Re-Tuning Rituals

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I haven’t been able to drink alcohol since the stomach flu, and good gods above, do I ever miss it. It’s not that I can’t function without, it’s just…man, getting to cocktail hour and pouring myself a measure to celebrate getting through the day and take the edge off my nerves was a welcome ritual. Now I’m doing things like stretching and drinking ice water, and it’s just not the same. Sure, I’m healthier and all that but I would love a little fuzzy soft-focus come 5PM.

I hadn’t realized how much that small ritual was a signal for me to relax and let the end of the day proceed, to look over the day’s work and fix egregious typos. It’s also nice to just let the story sink into the bottom of your brain and turn the entire problem of what comes next over to your subconscious. Those giant engines below the floorboards need something to do while I’m sleeping. Left to themselves they just come up with nightmares, and while those are sometimes instructive, they’re not terribly useful.

Sometimes I think one’s entire life is seeing how fast a primate can come up with new rituals in changing conditions.

Anyway, I took most of yesterday off since Tuesday ended with finishing the first revision of Atlanta Bound. That was a monster of a revision because I’d written the zero so lean and at such a furious pace, moving from handhold to handhold. Crossing that particular task off my list was extremely satisfying. Trying to unplug and chill Wednesday was…not as satisfying. The flywheel inside my head, still spinning from the Afterwar release and the revision of The Maiden’s Blade under a severe time crunch, ramped up again to get through another revise, and didn’t want to slow down or stop. The knowledge that I’m courting burnout if I don’t schedule in and force myself to take recovery time is a very thin rail to keep me plunging off the cliff, indeed. I itch under my skin if I don’t write, and I have about twenty-four hours before the discomfort becomes acute and I must write or begin scratching, snapping, and sparking.

So today I took my sweet time getting out the door for a run, and dawdled on the way back with Miss B, who was ecstatic to be rambling New Places. I have subscription stuff to send out, that will eat up about an hour.1 I’m allowed only a little bit of work today, but it’s going to be on Robin Hood in Space, which I’m tentatively titling HOOD.

Man, I can’t wait to start playing with the genre conventions of that particular tale.

There’s also a podcast interview scheduled for this evening2, so I wouldn’t be able to imbibe anyway. I miss the habit of relaxation and I joke a lot about writers having to fucking drink to put up with all the bullshit in publishing; maybe I should look into edibles instead because they’re legal in my state.3 Christ knows the bullshit isn’t going away anytime soon. Only the coping mechanisms change.

And now, having thoroughly depressed myself with that last observation, I’m off to do some formatting. Catch you later, alligators.

If I Can Just…

Woke up this morning with Thomas Newman’s To the Shock of Miss Louise playing at high volume inside my head. Promptly tripped twice making the bed, had to almost drag Odd Trundles out for his morning eliminatory round, barely got the dogs’ food bowls filled without spilling, accidentally stepped on Trundles while trying to make coffee–the dog will be underfoot, it is a bloody constant–and apologized profusely, got scorched by the coffee maker, dropped bits of hot breakfast in my décolletage, there’s not enough coffee in the WORLD, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

Tuesday is, in short, a fucking Monday. I’m pretty sure getting out the door for my run is going to be an odyssey and a half. If I get through today’s spadework without breaking an ankle I’ll call it a win. Especially since Miss B, a morning dog if ever there was one, is extremely bouncy today.

I only managed a few chapters in revision yesterday. Book launch plus finishing a first draft under a severe time crunch has scraped me dry and left me reeling. I thought taking the weekend completely off might help, but apparently that wasn’t enough. I itch to be back at work, and at the same time, find myself dry-firing. Which, you know, is great for aiming and teaching purposes, but it doesn’t get stuff crossed off my to-do list. If I can just get through this first revise on Atlanta Bound

Wait. Wait a second. Wasn’t I just saying “if I can just get this first draft of The Maiden’s Blade out the door, I can relax”?

I was, wasn’t I.

*headdesk*

Anyway, it’s 9am, time to get out for a run while it’s still relatively cool outside. Let’s all hope for no broken ankles, and maybe when I come home I’ll have a better idea for the day, one that doesn’t involve me driving myself past threadbare and into full-blown burnout. Maybe. Except it’s June, which means edits for Rattlesnake Wind are going to land and I’ve got those comic book scripts to get off the ground, too.

