Yes, All Souls

The holiday yesterday was just what I needed. My nerves were frayed down to bare wires, sparking dangerously–to be fair, this has happened with increasing frequency as the pandemic wears on. It’s still uncomfortable as all fuck, so taking a day is more of a necessity than a luxury.

It was flat-out wonderful. I did a surprise Halloween stream (reading my favorite all-weather Poe story to my darling viewers, it’ll be up on YouTube later today), ate a lot of candy, hung out with the kids…and, despite being barred from work, I moonlighted with a quasi-fanfic and wrote about a thousand words. Because my ideal reward for work is–you guessed it–MORE WORK.

But now it’s All Souls’, the blessed day of Clearance Candy (go forth and conquer, my friends) and the very first day of NaNoWriMo. This year I’m using the NaNo slot in my writing schedule for The Fall of Waterstone (which might be titled The Elder Jewel when it finally comes out), so fifty thousand words of epic fantasy in November is pretty much a given. The other slot this month is for Hell’s Acre. I am deeply annoyed at only being able to juggle two projects at once. If the goddamn fascists would quit and our public health “authorities” do something about the bloody pandemic, I could be back to juggling four projects at once. As it is, I’m swimming against the deep, awful current of stress from People Behaving Shittily.

Still, the morn is quiet and misty. We had a right proper deluge yesterday; I feel sorry for the poor candy-chasers. I’m sure a lot of them were disappointed. We’re used to rain in this part of the world, but still it’s kind of a misery when you’re a kid in a costume looking to score some sweet sweet sugar rush. Boxnoggin was also deeply nonplussed by the amount of water falling from the sky–his trips outside to relieve bladder pressure, usually long and full of celebratory sniffing in every corner, were instead quick and mournful. I’m sure this morning’s walkies will be altogether too damp for his liking, though the rain has temporarily halted and saturated soil is slowly draining.

There will be a sale for November; I’ll announce it in a bit. Right now I’m busy absorbing the last little bit of the morning’s caffeine jolt. My office window is closed but I can still hear a couple bluejays screaming–it’s probably Ed and Stede, though I thought they would have migrated or something by now. Maybe they’re bemoaning the fact that the Yankee Squirrel Flinger DEATHRIDE 5000 seems to have given up the ghost lately despite all the battery charging, and I really hesitate to get another with all the corporate price-gouging going on. Alas and alack.

I suppose I’d best start ambling towards toast. Despite the saturation outside, Boxnoggin is determined to get his walkies and has just pranced into my office, ready to nose me breakfast-ward. Goodness knows I can’t be trusted to keep to a schedule without his supervision, oh no.

Off I go then, my beloveds. I wish you happiness today–and many a good bargain on leftover spooky candy.

Welcome, Great Pumpkin

Happy Samhain, my beloveds. It’s the first and last day of the witch’s year, and there’s already a bowl of candy on the kitchen table. I did roll out of bed and straight into eight complex tasks I had to accomplish before I was allowed to make coffee–one of which was taking Boxnoggin outside for his usual wake-up loo break. He is Quite Put Out that it’s so damp outside, and the wind flirting with the cedars also touched his rump, at which he gave a startled leap and looked at me as if I were responsible.

To him, I am a near-incomprehensible all-powerful goddess, so clearly the weather is some kind of terrible chthonic joke I’m playing on the world. I wish I had even a sliver of the might this poor dog attributes to me; I could do so much with it.

But the heat pump has been turned on, the bed made, Boxnoggin’s brekkie (ignored for the moment, until I head to the toaster) set out, a multitude of other preparations finished, and I can sit to absorb some caffeine for a few moments. Poor Lord van der Sploot is going to despise walkies today, despite begging for them the instant I finish my coffee. He’s going to give me so many reproachful looks, I can just tell, and when we get back home he’ll need a towel and a treat to mollify him.

Last night I finished absorbing an ancient battered paperback of Dick Gregory’s No More Lies, which was a well-written, engaging, truthful, and difficult read. Engaging with American history–cavalcade of genocide, enslavement, and robber-baron enrichment that it is–pretty much always nauseates. If you have any empathy, that is. Nothing in it was a surprise, though I did learn a few details about some specific events I hadn’t known before, and in Chapter VII, I came across one of the best passages I’ve ever read in a history book.

