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…

Portal Fantasy Weekend

Spent the weekend reorienting myself, by which I mean “taking two days off and writing nothing but portal fantasy.” Subscribers will be happy to know Moon’s Knight is coming along nicely, and I’m almost ready to throw the heroine out into the Underdark to make her way somewhere very special.

I’m a little taken aback by the response to what was intended to be a throwaway few chapters of a story that would probably never gather steam. I suppose now I should finish it, but it’ll take a while since it has to fit around three paying projects. All of which I’m either behind on, or deathly afraid of becoming so.

Pandemic and fascist coup tend to put a spike in one’s productivity, alas.

The urge to retract into my shell–or crawl into a hole and tug the hole closed behind me–is well-nigh overpowering. Shutting off the wireless and just writing, fueled by tea, seems the best option right now. Looking at the news is a fool’s game. I’ve lost all hope of being able to turn any fraction of the tide. A vast mass of Americans not only wants to worship death and kill itself choking on its own jackboots and phlegm, but also wants to take the rest of us into the abyss as well. Fighting that current is exhausting.

But it’s a Monday, and today I start the last half of the last season of HOOD. Then I shift to The Bloody Throne, where two women are accosted by an Emperor in a garden and nobody gets what they want out of the interaction. Last but not least, I’ve dinner to think of, and finishing the day by getting the protagonist in The Black God’s Heart out of her city and well on her road trip to the West.

And Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped. At least I’ve my health.

At least I have music. Today is for Anonymous 4 and Alan Parsons Project. I don’t know why the Muse wants them in alternating order, but I’ve long since learned to just give the bitch what she’s yelling for and let it go. We work better together when I just feed her what she demands. I’m hoping she’ll let me listen to some Willie Nelson soon, I have an urge to put Red Headed Stranger on repeat once the church songs and synthesizers have scratched whatever is itching on the Muse’s back.

The dogs are eager for their walk. After Boxnoggin’s recent shenanigans he has not only his harness but two collars and a leash; the new, hopefully escape-proof harness arrives soon. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. And there’s a run to get in today.

If you’ve lost the ability to deal with *gestures at the world* all this, you’re not alone. I’m taking refuge in work, as I often do; I wish I had some advice that held even a glimmer of making any of this better. Alas, I’ve got nuttin’. All I can do is write, and gods grant it’s enough.

And who knows? If I get all my work done today, I might steal a few minutes for the portal fantasy. Stolen time is the sweetest and most productive, as we all well know.

Happy Monday, chickadees. Take care of yourself today. We need everyone, especially you, so do what you’ve gotta to re-wrap the insulation on your nerves. I don’t see this ending anytime soon–and with that cheerful thought, I’m going to finish my coffee and walk the beasts. Pretty soon Boxnoggin will be in a hamster ball for the daily promenades, just to keep him out of trouble.

And with that hilarious mental image, my beloveds, I am over and out.

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.