Winter in Coneflower

Aliens, I tell you.

I did no cooking yesterday (US Thanksgiving). Instead, the kids and I got take-n-bake pizzas on Wednesday, left ’em in the fridge overnight, and had an easy, early-ish dinner with no stress. It was lovely; it’s an entirely different holiday when I don’t have to cook. More like an occasion than a holiday proper, as the Prince pointed out.

The whole thing was pretty fabulous. There are better years and worse years for holiday stress, and this is shaping up to be…well, not one of the better ones. But being able to keep it extremely low-key was great, eleven out of ten, no notes, highly recommended.

Even morning walkies were also reasonably quiet, and I got to snap a picture of coneflowers going into winter. I’m sure something eats their alien seedheads, or hides in them somehow. It struck me, while attempting to line up the camera (I know it’s still blurry, Boxnoggin did not want to slow down), just how alien they look. Like the succulents flowering at the end of summer.

I enjoy watching life change as the seasons slip by. Biology is a helluva trip.

I even got a run in, so I was holding steady at thirty percent zen for the rest of the day. We’ll probably even get rain, which will make the weekend a delight. Not sure if I’m going to livestream today, though. I might take a week off even though I do desperately want to talk about Emer Martin’s Breakfast in Babylon.

Suppose I’d best get out the door with Boxnoggin before it gets too damp. His paws are so dainty.

I wish you a pleasant weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, please–and with each other. Who knows, by Monday the world might have changed again!

…sorry. I know that’s hardly a pleasant thought given the past few years. All the more reason to take a deep breath now.

Over and out.

Change and Social Detox

Didn’t have time for a Soundtrack Monday post yesterday. I am incredibly irritated with a world that will not simply leave me alone to write my weird little stories. Descending into the sewers to live as a cryptid–or donning a cape and wandering into the woods, never to be seen again–sounds very appetizing indeed. If I could get coffee and reading material delivered in either situation, I’d probably be gone like a shot.

I suppose some of the irritation is detoxing from Twitter. The site seems to be imploding, and despite knowing it would happen, I’m still upset. A sizable chunk of my professional life and connections were stored there, largely because I had no choice. We all knew it was a bad deal, but it was the only one on offer.

This is no longer the case. It’s fascinating to see the realization percolate.

It’s also interesting to watch a lot of people fleeing the implosion, attempting to get the same dopamine hit and rush of indignation elsewhere. I’m hearing the same complaints I did when Twitter started, when Livejournal died, during the Yahoo buyout of Tumblr (now there’s a cautionary tale for dumb billionaires), during the several waves of Facebook emigration, etc., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum. In particular, watching people arrive on Mastodon and try to replicate Twitter experience on a platform that was specifically designed to avoid some of birdsite’s more rancid problems and practices has been…well, I wouldn’t call it entertaining, but there’s certainly an aspect of can’t-look-away. Making the shift to a place that isn’t centrally controlled, where ads aren’t part of the ecosystem and the “home” algorithm isn’t controlling what you see and when, is disturbing for a lot of people trained by years of the Twitter Character of the Day, the ads, and the constant shadowbanning and suppression not of fascists but of their opponents. Add to that the fact that people are mourning the loss of a service that wanted, as Dorsey himself admitted, to be a public utility and gave many the hope and interaction they needed to get through the first few years of pandemic, and it’s rough.

It’s really rough. A lot of people aren’t being their best selves right now. Change is difficult–I joke about dogs and toddlers being absolutely unable to cope with disruptions to routine, but adult humans aren’t far behind. The server slowdowns of a decentralized, volunteer-run system looking to absorb such massive waves of new users are entirely reasonable and expected–but not pleasant.

I’m really looking forward to marginalized communities coming out from under the weight of having to fight Twitter’s deliberate devaluation of their posts, as well as the encouragement and intentionally engineered ease with which birdsite was used for harassment and silencing of women, people of color, and indigenous groups. I’ve heard the objection that defederation and banning on Mastodon will lead to “silos”, and I think it’s entirely specious. We already know that bad actors don’t want to be locked into their own little cesspools, they want to pollute the drinking water for everyone else, and force us to listen to their nasty bigoted howling. That’s their entire goal, and being able to lock such people out with a few clicks of a button–especially if one is an instance admin–is in my opinion a net good that will only increase over time.

“But social justice won’t go viral on Mastodon!” Uh, I’ve already seen calls for help, calls to action, and news rip through the fediverse at light speed. The only difference is that they often have content warnings. So I find this objection to be specious as well, from my own direct experience.

