed,” a friend said yesterday, mentioning a douchebag who had been shitty to one of our mutual friends many, many moons ago. “At this point the only man I like is Y, unless you’ve heard something about him?”

I’m sure the heaviness of my sigh reached through both our phones. “…well, yes. Y does A, B, and C. I have two reports from two separate women.”

“GODDAMMIT,” was the reply. “So that’s why he’s such an ‘ally’.”

Which is another blog post entirely, isn’t it.

Over and over it happens. Round and round we go. Where does it stop? I certainly don’t know, unless it’s when society changes to the point that the fear of being outed and consequent disapprobation reaches a certain level. But then the douchebags will probably just find another way to be creepy and shitty.

“They don’t really know how NOT to be creepy,” a male friend, someone I rather like and hope is trustworthy, said yesterday.

“They know,” I had to say. “They just don’t care. I’ll tell you how I know: because they manage to refrain from being creepy around people not in their victim pool.” If they can weigh the consequences and refrain in some situations, it absolutely means they know better, and have deemed it an acceptable risk in other situations.

I understand some men not wanting to think their fellow men just… don’t care. I understand they don’t want to think about what it might say about them personally, as men. Just as I don’t want to think my fellow white women can be racist-ass Karens or TERFs because I want to believe I’m personally better than that, I understand men don’t want to think they have the capacity to be a misogynist predator.

We all have to face uncomfortable things about ourselves, and doubly uncomfortable things about whatever privilege we possess. The solution is simple: Just don’t be a douchebag.

Just fucking refrain.

Individually we might manage it. Collectively? I’m pessimistic today, so the best I can say is “we’re doomed.” Tomorrow I might feel differently.

But I’m not betting on it. I have no grand ending for this post, I have no solution other than don’t be a fucking douchebag and don’t cover for douchebags. I don’t even have the strength to be optimistic today. The merry-go-round has just swirled too many times, and I’m queasy on a spiritual level.

If there was anything else I was fit to earn my living as, I’d probably leave publishing. I would keep writing, of course, just not for public consumption. If even I am tempted to burn it all down and walk, think of how many great books we’re missing out on because a douchebag has hounded other women out. Because those women were exhausted and brutalized–emotionally or physically–into leaving. If these men could just fucking stop being douchebags, think of all the great stuff we could have in games, movies, books, you name it.

We could have a better world. But some douchenozzles just don’t want it. And they happen to be placed in positions of power.

It’s almost like that’s what the system is designed to do overall, isn’t it.

Isn’t it just.

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.

No Clear Ending

There was a lot of social effort yesterday, so I spent the afternoon with administrivia and a certain portal fantasy trunk novel. It helped.

There were also homemade pizzas for dinner (at the kids’ request) so I had enough pesto, carbs, and cheese to soothe many a raging hunger. The Princess is fond of pepperoni, and making her own ‘za is the only way she gets enough; the Prince is a simple traditionalist and prefers sauce, cheese, crust, and not a thing else.

When your spawn get old enough to buckle their own seat belts and run the oven, it’s a glorious thing.


Oddly, the thing giving me what little optimism I possess at the moment is NASCAR’s banning of the Confederate flag at its tracks. I was underimpressed when I initially heard the news, considering it a stunt and any possible enforcement honored more in the breach than observance, but someone whose opinion I respect pointed out that even if this is cynical lip service, it still represents a major shift. If such a company decides it’s more profitable to do homage to righteousness than to continue to service racist asshats, it’s all to the good.

However, it’s not time to relax yet. Not even close. The wannabe dictator (who, it’s now come to light, wanted the military to clear the streets of the nation’s capital with live fire) is still in power, and his cabal are thoroughly focused on looting the national treasury as well as attempting to brace their slipping stranglehold on the levers of power. This is a point when abusers of any kind are especially dangerous–when they feel their grasp sliding free.

