Up to Us, Drop by Drop

Well, it’s Monday again. My nerves are somewhat re-wrapped, due to a weekend’s worth of reading Anaïs Nin and just generally being a bump on a log otherwise. I have rarely in my life been this low-energy; normally, while I’m awake I’m working, and that’s that.

But several years of ongoing, relentless crisis will wear on anyone, I think. I keep saying “I am full of the world’s pain”; my empathy is battered daily, even when I don’t doomscroll. It’s at the point where I’m numb, which is a great relief from the tearing pain of loss but interferes with work. Having to press through the layers of emotional scar tissue keeping me sane at this point is…suboptimal.

Consequently I’ve retracted, a bruised anemone. I am, after all, only human, possessed of finite time and energy.

I’m on Volume 6 of Nin’s Diary, and while it’s been an awesome ride, I’m glad there’s only about a volume and a half left. (It was surprisingly hard to get my hot little hands on #7, but I triumphed.) Some of her homophobia is jarring, and the terminology of anti-bigotry has changed out of all recognition since her time as well. Her constant willingness to let others, like Henry Miller, take advantage of her also jolts me. I already didn’t like him (despite reading Henry & June several times since my early 20s and still enjoying it thoroughly) but now my distaste for him (not to mention some others) is at white-hot intensity. Naturally my dislike is a matter of seeing myself revealed; I am somewhat known for being a bit of a doormat if I like someone. For me, it’s a holdover from mu boundaries being repeatedly and regularly violated as a child; I had to learn, painstakingly and in therapy, how to enforce them and how to let toxic, abusive people go.

Thankfully, in my mid-forties, I have learned to take a little more care of myself, and have scrawled many an “ANAÏS HONEY NO” in the margins. Getting to this age as a woman is wonderful; learning to give zero fucks and protect one’s space is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s also why our society prizes malleable teenage girls so much and works so hard to make older women feel invisible and unwanted.

But there’s power in invisibility, my friends. Superpower.

One of the interesting things about reading Nin’s diaries is seeing how little publishing has changed. The things she bemoans in dealing with publishers are the things we’re struggling with now, just with jet fuel poured on the bonfire. Even some of the names are the same. They still treat writers as disposable serfs; I think Nin would have bemoaned several parts of the internet but absolutely loved the explosion of self-publishing made possible by its technological advance.

…I could write a whole article about that, but who has the time?

I was also able to settle and watch a movie or two, including 1956’s Forbidden Planet. Seeing a very young Leslie Nielsen was a trip and a half, and the misogyny in the movie was…not a treat, let’s put it that way. It is fully an heir to Shakespeare in woman-hating, especially as a retelling of The Tempest. On the bright side, it makes me want to rewrite the whole thing and do it right, which is a sign that I’m taking in creative nourishment. Filling the well, drop by drop.

Which is good, because I’m parched.

In any case, I should get my brekkie–so Boxnoggin will consume his; he is a very social eater–and take said Boxnoggin on his walkies so I can run. The rest of the day is for a top to bottom reread of Hell’s Acre; that has moved to first on my docket. I’m in the second season now, and as usual, by this point I have an idea of what the next serial will be but have to get this one sorted beforehand. I had such dreams for this serial, but the pandemic really made working on it into acid-test conditions. It’s sad; I wanted to do so much more.

In any case, there’s my marching orders. Oh, and happy Juneteenth Observed! It’s high time for this holiday to be given attention; it should be even bigger than Fourth of July. (And if you have a problem with me saying that, tough. It’s still true.)

Happy First Weekday, my beloveds; be gentle with yourselves and each other. The rest of the world will not, so it’s up to us.

Flood Stage, Numb

Woke up to find out some Reply Guys had found my massive thread1 on watching the Netflix documentary about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. I really shouldn’t check social media before coffee; my patience for mansplainers, sealions, and red herrings is at an all-time low before caffeine works through my tissues.

Of course, it’s never really high to begin with, so…yeah. I used to respond patiently when I responded at all, but to hell with that. If you’re going to ask me for emotional labor or try to roll a barrel of bad-faith bullshit, you’re going to get ignored OR get the unfiltered response you deserve.

