Beginning the Magic Mountain

Strange Angels

Well, it’s a Monday. I spent the last bit of my (very busy) weekend on the couch with Mann’s The Magic Mountain, which is going to be rather slow but enjoyable, like a caramel. Some of his asides remind me of Melville, but that could be a function of the translation.

I’ve taken to logging completely out of Twitter whenever I walk away from it, and the small change (along with a blocking app during the day) has done wonders for my peace of mind. I like being in contact with Readers, one has to be somewhat visible on social media today if one has any kind of artistic career, and I like being aware of the larger zeitgeist, yes.

It’s just the misogynists, bigots and fascists I don’t like, and their little bot armies. It’s gotten to the point that Twitter’s a firehose spewing raw sewage more often than not. This explains why most of the time I’m over on my Mastodon instance instead. (If you’ve a domain name and a five euro a month you can have your own instance; I highly recommend it.) With the crossposter, I can keep my presence on Twitter but I don’t have to bathe in the torrent unless and until I feel ready. Having to log in from scratch each ding-dang time does me no end of good. Already some of the stress I’m swimming in has gone down.

A few of you have contacted me privately about the current situation. Yes, it was bad; it’s mostly managed now. I thank you for your kindness–you know who you are –and though I didn’t need much of what was offered, it is extremely, heartbreakingly comforting to have been offered anything at all. So thank you.

I’m up relatively early, trying to get my coffee absorbed so I can get a damn run in before it gets too hot to breathe, let alone move, outside. A little exercise, a little Latin, and a whole lot of work today, since HOOD isn’t going to write itself; I am already sensing this season might start breaking for the finish line even though it’s only around 30K words right now. If I wasn’t so used to stories doing what they damn well please I might even be a little afraid to loosen the reins and let this one gallop.

After the number of novels I’ve written, you’d think it would get easier to tell what a given story wants before one is in the position of having it half-wrought. (Hint: It’s…not.) I just keep muttering, “if it were easy, everyone would do it” interspersed with dire obscenities–a song of deeply committed insanity, as it were.

I’m already waiting for the end of piano practice tonight, so I can settle on the couch and lose myself in a mountain sanitarium again. Aside from a few strange things it might do to my dreams, chances are good it’ll be a rest cure. I just hope it won’t take me seven years (lean or fat) to finish reading.

Over and out.

Not-Sleeping with Segur

Desires, Known

Not a single flicker of sleep last night, and my head is as tender as an overripe pumpkin. To think I used to endure insomnia three days out of five–well, I was younger then, and most assuredly am not at the moment. I’m fast losing my ability to string words together, and coffee is losing its utility to boot.

I used to think of nighttime as both a balm and a personal enemy. On the one hand, once I left my childhood home the darkness held very little in the way of terrors. It became a vast aquarium I could hide in, a small quick fish just out of reach.

Plenty of my best work has happened in those long dead times when the rest of the world is deep in slumber. The staticky feedback of so many conscious minds nibbling like mice at a gingerbread wall ceases, and one can think. Plus, what else was I going to do while I was up?

Well, other than read and listen obsessively to Mahler’s Fourth. Everyone’s got their own little quirks.

Even the sleep deprivation of having babies barely made a dent. I was so used to functioning under extreme exhaustion; it was probably easier on me than on many new parents. (Not to mention I’d been caring for small humans since I was eight.) I didn’t consider the insomnia as anything out of the ordinary, but maybe that’s why postpartum depression almost killed me. I was literally too tired to care about my own personal survival.

When I went on meds, the most marvelous revelation was being able to consistently pass out on a nightly basis. I’m sure it added years onto my life, and nowadays I sleep more often than not without chemical enhancement.

But not last night. No, last night was tossing and turning, my heartrate suddenly deciding to rocket into the stratosphere, wild What-Ifs crawling into my ears, and just generally a bad scene. At least I had Ségur to keep me company.1 I read Caulaincourt on the same events some while ago, and it’s interesting to see the overlap.

It’s not so bad, except I’m running out of words. Even writing this has taken far longer than it should; I stop and stare between sentences or even between syllables. Coffee is nice and the night is beautiful… but I think I prefer sleep.