People are still saying “In November we’ll…” and it makes me want to scream. Seeing the results of voter suppression and gerrymandering in Georgia, among other places, anyone who thinks we’ll have a free and fair election months from now is dangerously Pollyanna-ish. It will take so little for the dial to turn and the military to decide Mango Mussolini is still their best ticket for unchecked expansion, and to throw their weight behind him. And anyone thinks that orange blivet and his cabal will let go of power in a reasonable or quiet fashion even if voted out is fantasizing.


I long to go back to zany squirrel stories, to canine tales and feline follies, to moaning about deadlines, to my usual arch observations on the state of publishing. But I’m forced to chronicle, in my nightly diary and here, much different things. If you’re tired of it and want to read elsewhere, I can’t blame you–I’m exhausted writing about it. I can barely imagine how protestors or marginalized people are feeling. And the pandemic is still raging unchecked through this country.

The worst thing is the bleak hopelessness. Reading history means I see how this can all go even further wrong at the drop of a hat. The second worst thing is the uncertainty. I long to crawl in a comforting hole and not emerge until it’s decided, one way to another. I’ve always known it’s a writer’s duty not to look away.

Now, I suppose I see if I have the strength to perform it.

I have no clear ending for this post, so I suppose I’ll just stop here. Please be gentle with yourselves today, dear Readers. Do some self-care if you can. These are interesting times, and though we might be cursed to endure them, there’s no reason not to try to do so with whatever grace–and care for each other–we can muster.

Carousel of Spiritual Bends

Woke up in a “burn it all down” mood, and so far coffee isn’t helping as much as I thought it would. Still, I’m vertical and have my cuppa, and I’ve trimmed some energy expenditures from my calendar. It’s going to have to be enough.

Despite really wanting to do a few more organizational purges around the house, it’s probably best for me to stay in a holding pattern for a wee bit. The Princess remarked the other day that getting rid of junk or clutter isn’t just getting rid of things but also feelings and memories. (She’s been watching some Marie Kondo lately.) The decompression in normal times is a day’s worth of discomfort, but in these trying times it’s a bloody carousel of the spiritual bends.

At least I’m back on my reading schedule. Last night I finished the US Army Guerrilla Warfare Handbook, which is an interesting quasi-historical document. The Cold War was a helluva trip, and I was forcibly reminded several times of how much technology’s changed just in the course of my adult lifetime. Some of the implicit assumptions under the dry terminology were pretty startling–not surprising, more confirmation of things I already suspected.

To take the taste out of my mouth, I’ve started on Robert Chambers’s The Tracer of Lost Persons. Chambers also wrote The King in Yellow, which opened up some interesting doors inside my head. There’s a sort of creeping dread in the latter that reminds me of Lovecraft.

One of the more effective things Lovecraft and Chambers do (despite the rampant racism running through their works) is show just enough of the monster for the reader to effectively scare herself. Stephen King remarks near the end of IT that fully seeing the monster decreases the terror; we fear the unknown more than we fear tentacles, giant space-spiders, aliens, or kings in yellow or crimson. The trick and the balance is to show just enough and let the reader’s personalized, active imagination fill in the gaps.

A reader will scare themselves far more effectively than a writer could ever hope for. You just have to give them enough rope. So to speak.

I’ve been consuming said coffee and poking at social media feeds while writing this, and the caffeine-juice has soothed my ire considerably. Today is for walking the dogs, getting a run in, poking at three separate projects preparatory to getting back to serious work next week, and getting out to the store for milk and other necessaries. I wish I didn’t have to do that last bit. People are thinking the worst is over; they won’t find out they’re wrong for another couple weeks.

At least my writing partner made us all cloth masks with insert pockets. Masks, even the expensive ones, are pretty much just snot-catchers. They mean you won’t infect other people as much, and every little bit helps. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I knew I was asymptomatic and infected someone who died of it. I wish we had an actual adult in the White House instead of a criminal cabal centered around a demented malignant narcissist.

But we’ve got what we’ve got, I suppose, and it’s incumbent upon us to take care of each other. Heaven knows the criminals in power won’t. I’ll be picking up supplies at the store for more than one neighbor; if things get bad it’ll be those neighborhood links that save us.

