Going Gets Tough

I’ve been blogging for a long while now. There are dry periods, where I have nothing much to say except for the minutiae of daily life–how the book-sausage gets made, what the dogs have done now, how publishing is changing. Oh, and the weather. Of course the weather is a constant concern.

I partly blame reading military history; weather is always the third general upon the field, and one who can’t be ignored. Today the rain has washed away everything except a few sheltered snow holdouts. The streets are awash, the roof kissed over and over by falling drops. The dogs aren’t going to like our outing, at least not when the initial oh boy we’re outside WITH MUM wears off.

That takes about ninety seconds in a downpour. They must love me a lot.

This morning I woke up with Jack T. Colton from Romancing the Stone yelling “Oh, man, the Doobie Brothers broke up!” Which meant I had to go listen to What a Fool Believes and then onto a Twitter rant about how much I love that damn movie and how it’s probably responsible for my current career.1

Now you know who to blame, I guess? When the going gets tough

Copyedits continue apace. I spent some serious time yesterday looking into Ingram Spark and mass-market paperback trim sizes. If I get the whole PDF cover template thing done, the first experiment is Steelflower in mass-market size.

It’s a great time to be self-publishing, IF one knows what one’s doing. If one doesn’t, the options available might boggle one into inaction or worse, signing away one’s rights without proper compensation. Or one might think that because of a crying fit brought on by frustration (I fucking hate PDF cover templates, let me sing you a whole song about how I hate them) the entire thing isn’t worth doing, and toss it all out the door.

Yes, I was tempted yesterday. But today’s a whole new day, I’ve got my spark back and the heat set to the wick. Today is for more copyedits, and when I can’t do that anymore because my head will explode if I look at one more comma placement question, I might put together a soundtrack for HOOD and poke a bit more at cover templates.

But for right now, it’s raining and the dogs need a walk. See you around, chickadees.

Read ’em and weep. I always do.

Weekend Fyre Viewing

They’re saying snow, but so far there’s nothing but a restless, half-frozen rain going on. I’m hopeful we’ll avoid a layer of ice on everything; since we live near the mouth of the Columbia Gorge the wind often gives us a final fillip of freezing that makes tires refuse to grip and shoes refuse to stick.

This weekend I watched both the Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival. The Netflix one was structured like a morality play and had access to footage shot for what was going to be an adulatory documentary (if the thing came off); the Hulu one was structured like a true-crime documentary and had an interview with McFarland, the grifter who put the whole show on (and, incidentally, spent the money). I do recommend seeing both, for different reasons. McFarland, in the Hulu documentary, has pupils the size of saucers and a complete lack of remorse; if you want to see what a con man looks like when he’s high off his gourd and visibly remembering what his lawyers have told him not to comment on, there it is.

All during both shows, I just kept hearing my grandfather’s voice inside my head, saying “y’all can’t cheat an honest man.” My ex-husband used to say something similar–that grifts work because of people who want something for nothing or something too good to be true. I won’t deny a bit of schadenfreude watching “influencers” with more money than sense end up in a waterless, Lord of the Flies-esque FEMA-tent village, but the locals who weren’t paid–and the people working hard on the Fyre app whose paychecks stopped coming regularly but who were seduced into keeping on through a sick system using their best qualities against them–didn’t deserve this bullshit, and the Netflix app goes in much more detail about the effects McFarland’s con had on them.

For those who did watch the documentaries, there’s a “where are they now” article.

One of the things that struck me watching both documentaries was how images of scantily clad women were used to sell “the dream.” More than once, a man on either documentary says “on a drug island surrounded by beautiful women? Who wouldn’t want that?” The models used for the now-famous promotional video had no idea they were part of a con and were presumably paid for their work; after the reality set in, plenty of people got shirty with the models and the “influencers” instead of with McFarland, who stayed out of prison much longer than anyone non-white or non-male could ever believe possible.

Another strange thing: at least once during each documentary, someone who was being interviewed got a call from McFarland, and answered it on screen. There are still people who pick up the phone when that fellow calls.

Just…wow. Being a rich white boy–or even looking like one–is a helluva drug.

I’m also surprised that, with our “justice” system the way it is, Ja Rule didn’t get into more trouble. He must have clearly and unequivocally been innocent of wrongdoing and had super high-powered lawyers, since the usual thing in these cases is to harass the bit players (especially if they’re people of color) endlessly and let the head of the pyramid scheme go with a slap on the wrist.