The rain has slacked off a bit, and the river is at flood stage. I think the numbness of grief has passed, and now I’m tetchy. The fact that I have to get back to bloody work doesn’t help. I mean, work is the only thing that’s going to save me, and it’s the only thing making me feel better now…and yet.

And yet.

I have those bloody line edits to get underway–I’m glad I asked for the extra time, good job, Past Lili–and Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention, loving or otherwise. The board is set and the pieces are moving there, and today I have to write Rexton (the overt antagonist) visiting the Greatfather of Taurrock. Neither of them are going to be happy with the result of that visit, I think. Of course I could not care less what Rexton feels, but the Greatfather is a tragic case.

Before that, though, there’s walkies and a run to get through, not to mention finishing the damn coffee. On the bright side, my cinnamon tea should arrive today, and depending on when it does I might be able to have a cuppa and see if I like it. And I spent most of yesterday doing housework and reading Way of the House Husband. It’s rare that I like an anime as much as I like a manga, or vice versa, but in this case I find both utterly charming. I can’t wait for Volume 8.

Oh, and Friday’s Tea with Lili is up on YouTube; it’s about hating your heroes and the duty to escape. I’m getting a flood of questions about the Valentine series lately, so I might answer some of those in the next tea. We’ll see.

…I suppose I should bloody well get on with it. The line edits won’t do themselves, more’s the pity, and I need to work ahead on the serial a bit in order to be comfortable. I would like to do a bit more in the Space Werewolves story, but at this point it’s procrastination instead of actual work and I’ve got to Be Responsible. (Bother.) Which means I shall bring this to a close, bolt the last remaining swallow of coffee, and get some bread in the toaster since running on an empty stomach isn’t allowed any more.

As it gets older, the body takes its vengeance. Poor thing, it’s had enough of my hijinks.

Happy Monday, everyone. May we all get through intact. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for…

From Cold Blood to Hope

Monday again? I would demand a recount, but I know it’s useless. One can’t argue with time. Well, I suppose one could, but being incarnated in flesh makes it a losing proposition, and I already have enough of those.

I spent a quiet, rainy weekend cleaning the house, taking walks with Boxnoggin, and generally just trying to adjust. And writing space werewolves, for some reason.

Intellectually I know I’m distracting myself from grief. It might be a mistake to use the werewolves to do it, since when the pain fades I might not be able to open up the story’s file again without being reminded of the hurt. On the other hand, pouring the agony of missing my shadow, the fuzzy little queen of my heart–because that’s what she was–into a meant-to-be-fluffy story is far from the worst way to handle something like this. At least it’s a manner of creation, and if the story distracts me, it might distract a Reader or two from the current trashfire in the news or even a more personal tragedy. Who knows?

It’s the little things that hurt most. Cleaning off her brushes–she was a long-haired pooch with a lovely undercoat–for the last time. Getting two bedtime treats out of the bag, and having to return one because there’s only a single dog waiting for the usual nighttime snack. Tucking my feet under my chair at the table, since she liked to lie right in front, both for closeness and for the occasional scrap. I’m unable to move the pillows on the couch because she never liked them on “her” end, and would toss fat decorative things onto the floor with a sideways glance if we dared to rest any there. Getting down two dog bowls in the morning, and having to put one back while my throat closes up and my eyes prickle.

I do want to thank you–all of you–for your kind words and condolences. Thankfully, not a single person has said, “but it’s just a dog.” They are never just dogs, or cats, or fish, or birds. To have a pet is to share the most intimate moments of one’s life with another creature, to be responsible for them in all ways, to have a companion in every sense. We share our hearts, our homes, and the deepest bits of ourselves, and when they’re gone it hurts dreadfully.

And that’s all I want to say about that right now.

I finished reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood this weekend. I thought I’d read it before, but apparently I haven’t–at least, not since I started keeping a reading log. (I actually keep two, one in Airtable and one in my book cataloguing software, since the latter doesn’t list ebooks.) It’s a fascinating time capsule, and also interesting to see how he took the conventions of true-detective magazines and married them to a few journalistic ones, plus a literary device or two, creating standards for an essentially new genre. I’ve read a lot of true crime, and it’s fascinating to see one of the seminal works. Capote also took the chance to write about aspects of the crime that, while sensational, are also important–both Smith and Hickcock showed signs of sociopathy; Capote almost instinctively zeroed in on them–while he pushed the boundaries of “acceptable” language at the time.