Although repression is a futile solution, it is a legitimate reaction. All men have the basic right to be afraid, regardless of how wrong, how degenerate, or how insane they are.

–Dick Gregory, No More Lies: The Myth and the Reality of American History

It’s very kind to attribute cruelty, bigotry, and misogyny to fear instead of just sheer sociopathic cruelty. I think fear is always a component to varying degrees, though most of it is simply that many people are comfortable with being cruel and even enjoy it when there are no consequences. A steady, swift application of social disapprobation and financial penalties for being a bigoted dickwad would do a great deal to correct and deter most fascist fellow-travelers; unfortunately, our entire society is set up to reward such behavior instead.

The level of espresso in my mug is dropping, and my tissues are soaking up the caffeine like dry earth gratefully swallowing the autumn rains. I suppose it’s time to think about brekkie, drop the leftover toast crusts in Boxnoggin’s bowl, get out the trench coat, and go for a damp ramble with the dog. I’ll be cooking all day, except for if/when I manage to squeeze in an extra livestream–I think I might read Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart to you madcaps, since it’s my favorite of his short stories and I haven’t cracked open my Compleat Edgar Allen for a hot minute. (I’ll probably hit Twitch this afternoon.)

Rain on the roof, all the high-fructose corn syrup we can handle, a day completely off because for godsake I’m not working on Samhain, and tonight we’ll burn wishes for the upcoming year on perfumed joss paper…my dance card is full.

I hope you have a blessed day, my dears. I wish you a pleasant holiday.

Back to Reading

Spent yesterday doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work–you know, the type of effort that’s necessary to prepare for forward movement, yet at the end of the day leaves one feeling rather like nothing’s moved at all. As a result, I went to bed feeling rather tetchy.

But it’s a new day, and I have exciting things to report. People seem to like Reading with Lili, and I’ve received a lot of requests–mostly polite, thank goodness–for more straightforward readings without the commentary and footnotes as well. The commentary seems to attract one set of viewers/listeners, but there are those who like a more truncated experience, or who would like to hear some of the text en clair, so to speak. So! I’ve started a Great Chapters playlist, where I’ll take the text I’ve dissected in a Reading with Lili session (or something else from the same book/work) and just…read it, straight through. I’ve started with the first chapter of Moby-Dick.

I did a lot of narration and video editing yesterday, so between now and Samhain there’ll be a new Great Chapters video daily to bring us up to speed. Then I’ll shift to doing a Reading with Lili stream at the usual time and shortly thereafter both the livestream and the “just-the-text-ma’am” will go up on YouTube. This feels like a good way to handle things for the foreseeable future.

This week’s Reading with Lili will be an examination of Robert Chambers’s The King in Yellow, which is a fascinating collection, and I might even read a whole short story from it for the Great Chapters segment in honor of this year’s spoopytimes. (I also need to get out to the store and grab a few bags of candy for home consumption, hurrah.)

I only got about two hundred words apiece on both current writing projects, alas, but with everything else out of the way I can spend a little time with Hell’s Acre today, and a whole lot of time with The Fall of Waterstone, which may end up being titled The Elder Jewel. Not so sure about how it’ll eventually be named, which is usual at this point in the process. Getting my Viking elementalist to the throne room, where she will be called upon to give a message to an elvish king and might even pass out from despair, is the name of today’s game.

I’m also able to give more braincycles to just-plain-reading, which is a blessing. I finished Wilson’s The Thirty Years War, which felt like it took almost as long as the hostilities lasted to read, just last week. Last night I knocked off the final bit of Katharine Gerbner’s Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, which was absolutely illuminating. The connections between Protestantism and white supremacy are deep, especially once the former crossed the Atlantic. One of the points Gerbner relentlessly makes and bolsters with fact is that originally, the term for “free” in the sugar islands (and on the American continents) was “Christian”; once a few transported and enslaved Africans converted and also gained legal manumission the process of creating whiteness as the category meaning “free” instead was kick-started. She also explains, patiently and in detail, how literacy was used by the enslaved to claw back some measure of freedom–with predictably violent responses from planters and enslavers, not to mention a complete abdication of responsibility by European missionaries. All in all, it was a fascinating read and answered a lot of questions about just why current white supremacy finds such a congenial home in evangelical (and even bog-standard) Christianity.