Anyway, I spent the weekend watching that while a houseful of teenage boys pillaged my kitchen, since the Little Prince wanted a Smash Bros. sleepover. I put on a Burrito Night to end all Burrito Nights and, once they were full to the gills with beans, rice, chicken, and tortilla, promptly banished them downstairs with mountains of crisps and sodas. A few odd smells and bursts of deep, loud laughter drifted up the stairs, but other than that, it was a reasonably quiet event, and I remember feeling quite grateful. After all, I’d been watching event planning go horribly, terribly wrong all weekend.

That was my weekend. I hope yours was peaceful, dear Reader, and remember: never trust a blinking con artist, especially one who calls you “bro” all the time.

Too good to be true inevitably is.

Merry Go Round, Go Round, Round, Round

Today sees the very last of the prep for Atlanta Bounds release next week, and also the debut of HOOD. I figure I’ll offer a little of the latter for free, as dealers are wont to do, in order to entice a customer or two in the door. Imagine me in a hoodie on a dark street corner. “Pssst. Hey. Hey, you. Wanna read some Robin Hood in Space?”

True to form, I have a great deal of nervousness about starting a new serial. Roadtrip Z was a ride and a half, and I was (relatively) relaxed since I was doing something new, for me, and able to make a mistake at any time. Now that I (somewhat) know what I’m doing, I’m back in the territory of terror, so to speak.

I should just make friends with the fact that I’m always going to feel that fear. Maybe if I make friends with it, it’ll be a little less sharp.

One can hope.

I finished the skeleton of the Cyborg Alice in Corporate Wonderland yesterday, and will leave that short story in a mental drawer for at least a week before going back to put muscles and skin on said skeleton. Between that and the Hansel & Gretel Kung Fu short story, I feel like I managed to actually work all through the holidays, though to be fair I did spend most of my office time cleaning and reorganizing instead of writing. Physical cleaning helps your brain sort through and clean stories too. Letting things bubble and stew in the subconscious before opening the gate makes for a sense of furious transcription rather than painstaking creation. Building up just enough pressure that the story comes out quickly but doesn’t tear its way free causing injuries is a fine art, and one I doubt I have mastery of even at this late date.

I also managed to get out to Barnes & Noble with the Princess. I had Yule money to spend on books–always a welcome event–and I scored some interesting things.

I’ve been wanting to get into old-timey cowboy romances–I love that genre, as readers of The Damnation Affair no doubt will recognize–and the abridgment of Glantz’s magisterial Stalingrad trilogy was a happy accident. The biography of Stonewall Jackson will be difficult reading; American history is a catalog of genocide and slavery permeating every aspect of society and culture up to the present moment, and nowhere is that more in evidence than in the hagiography of treasonous Confederates. But to understand where we are, we must understand where we come from, and that’s part of it.

Something tells me I’ll need something good as a chaser after the awfulness, and it’s a pity I’ve already finished In Want of a Wife.

In any case, the day’s work beckons, and as soon as I finish this post it will be time for a session with Boxnoggin and Miss B. Tiring them out with pets and wrestling looks to be the most enjoyable part of my day by far, even if I can get bread dough put together before 10am.

In short, it’s a Thursday, we’re all back at work, and the devil’s not after the hindmost only because he has holiday paperwork to catch up on too.

See you around, chickadees.

King and Gemini

Spent most of the holiday yesterday working, of course. I didn’t mean to, I just sat down to tinker with a scene that had been giving me trouble and…the next thing I knew, it was lunchtime. After shambling out to eat, I decided I had too much momentum to quit.

The next thing I knew, again, it was time to turn the oven on and start making dinner. It’s been a while since I’ve fallen into revisions like that, and I’m grateful it’s finally happened. Momentum is better than drag.

This morning, standing on the deck while the dogs went about their business, I could see my breath. The days are still warm, but the nights are becoming crisp. The year has truly turned, thank goodness. I can’t wait to see the back of 2018. It hasn’t been as bad as some other years, at least not personally, but I will be extremely glad to shut the door upon it and kick a wedge underneath to keep it closed. Too much bad luck happening to people I care about, and too much fascism in the air.

I’ve also been on a Stephen King jag, my brain rebelling at research reading. I tried Doctor Sleep, but the ongoing misogyny was jarring. I mean, King’s never been a feminist–just look at IT, for God’s sake–but I was hoping for something like the terrible objective lighthouse beam of compassion he turned on Jack Torrance and his alcoholism. I was really, really hoping…but no. It’s been a long time since I set a King book aside; I think Tommyknockers was the last one–but I had to.