I can see why Capote was famous, and can also see how he could have been bloody insufferable. I wonder about the effect Harper Lee had on his work, and indeed if she wrote some things for him, content to shy away from the spotlight but still keep producing work. I freely admit that last bit could just be projection on my part; I can’t imagine not writing once one has gotten into the habit.

With that finished, I turned back to Anaïs Nin’s diaries. I might as well finish the stack, and there’s a great deal in there that speaks to my current situation, both on a meta and a micro-level. She felt it was her job to love, to bring life back into the world, to resurrect what was murdered. She certainly lived in the right timeframe for it, and her unquestioning faith that such things are possible both pains me and fills me with longing. I wish I could believe half as hard as she did.

All that aside, though, it’s the drop-dead date for starting the line edits on The Dead God’s Heart. Long-time Readers will recognize the story–I’ve talked about the two books as “American Gods meets John Wick“, and subscribers have seen bits and pieces of them. They’ll be out next year, I think? When I have preorder links, believe me, I’ll let you guys know.

Work goes on, even through heartbreak. My first quad-shot of the day is almost absorbed, then it will be time for toast and maybe a few paragraphs of Nin before walkies. Boxnoggin likes the longer rambles, and we’re slowly working up to a different route, about twice the distance Bailey could comfortably handle near the end. He’s a sensitive fellow, and I don’t want to overwork him. So it’s slight changes, one by one, with a lot of rests in-between. Then I run my own tired corpse, putting together the day’s work inside my head while I do so. I might be able to sneak away a bit, perhaps after dinner, and work on space werewolves.

That’s the thing I’m looking forward to most, other than bedtime. Crawling back into bed and never coming out is a seductive thought, but as always there’s work to be done. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and today I’m both.

May our Monday be as pleasant as possible, my beloveds. Even though it’s, well, a Monday, we can view it as a fresh start to some extent. And there’s a bit of hope in that. Not much–I do not have the capacity for much at the moment–but a little.

Which will have to suffice, and gods grant it’s enough.

Over and out.

New Chair and Basic Division

The dogs are somewhere between excited and unnerved this morning, since there have been ch-ch-ch-changes at the Chez. For one thing, we had the insurance adjustors out on Tuesday, and that meant an hour of poor, unhappy dogs barking excitedly from my bedroom (Boxnoggin) or my office (Miss B)–separated because if they’re put in Durance Vile together they start wrestling, and I didn’t want our visitors to think we had a pack of wolves hidden down the hall. I needn’t have bothered; they made just as much noise separately as they would have in the same room. At least there wasn’t any further damage.

So they’ve already had one Big Change in the Holy Routine. Then I committed the grave sin of moving some office furnishings around, in preparation for the new chair. That’s right, I finally broke down and bought a Pipersong after months of dithering. Now I can sit cross-legged or squatting while I write, and the difference is phenomenal. Said chair arrived early yesterday morning, and the Princess laid claim to the box as soon as it thumped on our front steps.

She loves putting together furniture, not to mention doing home repairs. “It’s like puzzles,” she says, excitedly. Give her an allen wrench and some Ikea furniture, and she’s a happy camper. So, since I loathe the entire experience of assembling, I left her to it–and left the house to acquire groceries, which the dogs were also upset over. Not only had boxes been rearranged and the monstera plant moved into the office where Mum spends most her time, but there is also a new contraption in here.

Anyway, they were brats all yesterday afternoon, unnerved by even this small amount of change. And this morning they’re clingy and needy, wanting all sorts of reassurance. Any change is bad, according to them, and they want lots of petting and praise and attention to normalize the world again. On the bright side, in a short while they’ll forget things were ever otherwise, and the new chair (not to mention the new office configuration) will be the new normal.

As for the chair itself, it’s marvy. I was going back and forth about the price, but the Princess pointed out that I’ll be using it literally every day, and if it lasts a year that’s basically a dollar’s worth of comfort daily. Not to mention it’ll practically pay for itself with increased productivity. The most productive time in my working life was when I could write sitting cross-legged in my papasan chair, a lapdesk and laptop upon my knees. Now I have an actual desk, but I can sit cross-legged, or squat, or turn the backrest around and lean on it while I sit tailor-fashion. And it’s glorious. It will also mean that I shift position more during the day, which will cut down on the rising back and neck pain.