I’ll rest well tonight. At least, so I hope.

Rain, Dogs, Office

The Princess has gotten me into watching The Office. I know it’s nine seasons long, but the episodes are only about twenty minutes (thank you, Netflix) and so far it’s hysterically funny in that “I’ve seen this train wreck before” way. The Princess is thrilled that I’m enjoying it. Of course, she’s told us many of the plot points at dinners for the past year or so; it’s fun to witness them myself and discuss what either of us got out of the scenes.

I also watched Castlevania because the Little Prince loved it, so after I finish these nine seasons I’m going to have to ask him for another recommend. The kids love it when I try things they liked, even if I end up not admiring them as much. The mere fact of attention is enough.

So far I’m enjoying the shows; I don’t think I’d ever have watched either on my own. I have to say I am incredibly glad I don’t do office work any more. It’s almost as bad as retail.

Almost.

Anyway, today’s for brute wordcount. I’m waiting on a wrap for HOOD‘s Season One cover, and once that’s done I’ll upload everything and hit the button. It’s looking like Season One will be available at the end of next month. You can read a little bit about why I chose Robin Hood (in Space!) and sign up for the serial if it so moves you; we’ll be going into Season Two soon, where there’s a speeder race, a ball, and treachery everywhere, as well as a rising body count. In other words, big fun.

We had some lovely thunderstorms yesterday evening. I quite miss Odd Trundles’s sanguine disposition; neither lightning nor firework bothered him. Miss B hates both with a passion, and poor Lord van der Sploot was quite beside himself. I went to bed early, though, and as soon as I was settled (they get half the bed, Miss B sleeps near my shoulder and Sir Boxnoggin at the foot) van der Sploot was out like a light, curled into a tight ball. It took B about a half-hour of shaking and whining slightly before she too sacked out, sprawled luxuriously over one of my pillows and looking so peaceful I didn’t have the heart to move her, so I slept cockeyed all night.

It’s a good thing I love those beasts.

Anyway, a short run and a day’s worth of wordcount on both HOOD and Sons of Ymre, which I really want to get done at least in skeleton form before too much longer. A new wrinkle in Hell Tide just showed up, and I have to seriously think about if I want Lia Spocarelli’s story to be a single book or a duology. I’m not sure yet.1

So that’s it, I’m sorted for the rest of the day, which looks to be cloudy, grey, and quite pleasant. Let’s hope the cloud cover holds during my run. Maybe I’ll even get rained on, which is nice for the sheer luxury of peeling out of wet clothes when I get home, showering, and putting on dry socks. (Nothing better, my friends. Not even coffee.) That might mean the bees will leave me alone–it’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I’m afraid of hurting the little fellows.

Anyway, my day’s packed. See you around, chickadees.

Keep a Straight Face

Well, I’ve made it through another weekend. Things are stressful, but I just have to keep plugging away making books, I guess. Hollywood can call me with that fantastic offer to buy movie rights any time now, is all I’m saying.

I finished the initial revise on Season One of HOOD, watched Season One of Broadchurch, and–because it delights my daughter–was introduced to anime of Black Butler, which is just so extra. I love everything about it, and now some of the jokes the kids make about it make ever so much more sense.

I mean, they explain the jokes enough that I can reference them in common conversation, but now I really get them, you know? It’s a series of exotic parenting moments. I mean, I knew that kids find out about a lot of things very quickly in school, but now there’s the internet and that’s a whole new vector. I don’t begrudge it, I’m just awfully, awfully glad that the little ones came to me while young with all sorts of anime-inspired questions that I could (fortunately) keep a straight face while I found somewhat age-appropriate answers for.

That’s the big secret of parenthood, is keeping a straight face during the whole thing.

Anyway, I’ve coffee to finish, a run to get in, and an ebook to proof. I’ll probably spend the day getting the end of HOOD‘s Season One scheduled and the preorder arrangements made. Once that’s set up, I’ll have to decide once and for all what I’m working on next. I’m enjoying the clamor of many projects for my attention; it’s the only time I feel in demand any more. Maybe tomorrow I’ll list those projects out so you can get a taste of what it’s like inside my head. (Doesn’t that sound like a threat, indeed.)