Instead, I’ve gone back to his earlier works. Not my favorites, but the ones I perhaps didn’t get the first time around, being extremely young. Like Christine, for example, which is really well-constructed. ‘Salem’s Lot, another hideously misogynistic book, is nevertheless a book that has internal consistency even in its horror.

It’s that internal consistency I miss most when I read King’s newer stuff. The ending of Needful Things was probably the first time I ever saw it slip1, and it boded ill for later. The place where that consistency is truest, of course, is in the short stories and novellas, so I’ve gone back to Skeleton Crew and Different Seasons and Night Shift, perhaps my favorite of the anthologies.2

I’d forgotten John D. MacDonald’s foreword to the last, which is a fine piece of writing in and of itself and has one particular bit I always think of–how writers read everything with either grinding envy or grinning contempt, so to speak. Of course, the fellow who wrote the Travis McGee books could spin a yarn or two, there’s no question.

I’ve stopped asking why the Muse wants particular things at particular times. Right now she wants King, and King she shall have. She’s probably turning over the last batch of research reading I stuffed into my head in her hands, humming, while she finds all the edges and polishes them.

That bitch polishes sharp, let me tell you. I’m just glad she isn’t yelling for some Bukowski, who was a champion heavyweight in the misogyny department.

Time to lace up my trainers and take Sir Boxnoggin on a run. Miss B, getting older but not very much wiser (as dogs do) will stay at home today, and that is going to make her a trifle upset. She’ll need some pets and attention when we come home, and will probably chase Boxnoggin around the house, just to show who’s really boss.

We all know it’s her, but she still feels the need to remind the bouncy young Lord van der Sploot that she is the Dowager, and she will not be overlooked. As the Princess often says, I went and got a dog just like me–on both counts. Boxnoggin, like Odd Trundles, is my happy-go-lucky side, and Miss B is my get-down-to-brass-tacks. It probably comes from me being a Gemini.

In any case, it’s time to get back to work. A particularly thorny revision question needs some sweat and feet pounding the pavement to work itself out, and I’d best get started.

Over and out.

Plausible or Otherwise

I finished Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter last night, and closed the book with a precise, leaking anger. My grandfather was in the Korean War, and he would never talk about it–at least, not sober, not until the last time I saw him before he died. “It was cold, and it was hell,” was all he’d say.

Reading how the lower ranks were betrayed by MacArthur’s racist hubris and supercilious, malignant narcissism (and how Almond faithfully echoed both) is fury-making, especially with the current malignant narcissist in the White House. And, frankly, now that we’ve had decades of the Republicans toadying to the rich and attempting to roll back the New Deal, it’s enough to solidify my disdain for anyone calling themselves Republican at all. You absolutely know what you’re doing when you self-identify as a racist piece of shit, and Republicans have for decades.

There is no deniability, plausible or otherwise, on that point.

Halberstam’s contortions to pin all the blame, all the time, on postwar Democrats were also maddening. The fact that the Republicans were stoking fear and hatred as a matter of course for their own purposes–look, they only kept McCarthy until he was damaging to Eisenhower, a centrist conservative–cannot be glossed over, but by God, Halberstam tried.

Being a white male historian must be a helluva drug. *eyeroll*

Anyway, I read it as an overview, and maybe I can read the book on the Chosin Reservoir without feeling lost. Of course I’ve set aside some books on Vietnam too, since that war reaped the foul harvest of the Korean War’s mistakes not once, not twice, but over and over again, with chasers of gratuitous careerism and racism on top of each swallow.

Along with research reading, it’s probably going to be depressing as all fuck. At least I have some Laura Kinsale and Violette Leduc set aside as rewards to take the curse off. I am in a complete state of meh, and probably will be for a while now.

*sigh* Now it’s time to take the dogs on a run and let them try to kill me. Sir Boxnoggin is dancing with impatience and whining whenever a squirrel rustles outside, and Miss B is following his lead on bad behavior. I’m glad I didn’t get her an energetic companion when she was younger, or the house might not have survived. As it is, she moderates some of his bounciness, just by sheer dint of being more experienced and tired of all the bullshit.

I know the feeling.

Over and out.

Monday’s Sun

Sunshine through trees in field
© creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Mid-80s yesterday, and the dogs were happy to bask and even happier to go inside and spread out on the cool tiles of the dining room. I managed a great deal of gardening–never again will I allow stinking geranium to spread unchecked. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be good luck to carry, but there’s only so much of that smell I can take. Plus, it was choking what peas managed to ward off the slugs, and providing a lovely sunshade for said slugs and their snail cousins. Which would be fine if the slugs would eat the damn weeds and leave the damn peas alone, but that’s too much to hope for.