Next on my TBR pile is an ancient paperback of Dick Gregory’s No More Lies, which I’m really looking forward to. You’d think the pandemic would have given me more time to read, but the associated stress simply meant I couldn’t concentrate worth a damn and had to save all my resources for work. The plague isn’t over yet–far from–but I seem to have adjusted, to some degree. (Probably as a function of giving up any hope that people as a whole will Do the Right Thing, ever, unless and until they are forced by a lack of other options.) So I’m getting back into reading a few chapters of something not work-related before turning off the light, and it’s such a huge bloody relief.

I plan on getting Boxnoggin out for early walkies. The timing and the change in weather means we’ll probably miss any other dog walkers (thank the gods) though I’m sure plenty of cats, rabbits, and other prey animals will be out in force, which will mean dropping my center of gravity when the fool dog lunges. I have been half thinking of taking him on easy, gentle runs now that there’s absolutely no danger of him being too young for that sort of exercise, but I can’t trust him the way I did Bailey. He’s simply too reactive, still. Maybe another six months’ worth of patient training during walkies will ameliorate, I don’t know. And certainly the long rambles to wear him out are good for my health as well.

We had a terribly dry autumn, but that seems to be washed away now. About damn time; I hope the rain is reaching the local forest fires. I’m just glad not to be breathing smoke anymore. Of course next summer will probably be dreadful, but I’ve enough to worry about here-and-now without adding that anticipation to my poor frayed nerves. Suppose I’ll just deal with it when the time comes, like everything else.

And that’s my Thursday, beloveds. It’s time for some toast, and for getting the day moving in some approximation of the right direction.

I wish us both the very best of luck…

Ink Cedars and Work

Rain! Cold, glorious, beautiful, life-giving, drenching, forest-fire quenching, tapping, slithering, chilly on the nape RAIN! Can you tell I’m pleased? I’m able to go running today too, after long walkies in the wet with Boxnoggin, and that will bring me back to zen in a hot hurry.

I won’t be able to run very far or fast, since injury and weather conditions mean I haven’t hit the pavement in a while. Slow and steady is the name of the game; I’m just fine with that. And the sidewalks will be deserted–there’ll be a distinct dearth of men wanting to stop me and chat about whatever-the-hell when it’s perfectly clear I’m exercising and have no ding-dang time to service strangers’ emotional needs.

Ahem. Anyway.

Last week’s Reading with Lili was about Frankenstein and the UTTERLY BONKERS life Mary Shelley led; it’s now up on YouTube. Also, I did a bonus stream on (of all things) Twilight, and that’s up too. There are a small proportion of people who dislike the commentary and backstory (though most of my Readers, and now dear Viewers, are enthusiastic about both), so I’m considering doing just-straight-readings and putting them up, too. We’ll see if I can squeeze time into the schedule. The erotica readings hit a snag (not gonna talk about that) but I got a lot of useful experience turning text readings into videos, so we’ll see.

But that can only happen in whatever spare time I’ve got lying about. It’s back to work for Yours Truly, and with a vengeance since the revision on Cold North is (finally) firmly in the past and I have other things to focus on now. Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention before I lunge for the finish of Book 2, the second Tolkien Viking Werewolves is my NaNoWriMo book, and the second Sons of Ymre needs a massive revise before I can turn it in to my long-suffering editor. So I’ve got my marching orders, and now I can settle to an autumn’s worth of work. (There’s a lot of sales going on this month, too.)

It’s lovely. The cedars are inky shadows outside my office window; it’s damp and cold and the sun cannot manage to struggle past the cloud cover. I am positively chuffed. Best of all, there’s no more smoke in the air. Despite some lingering rasp in the throat, I’m feeling ever so much better. Practically fidgeting with impatience to get out the door, as a matter of fact.

Boxnoggin, while he is thrilled at the prospect of walkies, is still in his usual two-week adjustment period. Every fall he acts like he’s outright forgotten what rain is, and expects me to fix whatever’s leaking on his dainty paws, not to mention the rest of him. Poor fellow. He’ll get used to it, and even begin to like some aspects of winter–like attempting to drink from muddy, parasite-laden puddles, for example.