My wrists are going to feel better too. My previous chair was a big-and-tall version, which I could sit cross-legged in with a bit of work, but I often didn’t. It was also a bit too low, so my wrists got entirely too much stress. They’re a little twinge-y at the moment, because I just finished the serial-revision of the werelion book. It’s now up on a serial platform under a pseudonym (though several of you have already found it, good work, you madcaps) and will remain there until June, when I’ll take it down, possibly put some of the spicier bits back in, and let it out into the wild as a book. That should happen around September-ish.

I wasn’t able to test this particular serial platform fully under my Real Author Name, since they’re just so horrible at author services. I figured finishing the testing under a pseudonym instead was acceptable, and now I know the platform’s back end and will watch how the complete story performs for a couple months. I figured since I was just going to have this book lying around and it was probably unpublishable (at least in trad or even indie) I might as well have a go, as they say. That way I can also add to the knowledge pool of other writers when we get together to swap war stories.

There is a basic division in humanity between “I suffered through the horrifying thing so I want everyone else to suffer as well” and “I tried the horrifying thing so you don’t have to.” This is also clearly shown in the “debate” over canceling student loans. One side says, “I suffered through servicing predatory lenders and I want everyone who desires an education to feel that pain” and the other says, “I suffered through it and I don’t want anyone else to do so ever again, so let’s find something better.” The difference is ontological, and crucial.

Anyway, the dogs are simply beside themselves, though I haven’t even finished my coffee yet. On the bright side, the shooting agony in my neck whenever I spend more than a quarter-hour at my desk have vanished, so there’s that. I don’t have to focus through the discomfort to get anything done. The bloody chair’s already paying for itself, and ahead of schedule too.

Time to grab some toast and get the dogs on track. I suspect they’ll calm right down after a few traditional morning scraps, and even more after walkies. But in order to do that, I’ll have to stop nattering at you, my beloveds.

Off I go then, to give Thursday a new contour. See you around.

Boo, Yay, and Necessary Experience

I did work through the weekend (boo) but only half-days (yay?), which means I’m not done with loading the revised werelion serial (boo) but, gods willing, I should be today or tomorrow (yay?). Once it’s done I can leave it bloody well alone until June, which will be nice…

…but revisions on the second Ghost Squad book just landed, then there’s Sons of Ymre #2 to finish, Rook’s Rose (season two of Hell’s Acre) to get fully off the ground, and the second Tolkien werewolves book to write. All of that will be fun, but I could probably be forgiven for looking at the previous sentence and reaching blindly for my coffee while muttering something unprintable.

I also finished reading They Were Her Property, which was a difficult but necessary experience. Reading American history is maddening when the realities of slavery are glossed over, and terrifying when they’re not. I prefer the honesty of the latter, since the former is not properly history at all but propaganda–and not very good propaganda at that, since everyone bloody well knows the truth.

So. There are seventeen chapters of werelion to revise, and I probably won’t get them all done today, given how the dogs and my own bodily needs interrupt the work of writing. I am in that peculiar state where I resent anything taking me away from work, and self-care–showers, eating, even sleep–most of all. I just want to write, I just want to finish this. If not for the dogs I would probably ignore my own requirements, such as they are and for as long as possible, until the inevitable crash. Which would set me back quite a bit physically, and rob me of far more working time than just simply holding my nose and caring for my meatsack and self as I should, it’s true, so the dogs are helping more than you’d think.

Which they would be thrilled to hear if they weren’t so focused on waiting for me to get through my coffee so they have a chance of toast scraps. I believe there is a perfectly ripe avocado ready for smearing on my toast proper–don’t worry, the canines never get even a shred of that deliciousness; I know it’s Very Bad For Them. They do get bits of naked crust, though, because I’m a sucker.

There is only a thin scrim of coffee left in my mug, so it’s time to move on to the next task. I just have to keep my teeth and claws buried in the hide of this revision until it realizes it can’t shake me off and gasps its last tortured breath. Then I’ll be able to celebrate like a group of feasting Ewoks.

It’ll be messy, but satisfying. Kind of like the werelion book itself. In any case, Monday calls, and I should make sure the baseball bat is within easy reach. Just in case.