And now my stomach has settled enough for a bit of brekkie, and to start the day. I’m fractionally less stabbity than when I started this post, thank goodness.

But only fractionally. The rest requires food, and working off the stress hormones with sweat and effort.

See you around.

Triage Endurance

I’m enjoying the morning Latin lessons more than I thought I would. Something about wrestling with lingua Latina before caffeine soaks in makes my brain feel sharper. Of course, the rest of me feels slow (stultae, even) before the caffeine soaks in, and I make far more errors than I like.

Latin for breakfast, French for lunch, Turkish before bed so sleep can hopefully help me retain verbs and grammar. I was doing German after dinner and Turkish before bed, but that was Too Much. I’d still like to study German some day, maybe when I’ve brushed up my French enough to read some Voltaire in the original.

Goals. I have them. Loads of them. Whether they’re achievable or not is an open question.

Instead of German, though, I think I want to go back to piano after dinner. I never thought I’d miss wrestling with Bach post cena, but here we are.

Mostly I’m trying to keep my brain busy so I don’t brood on current world events. I’m doing literally everything I can–social distancing, wearing a mask if I absolutely have to go to the store, washing hands, reaching out to friends, caring for my neighbors. It just doesn’t feel like enough, and I’m hitting empathy exhaustion on a daily basis.

I’d rather that than not caring at all, but still. If I tire myself out with work and study, the anxiety dreams are a little less fraught. At least there’s a delicate balance being held and I can sleep.

How are you doing out there, dear Reader? I meant to tell you the story of Big Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but Squirrelterror tales take a little more work than one might think. Maybe next week, because there’s more than one part. Knocking over the heavy iron pole and breaking a glass hummingbird feeder was only the beginning, and Barda’s got quite a mouth. Poor Boxnoggin literally could not believe some of the stuff she yelled at him.

Anyway… I do have something to say today. I was talking with a friend about the looming, constant empathy exhaustion yesterday, spurred by this Vice article, and she commented on the advice often given.

Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Well, for one thing, the distribution chains are creaking under the load, fresh produce and “healthy” foods are more expensive than junk–by corporate design, I might add. And if you start nattering on about “bulk buying” and “just make your meals ahead of time” I swear I will start tossing things and screaming, because that takes energy too and a lot of people live in food deserts even before the distribution systems took the first giant hit of lockdown. Not to mention some of us don’t have the equipment to exercise in postage-stamp living spaces, and if your only time to get some sweat-effort in is the evening and you’re female, going out to walk or jog when men who might have mayhem on their minds and nowhere else to congregate can be hazardous to your health.

And sleep? Don’t even get me started.

I know the science says this is what helps, but it’s just not feasible for a lot of people. I agreed that while veggies and exercise might be the best, they can also be out of reach for the non-privileged, and a bit of wine and pizza on the couch might be all one can achieve.

And you know, that’s okay.

If you, dear Reader, need permission to do things science says might not be helpful but you know are helpful for you and within your means, consider said permission given. We’re in an endurance round of triage, and whatever gets you through is A-OK.

For me it’s it’s legal weed on Fridays before D&D with a group of close friends, and setting aside Sunday to eat whatever the fuck I want in whatever quantity I desire. (Last Sunday was the Great Molasses Cake experiment, and I think I put away half a two-layer cake just by my lonesome.) It’s also mumbling Latin in the mornings and watching weird YouTube fanvids because I don’t have the energy or brain-cycles for binging new shows. (Although I did make it through The Umbrella Academy recently, which is less misogynist on the screen than in its original format–not by much, but I’ll take what I can get.)

Whatever it takes to get you through this in one piece and of reasonable sanity is A-OK. Feel free to tell me about your coping mechanisms below–you might even find a couple fellow Readers saying “hey, that’s a good one, I’m gonna try it.”