This dog, you guys. I don’t even know.

I’m just so thrilled we finally have decent, reasonable weather. The smoke wasn’t as bad as last year (or the year before, my gods, 2020 was awful), but it was bad enough. Now it’s washed away, the evacuation orders have been rescinded, and I’m not coughing like Doc Holliday in a Dodge City saloon. Small mercies, yes–but I’ll take ’em.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. It’s time to get to work.

Arachnid Verisimilitude

Gossamer veils.

Tis the season for misty mornings, which means these spiderwebs stand out amid evergreen foliage. There’s some polyester knockoffs (Halloween decorations) in the neighborhood, but it’s easy to tell the real from the decorative. I often feel like I should remove twigs and leaf litter, but never do so because that’s probably verisimilitude for the poor spider, who’s just trying to get some lunch.

I’ve had well-meaning strangers interfere while I’m hungry too, after all.

I have revision brain–Cold North is just about ready to go back to the editor, squeaking right under the deadline wire–and a bad case of exhaustion. Despite that I am looking forward to this week’s Reading with Lili, which will be about Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, the ladies in Dracula’s castle, and Victorian misogyny. (It’ll be on Twitch first, YouTube later, as always.) I have an inbox full of stuff for The Dead God’s Heart and the preorder rodeo that is Duty as well, so that’s got to be dealt with before I can knock off and maybe take a day or so to breathe. (And watch more Love Like the Galaxy, which I am currently low-key obsessed with.)

Before that, there’s walkies and a slow, short, easy run to get my wounded ankle back into the game. No mist this morning, yet I’ll smile at every spider-house.

I wish you a wonderful weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other.

Over and out.

Twitching in the Right Direction

The algorithm did indeed find my Dracula, HO! reading session, and that led to exactly what I dreaded. Having to clean shitty, entitled comments out of a moderation queue is one of my least favorite things in the whole wide world, and it honestly makes me want to stop with the teas and readings. I just don’t have the time to deal with moderating a whole lot of selfish pisshats spreading their selfish pissy comments all over. I’m going to see if it calms down, and will be streaming Dracula, YO! on Friday. I mean, I’ve done all the prep so I might as well.

If the shitty entitled behavior keeps going I might nuke the entire YouTube affair except for the saucy narrations. Or I might completely shut comments off for the main channel. I don’t want to do either, but I guess some people are just determined to ruin everything for the rest of us. And after three years of pandemic I have neither the hours nor the patience to engage in such a battle; I’d rather escalate to solving the problem in definitive fashion right out the gate.

Of course, that’s always been a component of my personality, but it’s grown far more marked of late. I’m sure reaching my mid-forties is part of that, and the situation since 2016 (and after 2020 in particular) has just been icing on the top of that particular cake.

Anyhoo. Let’s talk about something nicer. I was pleasantly surprised by revisions yesterday, having arrived at the first truly knotty problem and finding, to my relief, that all the work I’d done so far meant the knot was seriously eased. I did not have to slice it in half as I’d feared; part of the solution was cutting a few extraneous days spent knocking about the elven city. I’m sure plenty of Readers would like to know the history of every stone set in the roadway, but my editor will throttle me if I give it and besides, I can always keep those bits and use them for supplementary material.

I also deliberately provoked Hell’s Acre until the solution for another problem showed up ready for combat, at which point I bowed graciously and ushered said solution right into the story at high speed. So sure, the book’s probably angry at me, but at least it’s moving. It can be as mad as it wants as long as it twitches in the right direction.

We’ve had three lovely misty mornings in a row. By the time Boxnoggin and I return home from walkies, his undercarriage is damp and my hair dewed with fog-beads. I adore this weather. He is a bit disgruntled–he doesn’t like moisture, but at least he’s not getting overheated either. As soon as one discomfort is overcome another arises, and if that’s not a description of life I don’t know what is. It’s damn near a kenning.