Anyway, time waits not for the weary or the wicked. I hope your weekend was as pleasant as mine, dear ones. Oh, and I should remind everyone that I’ve a new book out this month, and that you can read the first few chapters for free.

And now, Monday may begin.

Coal Seam Impression

Spent the weekend watching Turkish serials, which was the best use of my internet connection since finding streaming Kdrama. Now it’s Monday and I’m back at work, which is going exactly how you’d think it would, especially since the dogs are In a Mood. Their morning run was full of bad behavior, probably because I didn’t take them out Saturday and Sunday is our rest day. I always get to feeling like my skin is full of itchy ants whenever I take a rest day, and it’s ever so much more worse for them, I suppose.

It was nice to have the time off. I did get recognized in the wild by a librarian last week, and had a pleasant chat. And I am currently typing on a keyboard presented to me by the Princess, because I ended up dumping thirty-two ounces of lemon water over the old one and the spare just wasn’t optimal.

So there are good things this week, but it’s hard to get back in the groove. I looked at the news this morning and absolutely should not have. I never thought I was the type to develop an ulcer about world events, so congratulations, I guess?

I know you guys are going to ask, so my favorite set of clips from a Turkish serial this weekend was Black White Love. Holy cow, can Ibrahim Celikkol smoulder. The man does a great impression of a coal seam burning for years until oxygen hits an exposed surface and WHAM. Lord, there was my narrative crack all over

Why, yes, I was scribbling notes on the smoulder the entire time, why do you ask? I have a type, and it’s repressed bad boy. Nice to watch, certainly, but very bad to be involved with. That’s part of the glory of being in my forties: I can enjoy the vibe without getting caught in it.

I am mildly amused it took me this long to learn, but oh well.

I have to decide if I want to do a fantasy or a vampire hitman for my next gift book–oh, what’s a gift book, you ask? It’s a book I write for someone. For example, I know my agent likes my YA stuff, so I wrote Harmony1 for her; I was in a generous mood so I wrote Jozzie & Sugar Belle for my Evil Ladies.2 I like taking a character or a situation that a friend gives me, spinning it out in my own inimitable fashion, and presenting it wrapped up in a bow. It’s one of the weird ways I show affection, like being willing to bring a tarp and a shovel at a moment’s notice or fussing at you to eat.

Right now the vampire hitman is winning out. I think it would be fun to write him, once I finish figuring out exactly what makes him tick.

…I’m sure I had something interesting to say when I started out, but it’s gone by the wayside as I’ve had to get up and deal with dogs and laundry. Time to put the headphones on and plan the day’s work, and if I’m very good, I’ll reward myself with a vampire priest hitman chapter or two.

Man, I have the best job.

Grab your weapons, chickadees. Let’s take Monday by storm.

Reading Weekend

She Wolf & Cub

We had a huge (for us) dinner party Friday that edged towards Saturday morn, which, since I was fighting off the Little Prince’s cold (the one he thoughtfully brought home from school for us) and remain in the status of fighting off said cold, was perhaps not my best move, but what can one do?

Consequently, the rest of the weekend was spent cleaning, coughing, and reading, somewhat in that order. I finished Overy’s The Bombers and the Bombed, which was interesting but extremely difficult to read, then moved on to Lane Moore’s How to Be Alone, which in some places was full of things I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear someone articulate (especially in early chapters) and then…kind of not, but that’s a lot of memoirs. I moved on to An Iron Wind, which was…not what the cover made me think I was getting. I know that’s not the writer’s fault, either, but there was plenty else to side-eye in said writer’s assumptions.

There was one pretty incredible piece in the last, though, which was more than worth the rest of the book. Talking about the Warsaw ghetto, Fritzsche noted:

“Self-help could not ensure collective survival, because the German overlords had expropriated and stolen the resources of the community.

–Peter Fritzsche, An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler

Just that single sentence articulated the problem with Republicans’ constant “let charity or the market take care of poor people.” When corporate and rich overlords have expropriated and stolen the resources of the national community, or of marginalized communities (which are part of the national despite every attempt of cruelty-based conservatives to say otherwise), there’s nothing left for those communities to practice self-determination or self-help with. This gets overlooked in propaganda about the “lazy poor” all. the. damn. time.