No rest for the weary wicked. Let’s kick Tuesday in the pants, my friends.

Over and out.

Housecleaning, Steelflower, Monday

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Late Friday evening, I compiled the first draft of The Maiden’s Blade into a Word doc, eyeballed it for formatting…and sent it off to editor and agent. Consequently, I spent the weekend twitching, desperate for something to slow down the flywheel inside my skull. The kids flat-out told me I wasn’t allowed to do anything resembling work; I gather I looked a wee bit haggard.

Well, you know, more haggard than usual.

So there was a lot of cleaning, especially in the kitchen. Since the dishwasher seems to be settling in all right (thank the gods) I decided it was time to do the regular spring cleaning. Even the kids got in on the act, mopping, shaking rugs, finding things to tidy all over the house. Come Sunday afternoon, we could all achieve our liquid forms in various parts of the house and settle to reading or video-gaming, which was quite pleasant. The tidiness won’t last, of course, daily living (not to mention dogs) takes care of that.

But it’s nice while it endures, and the fact that I didn’t have to do it all myself is golden.

The Little Prince is attempting a Narnia read-through. So far, he’s in the wilds of The Magician’s Nephew, and he can’t get over how creepy Uncle Andrew is. “All I want to know is where’s Polly, and this guy has cocoa powder in a box and won’t tell me!” he fumed at the dinner table last night, and I just kept telling him, wait until you get to the White Witch, my son.

We are also the (proud?) owners of a Cards Against Humanity set, and I’m contemplating inviting a few people over to play. I’m not social even at the best of times, and I hate competitive games1 but getting a bit tiddly2 and putting together several filthy MadLibs with people whose verbal agility and sense of humor are just as hyperactive as mine sounds like a great time.

And now that I’m not pushing to heave this bloody epic fantasy out of my head posthaste, I might even have some energy left over. (Maybe.)

The big project this week is finishing the top-to-bottom first revise of Atlanta Bound; then it’s on to revising a YA I wrote about getting enfolded by a cult. The latter needs its crisis to be drawn out a little more; it chose to come out in a tight first-person POV and by the end of it (120K words, I think?) I was tired, tired, tired. I’m pretty sure nobody will buy it, since my YAs feature kids who cuss and suffer things I did growing up, but eventually it might see the light of day elsewhere. The thing after that on my big to-do list is a revise of Steelflower in Snow, which is tentatively planned for an October release. There is one more Steelflower book after that, if the current ones do well. I don’t think I’ll write her eventual return to her homeland, I think maybe I’ll just let her adventures in the Highlands reach their natural conclusion and bid farewell to the series. Mostly because I’m tired of people yelling at me over them.

Odd Trundles is Extremely Put Out this morning, since he refused to leave the Fancy Office Dog Bed and as a result got splattered with saline. (Don’t ask. Just…don’t ask.) To add to his discomfiture, the Mad Tortie has decided she wants to play, but only wants to play according to her rules, which shift so quickly Odd can’t keep up. He keeps getting smacked on the nose–with no claws, the Mad Tortie is velvet-pawing him–and looking at me with this long-suffering but I’m doing what she wants, Mum, make her staaaaaaaaaaahp look.

In short, it’s Monday all over, for the bulldog as well as yours truly. When I head out for a run he’ll moan, groan, eventually settle for his morning nap, and be snoring gustily by the time I return.

Would that we were all so lucky.

Stacked-Counter Disaster

Well. Last week ended without me having developed pyrokinesis and burning everything in sight, so that’s good, right? Between doctor’s appointments1 and loved ones having difficulties and the ongoing dishwasher saga (still not installed, don’t ask, maybe Tuesday will change all that) and being behind on this monster of an epic fantasy (that they’re going to title something WRONG IMO but oh well, they know what they’re doing) and the Princess needing an emergency trip or two and the Little Prince needing some tough love when it comes to his homework AND the dogs AND AND AND…

…you get the idea. Every once in a while a week comes along where the universe, not content to load one up with a single disaster, crams ever more into a short timeframe and lights a match, smirking.