“But Twitter was freeee!” some people howl, like the rusty gates of hell. I dunno, my friend, was it really? Already the internet requires the investment in hardware and privilege to access, and birdsite only appeared free because user info was being sold, ads were being forced into the stream, attention was being bought by corporate actors, and governments were busy subsidizing and payoff-placating Dorsey the way they have been subsidizing Musk, Bezos, Murdoch, the Waltons, and Mango Mussolini (among others) for decades. It was never free, you just didn’t see the cost because it was folded into the daily scramble to make a living and pay taxes, both activities which end up lining the pockets of bazillionaires because that’s how our society is set up.

But then, I’ve been on Mastodon since ’17, keeping my eggs in more than one social media basket the way I keep publishing eggs in more than one container. (The effort required to do so is disruptive to my productivity, but can’t be avoided under current conditions.) I’m in the luxurious position of already being over the first bump of the learning curve–and there really is one, with any social media platform–but the angry biting from some people who are determined not to like a new-to-them system because “it isn’t Twitter and I’m mad and grieving” is counterproductive in the extreme.

Not that it can be helped. We’ve seen this all before, every time a social media system implodes under the weight of corporate malfeasance and greed.

I just want to write, dammit. And manage this detox. The way Twitter and Facebook–and Instagram, and and and–are engineered to take advantage of some very basic brain chemistry is amazing, but it also makes tapering off and moving away rather hellish. Maybe I’m wrong and the site won’t fully implode. I’m astonished that World Cup traffic hasn’t done it in, though I still can’t reply to anyone in DMs and the user experience is growing increasingly janky. I thought it would break irreversibly this past weekend, and can’t decide whether I’m happy to be mistaken.

And I keep thinking, if breaking the addiction to birdsite is so uncomfortable for someone who has been in the process of mitigating exposure to it for five-plus years, it must be dreadful for those who never wanted to leave. Things will shake out, though, and people will eventually find other ways of getting the connection and access to breaking news they need. Personally, I’m using CounterSocial for news and Mastodon for most everything else, though at least one of my publishers really really wants me to keep my Instagram fresh and oh fuck, how did I get on YouTube anyway?

If you’re suffering a dopamine shortage from fleeing Twitter’s protracted strangulation at the hands of Manbaby Melon Husk (one of my favorite euphemisms for the site’s new owner, I gotta admit), try to be kind to yourself. It feels uncomfortable because your brain was being hit with the equivalent of weapons-grade casino-type sucker-retention tricks daily, and now it’s…not. It’s gonna take a little while for things to normalize.

Me? I’m gonna finish my coffee, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. He certainly doesn’t care about a massive shift in the online social ecosystem–he’s got things to sniff, and at least one attempt to crap in oncoming traffic to check off his daily to-do list.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. See you around.

Week, Story, Pursuit

I have decided I will not leap like a feral wolverine upon the fresh new week. Instead, I will pursue it like a stoat, steady and fixated, until the arbitrary sevenday drops dead of exhaustion and I may feast.

…I may have been watching a lot of Casual Geographic lately, can you tell? In any case, I’m more comfortable as a pursuit predator anyway. I may not be awfully fast (save for when I’m teleporting to save a toddler or a dumbass canine from Bad Decisions) but I am patient, and there’s plenty of endurance lingering in this ol’ wreck.

Anyway, welcome to Monday, everyone. We were at dinner last night and my daughter obliquely referenced Edmund Pevensie’s taunting of the Telmarines. I commented that Edmund being known as “the Just” was as close as CS Lewis could get to admitting he admired the Jesuits, then I laughed like a loon and both kids looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

Which happens rather a lot, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I always wanted to write a story where Aslan was the Big Bad, Jadis the White Witch and Edmund were the heroes, and the other three Pevensies were kind of bumbling impediments except for Susan, who is awesome no matter which way you slice it. And it is my firm headcanon that Susan never forgot Narnia, she just knew her homeworld needed her more. Because let’s face it, Aslan is a complete, humorless, psychopathic, unjust, incredible dick and I wouldn’t want him yanking me around more either.

Any Christian allegories have a difficult time covering up the sheer maliciousness of their sky god, especially in the Old Testament; really, the problem with allegory is that it lays bare a great deal of what one wants to hide as well as the truth one wishes to distill and reveal. I always suspected Lewis wrote ol’ Screwtape more to convince himself than anyone else. Tolkien seems to have viewed Lewis as Treebeard, taking so much of “the long view” as to be paralyzed with indecision; on the other hand, an Ent’s crisis of faith or confidence might not be visible to even an elf walking alongside through shadowed woods.