Have a lovely day, my darlings. We’ll get through all this yet.

Breathing From Hope

The weekend was lovely, though far too short–mostly because I worked through most of it, in one way or another, as has become necessary or just advisable nowadays. If I slow down too much, I run the risk of drowning.

The solar-powered lucky cat in the office garden is busily waving away, a sign the grow light is performing as intended. Otherwise, it’s a very dim rainy morning indeed, and the other solar bits and bobs–mostly flowers–are breathlessly still, waiting to see if the clouds will part. They probably won’t, which pleases me to no end–running in the rain is a particular joy, and I have new running socks.

There is very little as luxurious as new socks.

Sunday was extremely quiet; I built a fire in the upstairs fireplace and read from Anaïs Nin’s diaries. I’ve often meant to read more than Henry & June (and some of the erotica) and now seems the time to do it. I did read Henry Miller during my first-ever bookstore job, but found him very much like Brautigan, Heinlein, Harrison, and a great many of the Beats–so in love with worshiping their own twig-and-berries that they can’t see anything else. They imagine they’re casting monolith shadows, but it’s really just a lone stick stuck in the sand at noon, only seeming a monument because they’re looking at nothing else. Nin, for all her faults, has to take a wider view.

Anyway, it’s really nice to read Nin after intervening decades. I’ve gone from “why would you even be thinking about this, Anaïs?” to “oh, honey, I’ve been there, it’ll be so nice to see you get to the other side of it.” That’s the power of age, of surviving a world that wants to kill anything female.

Another thing I’m thinking about a lot lately is the idea, prevalent in both fantasy and horror, that childhood is a time of great power that never comes again. There is certainly a great deal to be said for innocence and wonder, and the energy of a young thing. But I want to write magical systems and things now where age and experience means far more power and counts for more than “I’m a young and talented Gary Stu, hur de hur hur, and I’ll never be this good again.” My thoughts on this are a bit inchoate at the moment, but I can see the dimensions of the problem and have possible solutions in mind. I think that’ll be the theme of The Innkeeper’s War but I have to finish The Black Land’s Bane first.

It’s nice to have things to think about, to feel like there might be enough of a future to continue breathing out of hope rather than mere spite. I’ve been sticking myself head-down in stories to survive for my entire life, but the years since 2016 have been…something else. May you live in interesting times is a horrible curse and if I ever found out who inflicted it on us I shall have words with them, dammit.

This morning, for the first time in a long while, I feel like there might be a future to survive for. Or maybe it’s just that my focus has narrowed so sharply I am seeing different horizons? I don’t know. It could just be the fact that I’m up relatively early on a Monday and need a new office chair. Ideally, I’d like one I can sit cross-legged in while I type, but that seems to be a fond dream more than an actual item than exists.

I spent a long time writing novels on a laptop balanced on a lap-desk while I sat cross-legged in a papasan chair, and while that might’ve been bad for my back it was good for me creatively, and I could also stretch out when necessary. I miss that, though I’m sure I could just…stand up? And get the same thing?

I don’t think I want solutions. I think I want to complain. *snork*

There’s another Tea with Lili today, and I actually have a dedicated Teatime Notebook now where I make notes about future subjects and things to talk about. I think today it’ll be a follow-up to my feelings about the so-called self-help industry, which we touched on last week, and we’ll talk about the work of worldbuilding as well as why I like timers so much. It’s good to have something planned, though I’m sure I’ll go wildly off-topic, as per usual.

The dogs are prancing up and down the hall, eager for me to grab some toast and get started on the day. I still have a third of a cup of coffee left, though, and the morning’s quad shot tastes especially good today for some reason. Seasoned by survival, perhaps.

Happy Monday, beloveds. I get to go running in the rain, which always pleases me, and I hope you have something likewise pleasant to look forward to.

See you around.

Repair and Reading

Over the past week we had two deliveries of dishwasher parts.

It was explained to me this is partly because of the recent groaning and creaking of the supply chain, partly to cut down on damage in transit, and partly so if the bits-and-bobs are damaged in transit, blame can be laid at the feet of the transit company instead of a parts warehouse.