Consequently, I took yesterday off except for Regular Sunday Chores, but I’m still twitching. Normally I have the luxury of feeding my introvert nature, spending great chunks of each day alone.2 I also–because clearly I don’t have enough to do–broke down, got a domain, and put together the bare bones of a fan wiki.3 That part was fun; the problem with every other wiki or bulletin board install I’ve done in the past is trying to run it off my main site instead of just getting a domain and putting it there, which cratered EVERYTHING. I did it in fifteen-minute chunks in between washing up, hoovering, brushing and bathing the canids, and assorted other household maintenance items.

Consequently, today I’m kind of…staring and twitching, again. I have a chapter of Atlanta Bound to revise and wordcount on said giant epic fantasy to catch up on, a long run to get in, and all I want to do is go back to bed. Scraping the bottom of the barrel for emotional energy is beginning to feel hideously familiar, even though I’ve telescoped in a lot of other commitments. The only cure is getting some things off my plate, and that won’t happen without work.

It would also be nice to have the kitchen put back together. Everything in the cabinets that the installers will need taken out in order to do their job easily has been living on the counters for…a while, now. I would never have thought such a thing would irk me–one of the accusations leveled at me since childhood is that I’m a messy person and mess obviously doesn’t bother me the way it should. I could find anything on my bookshelf or in my room in seconds flat and never lost my school papers, though, so I guess I wasn’t so much messy as it was a convenient thing to yell at me about. When the kids came along, a certain amount of mess didn’t bother me because Tiny Chaos Machines are gonna Tiny Chaos Machine, and there’s nothing to be done about it. I am…surprised, and a little baffled, that the kitchen being a stacked-counter disaster bothers me as much as it does. I mean, the house is crammed with books and dust and fun things, but I want to put the goddamn waffle iron back in its home.

Go figure.

This is turning out to be yet another year of things I didn’t question about myself because I was told them over and over by toxic caregivers proving to be not quite true. It’s unsettling, but also pleasant. Maybe that’s also costing emotional energy.

Meh. Time to get back to work. The morning run won’t accomplish itself–more’s the pity–and neither will the bloody books.

Over and out.

RELEASE DAY: Pocalypse Road

That’s right, my hoopy froods! Season 3 of Roadtrip Z is now out in the world.

Winter has arrived, the walking dead are hungry, and Ginny and Lee’s small group of survivors is making its way towards New York. Other survivors, shaking off the daze of catastrophe, are moving as well. In a wasteland of snow and failing power, of course the zombies are dangerous…

…but it’s the other people you really have to watch out for.

Season 3: Pocalypse Road is now available direct, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at independent bookstores.

I had a lot of fun with this season. Things just had to keep going wrong, and more wrong, and more-more wrong, in the grand tradition of every zombie apocalypse tale. Be on the lookout for Tuckerized readers, callbacks to old zombie movies, how to haul ammo in a snowbound wasteland, and finally, finally, Lee Quartine getting a break or two, as well as the mystery of just what was in Colonel Grandon’s case from Season 1.

And now, since it’s a release day, I’m gonna go stick my head in a bucket and hope the anxiety dies down. Enjoy!

Book, Bandwidth

Season 3 of Roadtrip Z goes live tomorrow, which means I’m having release-day nerves all the way down. Maybe that was why my Sunday was full of staring and not getting much done.

Thankfully I get to run today.

*time passes*

My frustration with the home warranty company still dicking me around over the dishwasher replacement reached a certain level that usually leads to stomach irritation, so I tied my shoes and hit the pavement with Miss B. Who was quite pleased, thank you very much, and is now exhausted enough to be a Very Good Dog for the rest of the day. I mean, I know she’s always a Very Good Dog, but this will make her a Very Calm Dog as well. Or at least, as calm as an Australian shepherd can get.

She’s currently sprawled in the hallway, opening an eye whenever I pass. She would like, no doubt, to be snugged up against my office chair, but she suspects I have plans of moving about, and the hall remains the place she can keep track of me without hauling herself upright to supervise my peregrinations.

Today I have release day nerves and concomitant self-care to attend to, as well as seeing if I can get this lady-in-waiting kidnapped and a pair of unlikely rescuers. I have to get through several other scenes to do so, or I could just say “to hell with it” and write the kidnapping/rescue first, then go back and fill in the piercing, the confrontation in the market, the next arranged marriage, and a couple assassination attempts.

This is going to require some thought, and more coffee. I’m hoping the book’s architecture will let me work on it non-chronologically, but that may be borrowing trouble. We’re at almost 80K words for this damn story, it’s only book one, and there’s at least a third more of the whole thing to cram into writing time over the next couple months.