November was supposed to be the month I wrote the second book of A Particular Series, or at least 50k of it. Alas, it was not meant to be, but at least I think I’ve resurrected the damn thing. It took a lot of work, a lot of dry-heaving over my office wastebasket, forcing my recalcitrant body to the task. Of course my meatsuit is taking revenge at the moment. Apparently I will patiently coax any creature except my own stubborn self. Regardless, today is for stepping back into that world; this trilogy is having a difficult birth. Misunderstood by everyone but its mother, I suppose. I have to have some kind of faith it will all come out right, that it will reach the people who need it.

Sometimes I admire Lewis’s faith. Sometimes I pity his loneliness–always waiting for someone else to rescue one, instead of building a raft of whatever trash is to hand. The problem with the waiting is that the bones of those who waited in vain are silent; it’s only the “saved” we hear from, confirmation bias at its most absolute. I want the skeletons to stand up, to take their murderers and betrayers to account.

These are the things I think about on a Monday morning while my coffee cools. When I finally down the dregs, Boxnoggin will be waiting for me to make breakfast, beside himself with joy at the prospect of crusts and walkies. To him I am the changeless elf, a sorceress who can make light with a flick of her fingers, a goddess who provides kibble, warmth, direction. Makes me wonder if the gods see humans as we view dogs–they don’t make good choices, but they’re loving. Look how I dressed mine up! Oh, ouch, I can’t afford to take this one to the vet…why, oh why, are their lives so short?

I can’t decide if we make stories to escape the confines of the world, or because our world is so impossibly beautiful. Porque no los dos, right? In the end, what matters is the transmutation, the act of creating, the act of love.

So I lope after this week, reserving my strength, following tracks in sand as the wind rises, noting broken branches which speak of my prey’s direction and speed, discerning slight scuffs on bare rock. I hunt this arbitrary division of time, moving through other universes written into being by people long dead, creating my own out of the infinite multiverses lingering in my own bones and breath, the stories lined up around the block waiting for their chance to speak through me.

As I pursue, so am I pursued. That chain is infinite too.

But I’m done with coffee now and Boxnoggin is prancing down the hall. The hunt is afoot, and so I must be as well. See you around, my beloveds.

(But Aslan’s still a dick. I SAID WHAT I SAID.)

Halfway to New

The wind came through hard last night, cold skybreath combing the trees, leaves and needles and cones shaken free. A lot of stuff tapped the roof, but we were all warm and snug in our beds. Especially Boxnoggin, as I spent part of yesterday washing bedding and switching to flannel sheets. Which meant a fresh, dryer-fragrant comforter for him to sleep on, several blankets for warmth and cushioning, and the heated mattress topper, all toasting him from below. He was a happy, happy doge.

I wasn’t so bad myself. It was high time to switch to flannel and more blankets. Most of my trouble sleeping lately has been stress, but some was certainly the change in weather. Now I am roasty-toasted, and feel halfway to a new woman. (Only halfway, the rest is the same old bitter hag.)

Remember the cover reveal for Spring’s Arcana? Well, in a few days we’ll have another for Book 2 of the duology, The Salt-Black Tree. They both release within a few months of each other next year, so you won’t have long to wait between books. It’s very exciting; I haven’t had this kind of trad publisher support before. Maybe it’ll go well?

I can’t think about that or I’ll go mad with worry. Best to just put my head down and continue, one foot in front of the other.

I should’ve been working on different things yesterday. (I won’t list them; on that path lies madness.) Instead, I banged out 3.4k words on the Jolene, Jolene story. It needs a bit of polish and some trimming, then it’ll be off to the agent for her delectation. Depending on what she says it might make the rounds–if it doesn’t, I might just keep it to gloat over, a shiny treasure in my hoard. Don’t fret, though, subscribers will definitely get a taste.

It was pleasant to feel like I could still accomplish something, and to get the dopamine hit from finishing a piece. The crisis of confidence from…certain publishing industry hijinks, let’s say, hit me hard. Fortunately I have lost my patience and as a result become somewhat close to tranquil, and part of that process was apparently writing a short story based on a Dolly Parton song.

What can I say, I’m wired really weird.

Today will be split between the serial and the NaNo book. All the hard work resurrecting a dead series over the weekend is about to pay off. The nausea has gone down, and after I get a run in I’ll probably feel closer to zen than I have in a long time. Of course, before I get out the door I should do some of that trimming and polishing on the short story. It would be nice to send that off by the end of the day. I should collect and re-edit a bunch of my shorts, too, put them in an anthology–in all my COPIOUS spare time, ha. It would be nice to have them in one place.