Oh! I should tell you: The kids and I went to the local pop-up Spirit Halloween yesterday. One of the storefronts vacated during the pandemic must be a good deal for them; we were hoping the migratory orange-and-black would return. The dream is to almost completely decorate the house in that fashion, since this is the only time of year the wider world shares my aesthetic. I scored a new tea mug and a couple hanging plaques to match last year’s Welcome to Derry, We All Float Here and Beetlejuice signs. So now Camp Crystal Lake is honored in the foyer as well; maybe next year I’ll get a Haddonfield sign and/or an Overlook Hotel one. I have a Room 237 keychain, which pleases me to no end and hangs on the cork board in my office. (Right next to a Normandy quote from Bayerlein; I contain multitudes.)

I had to be somewhat restrained from getting a six-and-a-half foot automated monkey with cymbals. I had thoughts of bringing him home, naming him Steve, and perhaps using him to deter those who try to use our driveway as a turnaround, but the kids pointed out it was a lot of money for something that might get run over. I mutinously mumbled that getting run over would only make Steve more authentic, but allowed myself to be overruled since they were undoubtedly right.

Adulthood is full of delayed gratification. Maybe next year I’ll be able to justify a similar purchase.

In any case, it’s time to get some brekkie and usher a certain square-headed canine out the door. Thursday is for the subscription drop and telling everyone about October’s sales, so that’s on the list today. Might even do another saucy narration tonight–how is this my life, that reading Victorian erotica aloud is the fun keeping me afloat? Things have grown truly strange around the Chez of late.

…well, that’s incorrect. It’s always been strange around here, I’m just leaning into it more now. Excelsior, and all that.

See you around.

Hobbling Through Habit

Another quiet morning, this one misty instead of outright foggy. Boxnoggin has calmed remarkably, though that could be my own relief at the advent of autumn slopping over onto his sensitive little self. He’s such nervous little fellow–not his fault, just a function of life events before he finally found his forever home. At the moment he’s engaged upon his first morning nap since I’m absorbing coffee at the glowing box in my office, since this is the daily ritual.

Ritual and habit are Good Things, according to most dogs. The world is large and confusing, especially with humans involved, and having rituals cuts down on that paralyzing uncertainty. Toddlers are by and large the same way; adults are only slightly less enamored of habitual solidity. The great innovation of adulthood is learning to choose and hack one’s own habits to get the effects one wants. It’s hard work, what with habit being the best of servants and worst of masters, as the saying goes1.

My ankle is still swollen, and the band of bruising is changing colors. The term flesh fireworks comes to mind, but if I put that in a story I can already hear an editor somewhere screaming2. I can handle the daily walkies, if I take a handful of ibuprofen at the right time. Boxnoggin rather enjoys me having to hobble since that means he gets even more time to stick his nose in various items; I will never in my life be as happy as this dog when he’s salivating over something rancid on the sidewalk. Keeping him from eating random objects takes up most of our walking time, with corralling his enthusiastic screaming at other dogs as a distant but significant second-place activity.

Yesterday held some good work. Hell’s Acre is coming along, and I managed to settle on Cold North revisions. I know the fix for the first big structure problem–which wasn’t a problem per se, just an editorial preference I’ve decided to honor–and today will be for weaving that in. Maybe I’ll get to write a set-piece battle instead of a smaller raid or clash; that would be nice, especially with the wingless dragon involved.

Can’t have a sack of Nargothrond without Glaurung, after all.

I didn’t have a video meeting last night either so I was able to do some more saucy narration–if YouTube gets shirty about the content, I may have to switch over to OnlyFans3. Victorian erotica is already kind of hilarious, but it’s even more so when one has to stop, turn away from the microphone, and ask the dog quietly but with great force if he would please at least consider halting the licking of his own gonads, or taking that activity elsewhere because it’s hard enough to read that sort of thing with a straight face, let alone aloud.

There’s a couple sales this month, so I should probably get the sticky post for them up before finishing coffee. The day’s work beckons, and there’s cold cereal for brekkie instead of toast. Habit is good, yes, but sometimes one must buck it to keep fresh or even just for fun.

Tuesday proceeds apace. I can’t hear the birds because my office window is closed, which means autumn has definitely arrived. It’ll be open later today, don’t fear–Ed and Stede will be able to distract me all afternoon since it’ll be a sunny one.

Some things change, others remain the same, ad nauseam, ad infinitum4.

See you around.