Go figure. One does indeed learn something new every day. Anyway, the repairman hath arrived, has been dosed with an Americano from Horace de Brassiere, and is busily working away with said arrived parts. The dogs, realizing that I will not under any circumstances let them out of Durance Vile (i.e., my bedroom) to attempt wholesale consumption of said repairman (always a favourite pastime) have quieted a bit and are snuffling under the door, attempting to get a snootful or two of whatever stranger hath invaded their demesnes.

In other words, it’s a bit of a morning here at the Chez.

I spent most of the weekend working–getting the ol’ website links pointing at my Payhip store instead of Gumroad. I loved Gumroad when it started; unfortunately, this weekend they started being cagey about NFTs.

Like bitcoin, NFTs are purely and simply a pyramid scheme, and any reputable company or person should steer well clear of them. The whole thing leaves rather a bad taste in the mouth, since such schemes are often used for money laundering as well. I had thought that Gumroad would be too wise to countenance them, or at least, would understand that the creator-friendly company they claim to want to be would have nothing to do with such bullshit. I was wrong. So I shifted the buy links from my site to my old Payhip store (that platform has become quite handy for ebooks lately, they’re adding new functionalities with zest) and looked into different subscription/membership platforms.

Unfortunately, I can’t ask my subscribers to go elsewhere at a moment’s notice. It’s the same as when I tried shifting from Patreon to Gumroad for subscriptions–subscriber convenience is the watchword, and it’s unfair to ask people to go through all the bother of shifting around. There’s also the consideration that I have two separate workflows for getting subscriber goodies out weekly, and that takes a considerable bite of my working time. Adding a third would cut even further into actual writing, and I cannot have that.

So I will keep Gumroad and Patreon for subscriptions, but since Payhip has no truck with NFTs I shall sell my self-published ebooks directly through them (at a small discount from other distribution platforms) instead. That’s the best solution at the moment. I know Ko-fi does memberships now, so if one is just starting out that might be a better bet than Patreon or Gumroad. Also, Itch.io has come out clearly with a statement that they will never truck with NFTs, and they are a fine platform for selling ebooks. (I put a few of the shorter, humorous works over there to test the platform, and have been agreeably surprised.)

Anyway, this is probably very boring to many readers, but others may be interested in the various decisions and considerations involved with being a “hybrid” author.

The shift to Payhip ate up a great deal of time, and the rest was taken with housecleaning and reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. The Universe shoved that book at me years ago but I did not have time to read it; over the past month or two the calls have become increasingly urgent. Generally when that happens it’s easier to just read the damn thing than to ignore it. So I dug the paperback out of the Literature section of the downstairs library, settled on the couch, and dove in.

It’s a wonderful fantasy novel disguised as literary fiction. It rather strikes me as what Fowles’s Magus (which I OMG outright loathed every minute of) should have been. I have other thoughts on it, but the book is still settling within my internal caves and halls and so will need further digestion before I can articulate them. It is no spoiler to say that I hated every single character with a passion and was also glad for Bunny’s murder. Everyone in the book is terrible, including the narrator, who is wonderfully unreliable. It’s a towering achievement and illustrates something I’ve often noticed–the most usual and genuine response to a genuine paranormal or “divine” event, in our culture, is heedless panicked flight in the other direction.

Which is, all things considered, probably very wise indeed.

It’s been a long while since I’ve settled on the couch on a sunny afternoon with a bourbon and a book. The pandemic has forced me into a state of exhaustion not very conducive to trying new things (telly shows, movies, books) or long stretches of concentration other than writing. I am beginning to feel as if I’m adapting to get some of that back–at least, until some-damn-thing-else happens–and it’s lovely.

Next up is Lee Child’s first Reacher novel, which has only been shoved at me by the Universe for the past week or so instead of for years, so maybe I’ll get a break after I finish it. So far it’s proving a lot easier than the second Wheel of Time book, which I could not get to the end of no matter how I tried. I just…I don’t like Rand al’Thor, I suspect I never will, and I further suspect there’s far too much of him and too little of others throughout the entire bloody series. But at least I gave it a go.

The repairman is still banging away in the kitchen, though the dogs have quieted. I should go see if the fellow wants more coffee. My Monday is off to a very early start, and I can only hope it will not be as Monday-ish as several previous ones have proved. I hope yours is quiet and behaves itself, my beloveds.

See you around.