Last week–and the weekend–were kind of awful. But there’s a silver lining, of course; there always is, even if it’s only a thin thread. I went through a whole-ass process at warp speed instead of letting a certain situation drag out for many more months, and now I can get back to work. That’s one grand thing about my mid-forties. I am no longer prepared to waste much, if any, time. If that makes me a bitch, fine. That’s what they call a woman who won’t let you take advantage of her anyway. Might as well wear it like a badge of honor.

The wind seems to have slackened. There will be plenty of downed stuff and wrack for Boxnoggin to get his nose into, and he’ll enjoy the sunshine. I’d prefer rain, though this is all right–the air doesn’t quite sparkle like champagne, but it does go down smoothly and I’ve the glow of a finished story to keep me warm.

Let us clamber into Tuesday, my beloveds, and see what the day holds.

Broken Giant

Shattered on the shoulder.

I’m late to the Friday photo post, my beloveds. Things are suboptimal right now–a series that was very much books of my heart has been killed, and I am mourning. We’ll see what happens once the dust settles–it may be that I just have to write the damn thing anyway in my copious spare time. (Yeah, go ahead, laugh. But where there’s a will there’s a mothafuggin way, and I am slopping over with willpower.)

Heartache or no, Boxnoggin needs his walkies. We were ambling uphill, and he stopped to sniff this scattering of concrete or rock–can’t tell which, I am no geologist. But I looked at the detritus and thought, even a pebble can bring down a giant.

It’s not quite as catchy as some phrases, but it’s giving me a lot of solace today. Also, the arrangement of stone and stem made me think of trees with stone leaves, and that’s an image going into a book someday, I can tell you.

The weekend is almost here. I’m so weary, friends. And yet as long as I can reach a pebble, I have a chance of bringing down whatever I need to.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Downhill to the Last Nerve

I dislike corporations treating me as a dirty little impediment while profiting from my work almost as much as I dislike ebook thieves clogging my inbox with demands to “write faster”, and this week has been full to the gills with both, as well as various other fun things. Burning everything down and walking into the sea has rarely seemed so attractive, and the gods know I’ve been only a few short steps away from that strategy, especially since Afterwar was published.

I don’t mind hard work. I do mind being taken advantage of, and I definitely mind outright theft of said hard work. I mind cruelty, and pathological entitlement. And, though it may be entirely too sensitive of me, I also mind pettifogging bullshitters who have never written a novel attempting to tell me how to do so, or making silly demands which clearly show they haven’t bothered to actually read a text, just let their eyes sort of halfass skim over it while busily muttering to themselves about what they think it contains, or what they want it to contain so they can feel justified verbally shitting on me.

As you can guess, this week–which started out on a lovely holiday–has somewhat gone downhill. I’m on my absolute last nerve, and after three years of abandonment by public health authorities during a pandemic, several more years of rising, vile, violent fascism, and hitting deadlines all the way through as well as releasing extra books…well, perhaps it’s not entirely out of the question that a girl might snap under these conditions.

Worst of all is the sense that nobody (even among those paid to do so) is listening to my polite requests for aid. Screaming might get some help, but I refuse to be so undignified. And yes, I know we’re all worn down to the bone right now. I could understand if the response was, “hang on a second, let me get a hand free,” or even “I’m sorry, I don’t have the resources,” but instead it’s been “you’re always so strong, why would you need help now? Just shut up.”

One learns a lot under these conditions, not only about oneself but also about other people. The individuals (and businesses) treating me awfully right now are ones who will almost certainly attempt to extort something from me in the future, and will be shocked–shocked, I say–when I do not respond in the way they expect. “But you were always so nice!”

You were swimming in the sheltered waters of my patience then, not a lagoon of someone’s weakness. That is what’s called a critical distinction, and sooner or later will bite you on the ass. My trust thermocline is almost reached.

Time to finish the dregs of morning espresso, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. I suspect I’ll even be able to get a run in today, which will be welcome indeed. I’ve put off a few weighty decisions because I want make them under conditions of relative zen after I’ve pounded away a great deal of stress chemicals and irritation on pavement.

Happy Thursday, everyone. If you’re down to your Last Bloody, Vibrating, Frayed-to-Nothing Nerve too, I hope you take a little comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Franky, I’m surprised more of us haven’t gone absolutely bananas and cleaned some house. I’m actually rather comforted, in an odd way, by just how truly patient most humans are proving at this particular historical juncture.

I’d’ve expected us to snap (and bring out the guillotines) long before now. Can’t decide if I’m happy to be wrong, though…

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…