Afterward, I bounced pretty hard off a first-person present-tense book that was a critical darling last year, and ended up with Murder By the Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’s London. It should hav more properly been “a” crime instead of “the” crime; Dickens’s London outright loved to be shocked. The more I read about Dickens, though, the more I realize just what an asshole he was. He basically hung Ainsworth out to dry after using his friendship to edge further into publishing, and let’s not even talk about what he did to his poor wife. Then again, this is the guy who fridged Nancy (and, let’s be real, 95% of all the women in his books, one way or another) and spent a great deal of his later life replaying Nancy’s death for paying customers. Dickens built his career on female bodies

Dude was gross.

Anyway, I needed the hours spent on the couch reading and making notes. It was good to get out of my own head and into other peoples’. And I always forget what a joy it is to spend a day reading. Like Laura in Sleeping With the Enemy (it’s not perfect but it is one of my favorite books), rediscovering days that are wide, and deep, and long as a child’s is enough to satisfy most hungers, and I can crawl out of the dream of a book several hours later, blinking and surprised.

I’m reasonably rested and somewhat reasonably renewed, which is good because I have to shift gears and work on both HOOD and the epic fantasy at once. I can feel the latter gathering for its slide to the end of the zero draft, and may that slide come swiftly.

At least with the dinner party done my social calendar is clear for weeks, which is just how I like it. Staying home and feverishly typing to pay the mortgage is my new vacation, just like my old vacations. I’m ready for a couple of my books to be done so I can move on to writing other things–as well as prepping Harmony for publication and doing a revise on Incorruptible. Never any shortage of work, and that’s how I like it, especially nowadays.

But first there are dogs to run and the day’s work to settle inside my head as I do so, and yoga to get out of the way near lunchtime, and and and. At least I can retreat from the sunshine our part of the world is afflicted with this season, crouch in my cave, and imagine whole worlds.

It’s not a bad life. Not at all.

A Whole Free Mood

It’s been a busy morning, my coffee has gone cold, and the diffuser in my office is burbling away with a little sandalwood and jasmine, mixing with petrichor coming in through my half-open window. The neighborhood is quiet, except for crow-calls and some squirrel chitterings. This morning I saw a giant black-feathered beast sitting next to an equally robust figure of an arboreal rat; they hurriedly separated when they discerned my surveillance.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I’ve also received a rash of “I have this idea, you take half a year to write it while living on air and then we’ll split the profits! Or I’ll–this is an even better deal–TAKE ALL THE PROFITS! Isn’t that great? Don’t you want to do that? Why don’t you want to do that? Where are you going? I HATE YOUR WORK ANYWAY.”

Yeah, it’s a whole mood, and it plays out the same way every. damn. time.

On a brighter note, the creative well demanded filling yesterday, so I spent some time watching the second Magic Mike movie, wrote 4k, then ended up missing bedtime because I watched Netflix’s Russian Doll start to finish in one gulp. The former was enjoyable, and I have Thoughts about the male gaze of the director focusing on male entertainers. The latter was…thought-provoking. I did not like the protagonist but I was rooting for her and for Alan, the character the story really belonged to.

That’s something I wish more narrative artists–writers in particular, but also directors–would take to heart more frequently. The protagonist is the watcher/reader’s main point of entry into the story. The story belongs, however, to the character who changes the most, and failing to recognize that is a large source of reader/viewer frustration and disappointment.

Deciding who your protagonist is and who the story actually belongs to will make the structure of the work much clearer, and will allow the storyteller–in whatever format–to push and pull said structure to get the effect they want. Along with a list of what every character in the thing desires–even the walk-ons–it’s a tool that often arrives after a great deal of trial and error, not to mention hard work. Lucky you, therefore, getting it for free!

…yeah, I’m a little salty this morning. Time to drag both dogs out for a run before the rains come in, though I never mind running under precipitation. It keeps the assholes with unleashed dogs inside, at least.

All right, Thursday. Let’s not hurt each other, okay? I’ll play gently if you will.

*puts on hockey mask*