I’ve finished absorbing some coffee and my head is full of Latin phrases, if not declensions. (Mostly involving a drunk parrot, thanks, Duolingo!) Time to take the dogs for a walk and let the night’s dreams settle into their proper places under the floorboards of consciousness. Yesterday was difficult, today promises to be only slightly less so.

It’s okay. We’ll get through it together.

Over and out.

Shillin’ My Wares

I am so close to the end of revisions for HOOD‘s Season Two, I can taste it. Of course, there’ll still be CEs and proofing, but the season has its shape now, and it’s… actually… not a bad book? Which means I’m almost at the final gate.

I go through phases of hating each book. Generally the first one hits in the Slough of Despond from about halfway through the zero draft until four-fifths through, when the gallop to the finish takes me and I have no time for any emotion other than weary focus, then again it strikes midway through the revision into a reasonable first draft, then there’s the point halfway through other revisions when I think I have always been revising this book, I will always be revising this book, and weep.

It gets to where I’m afraid, each time, that I will always hate the book, and that it will go out into the world an unloved child. Which dovetails neatly with the “everyone will hate this, then they’ll hate YOU, then your career will crash and you’ll be homeless and your kids and dogs will starve and then the sun will go out and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT, LILI, ALL OF IT!” that strikes right before Release Day.

But in between those bursts, I have shoals of time where I think, well, this book ain’t perfect, but it’s not totally awful, and I’m grateful for the respite.

This particular burst of “maybe not bad” came when I reached a particular scene, frowned, and realized that the hole I’d sensed in the book was right there, plainly visible. I just needed to let the season rest for a wee bit before I got enough distance to see it. Which meant I could reel back in Scrivener and drop in an extra chapter (hey, I wrote about that earlier this week!) that makes the entire book hang in the shape it needs like a 3D tapestry.

It was a welcome discovery. I knew the hole was there, I just couldn’t see it.

Which reminds me! Some of you are asking about Haggard Feathers, my writing Substack. Come February, one weekly post there will be free and the rest will be subscriber-only. I’m still going back and forth about what’s a reasonable price to charge for it; the Substack will focus on being a working writer as well as refining your craft as a casual hobbyist. I plan on also doing a Thursday Evening Open Thread over there, where subscribers can ask questions, play, and generally interact with each other and me. I’m thinking around $5/mo wouldn’t be too much to ask; I might end up doing subscription tiers if Substack supports that. In any case, it has not changed to subscriber-only yet, and one post a month (probably on the first Tuesday) will be utterly free so you know what you’re getting. Come February, I’ll trot out the subscription option.

Also, if I’m shilling my wares (as one is frequently required to do in order to keep body and soul together) I have a Patreon, and also have subscription options at Gumroad. They fall into three classes: A Latte’s Worth (a once-monthly fiction drop, the price of a cheap but good coffee), Crow’s Nest (weekly fiction drop, generally on Thursdays) and the Nest Egg option, which not only gives you the weekly fiction drop but also gives you access to whatever serial I’m running currently–including the unedited and edited ebooks of said serials, before they go on sale and most times before they can even be preordered. The current serial is my Robin Hood in Space story, of which Season One is available in entirety and Season Two is spiking for a finish involving a ball, assassination attempts, and a GIANT SPACESHIP BLOWING UP because hey, write what you love, right?

I’m trying to maneuver myself into an emotional-mental space where I can have the next serial be The Highlands War–that’s right, the next Steelflower book. But there’s still Season Three of HOOD to get through, so I have time to think about, doodle, dream, and prep to my heart’s content. The next serial might end up being Lightning Bound instead of Highlands War, too. I haven’t decided yet.

Giving yourself enough time to make decisions is a skill that edges into a luxury. But if one can possibly take it, I recommend it. There are very few decisions that are as pressing as the world would like us to believe, especially that slice of the world full of people who (wrongly) think they’re entitled to something from us just because they want it.

Anyway, the dogs need walking, I have a workout to get into, and there’s correspondence to take care of before I can get to what I really want to do–revise this book so I can get to the next stage of the publication process.

See you around, chickadees.