I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Plus, this is something I’ve never attempted before, and the anxiety over maybe fucking it up beyond repair is…mounting. Even sweating for multiple kilometers doesn’t erase that completely. The only way out is just doing the best I can and seeing if I can hit the updated draft deadline. On the bright side, a book usually takes over all my available bandwidth like this right before it spikes towards the finish line.

It’s just that instead of having only 10K words or so to get out of this monster, I have more like 30, and that’s if I’m lucky.

I keep meaning to reserve a little energy to work on Robin Hood in Space–the first season will probably be titled Hood, Home–but when I get to the end of working on Khir’s Honor for the day, I’m worn out. I’m not sure anything else can give in order to free up energy. Dog care, child care, running–those are non-negotiable hard points, and I’d really love to keep on with Latin and piano since the latter is one of the few times my brain doesn’t eat itself during the day, and Latin makes me happy. I have so much crammed into a day, and need to cram in even more.

Well, complaining about it won’t get it done. Time to set a timer and get the fingers to working through the setup for the kidnapping scene. I may have to throw it out later, but at least it’s progress.

Over and out.

Needing Recovery

It was a mildly eventful weekend.

I finished the zero of Atlanta Bound, Season 4 of Roadtrip Z. Since Season 3 is finishing (and is up for preorder, my how time flies), I’m busy with all things Ginny & Lee. Subscribers get the original, zero-draft, raw chapters, then an ebook of the first draft (likewise raw, but less raw) when the season ends, and the finished, edited, and prettified ebook before it goes on sale, so they get to see how the book changes during the process as well as two free ebooks.

Halfway through pushing to get the last chapter written, the Princess texted–some jerk had stolen her bike seat while she was at work. I ended up taking the one off my own bicycle to replace it, since her bike won’t fit in the car. It was infuriating–bike seats? What the fuck? Who does that? I hope whoever took it gets a suitable karmic vengeance delivered in an extremely timely fashion.

Anyway, a case of bookus interruptus, but once I got that emergency handled and sorted, I came back and found out the scene wasn’t going to end the way I thought anyway. So it was probably a blessing I got called away. It was definitely a blessing that I used the trip away to stop and pick up some milk and a bottle of wine. Not for consuming at the same time, of course.

Taking that first sip of cabernet after finishing a zero draft was immensely satisfying.

I took Sunday off, but only from work since Sunday is Chore Day. Housecleaning, more housecleaning, and as a bonus not only washing Odd Trundles, but giving Miss B one of her infrequent baths. She doesn’t need them often, because an Aussie’s coat is one of the wonders of the world–stuff just dries up and flakes off, and too much bathing can strip it of natural oils and cause problems–but she did need one, and suffered it only through her vast love for her hoomins.

She also tried to escape multiple times. Love only stretches so far.

Anyway, once she was scrubbed, rinsed, and dried as far as towels could make her, she got treats but spent the rest of the day mournfully reproaching me with big doggy sighs, stares, and not-so-subtle angling for more treats. Odd, since he gets a bath pretty much weekly, forgot about the occurrence almost as soon as he got the ritual treats afterward. But B? No, she was in a mood for the rest of the day, and is still a little miffed.

The idea behind taking a day off was to slow down the decompression sickness that shows up every time I finished a zero draft. I tend to work on multiple projects until one heats up and races for the finish, and bending all my resources towards that finish line means after I cross, the momentum is still there. I have to wait for the flywheel to wind down a bit before I can harness it to the other projects again. Bleed off the pressure, so to speak.

So I finished up yesterday by watching Met opera stagings. I have one of Netrebko singing Lucia di Lammermoor I want to watch, and maybe I’ll do that today. Recovery always takes longer than I think it will, even when I give myself a day completely “off.” (Which means only about 200 words in a single project, really.)

If there’s a single most frustrating thing about writing, it’s needing recovery. I want to work. I need to work. Scheduling in recovery time and sticking with it so I don’t work until collapse irritates me almost past bearing. Which surprises exactly no-one, I’m sure. But it’s necessary, dammit, and faster in the long run.

At least there will be some time for Latin today. The urge to read aloud, going back and forth with the translation on the opposite page, is almost like the fidgets that drive me out the door to run.

Over and out.