Anyway, I’ve a mild tan on my shoulders and I’m sure my body has no idea what to do with all the vitamin D it’s bathing in. We have reached the sunscreen half of the year, when I lather on layers of the stuff.1 Miss B had her daily brushing out on the deck, which means her coat picked up pollen and various other things as she rolled around in ecstasy. She really likes being brushed, and contorts herself in a variety of ways during the experience. Odd, of course, can’t roll onto his back without difficulty breathing, and he’s sensitive so brushing is kept to a minimum so as not to irritate his skin or make him tetchy.

A tetchy bulldog is a terrible thing. The groaning is long and involved, and the mournful looks are so heartbreaking, in fact, that one must laugh or be considered completely soulless.

Anyway, I finished my chores early yesterday and settled in to read Alexander Werth’s magisterial2 Russia at War. You can tell it was published in the early 60s; Eastern Front scholarship (and the opening of confidential archives after the Soviet Union dissolved) has advanced a long way since. Still, it’s an epic work, even if Werth was rather too inclined to believe the “official” Soviet versions of things. Part of it was that he didn’t know any better, since the archives were still closed; part of it is, no doubt, his fellow-feeling for the ally he was embedded with during the earthshaking events of WWII. He tends to ascribe to Stalin rather more charity and clarity than that fellow actually possessed, and I have Volume II of Kotkin’s new biography of the Iron Tsar on the docket next as somewhat of a corrective.

I’d have preferred for Gareth Jones to survive and write the definitive work, especially since Jones went walkabout in Ukraine during the Holodomor and did the only real reporting on that disaster.3 While reading Werth’s asides on Ukrainian nationalism, the swallowing of the “official” Soviet line (and its giveaway term, “Banderite” as a pejorative) is glaring. I’m glad I read Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine before attempting Werth. History is a puzzle, the pieces painstaking assembled and constantly reframed.

As a result of spilling onto the couch and reading for a few hours, I don’t have my usual feeling of “I need a weekend to recover from the weekend’s frantic activity.” It’s a nice change, but now I need to roll around in a few more layers of sunscreen and hit the pavement before the temperature climbs. Really, anything above seventy is Too Sweaty for my adapted-to-the-PNW-mushroom self. I’m already longing for more rain, and it’s only May.

Off to the races, then.

The Hang of Tuesdays

I took double the time I thought I needed off after finishing a zero, but I’m still stretched-thin and cranky. It always takes longer than I plan for, even if I plan for a ridiculous number of days. I should just give up planning and wallow.

Yeah, I can hear you laughing. It’s not gonna happen. Contact with the enemy throws all plans out the window but planning is indispensable, and all that. Maybe I’ll just revise the Nutless Kangaroo Shifter Story. It’s only 25k, and it’s fun. That might help ease me over the hill.

Otherwise, it’s all opera (yesterday I livetweeted the Met’s 2009 Lucia di Lammermoor, just for fun) and knocking off a bit of reading. I finished Leckie’s Strong Men Armed and have moved on to another Bolaño. The former is not perfect, I’ll admit–the casual racism is very much a product of its time–and Leckie struggles against the dehumanization of the “enemy” as much as anyone who had slogged through brutal combat can. It’s just what it says on the tin–the story told pretty much from the viewpoint of the Marines on the ground, of whom Leckie was one.

The Bolaño is…well, it’s pure Bolaño. Udo the narrator is a selfish piece of shit1, and Bolaño would have done better from a technical standpoint to do the book in the same close first person without trying for the epistolary feel of a diary. I keep thinking every time I read him that I’ll finish scratching that frustrating itch and be done with it, but like Jandek, sometimes I get in a mood and it’s the only thing that will do. Fortunately I have the rest of the TBR to get through when this is finished.

It would be nice if the dogs would stop trying to den in my TBR. In their defense, it’s in my office, where we all spend the majority of our days. And whenever they start, they get a reaction from me, which is probably the point of half their attempts. (Or more.)

I had a list of Serious Subjects for the post today, but any attempt to organize them makes me stare into the distance in self-defense. The part of recovery where you feel better but still have to be careful so you don’t tear something fragile and injure yourself even worse quite frankly sucks.

So it’s tea, some revisions, reading, and playing with tetchy bored canines today. The Princess has something pastry-based she wants to experiment with on her day off, and the oven is already going.

Not bad for a Tuesday.