A Dawn Refused

Woke up to the very last (I should think, I hope) proof queries for The Bloody Throne, which I answered and sent back while absorbing coffee. The series has had a particularly difficult birth, what with orphaning (though my editors have all been stellar) and pandemic, but I think–or I fondly hope–it has come through all right. Mostly due to my beloved and long-suffering sensitivity readers, I suspect.

In any case, I won’t heave a sigh of relief until the author’s copies come, because that will mean it’s really-for-true done, not just sort-of-done.

Tuesday started with a rosy dawn, a clutch of work coming down the pike, and some very excited dogs. Both B and Boxnoggin are prancing about, eager to get to walkies; Boxnoggin in particular has already barked his fool head off at a delivery once this morning and, I suspect, cannot wait to get strapped into his harness and cause some kind of mischief outside the house.

I’ve a newsletter to get out, some more Hell’s Acre to write–Gemma, I think, has an uncomfortable interview with the director of an orphanage and then is accosted at dinner–and some She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to get done too. (The antagonists are arguing, the hero is tied to a post, and I think I know how this scene ends but I could be wrong…) All in all, it’s a very busy day, and I’m…

[[time passes]]

…I had to get up twice to calm Boxnoggin down. He is just beside himself this morning, since the aforesaid delivery came much earlier than expected and consequently constitutes a Change. And, of course, for this dog–even more than for usual canines–ALL CHANGE IS BAD. Even good change causes him a great deal of upset. He’s as nervous as a tired toddler, all the damn time.

Poor fellow. I do my best to keep everything calm and even for him, but sometimes even a human with opposable thumbs and a swollen prefrontal cortex can’t deal with everything, sheesh.

I suppose that’s my cue to get my teeth brushed and the silly fur-covered critters ambled. Boxnoggin’s not going to rest until he gets me out the door, and Miss B’s getting into the act as well. It’s a wonder I get anything done with these fuzzy-ass toddlers “supervising” every breath.

At least I was able to lie in bed for about ten minutes while dawn tiptoed through the east, and could see a slice of pink clouds through my window. Rising with the sun is never my favorite thing, so being able to throw an arm over my eyes–peeking out every once in a while to see the beauty–and refuse to do so was pleasant indeed. Alas, I was coaxed out of my warm bed (for a certain value of coax, Boxnoggin is really earning his “von Titzpunch” title lately) and set upon the day, so I suppose I’d best get to the next thing on the to-do list.

I keep giving longing glances at the new baseball bat, but I can’t practice with it inside. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Ah well.

We are embarked upon Tuesday, my beloveds. Please keep all limbs inside the carriage, and don’t look too closely at Wednesday’s formlessness in the distance. (The abyss tends to look back into one, and that’s never comfortable.) Make sure you’re buckled in, and remember, just getting through the day is a victory in and of itself. Take the win, no matter how small, where you find it.

Over and out.

Goodbye, September

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Yesterday the full canine complement of Chez Saintcrow was washed, dried, and flea-treated, the grocer’s and pet store were visited for supplies, linens and towels were washed as well, a great deal of other housework was done, and the copyedits on Sons of Ymre #1 were finished. There’s a few final global changes to fold in on the very last, but those are tiny and it’s ready to be sent off and turned into proofs.

And I am so fatigued I had difficulty sleeping. Apparently I’m in the stage of burnout (yes, by now I’m sure it’s not The Plague™) where I’m too wound up for proper rest and just have to push for pure exhaustion to grant me some surcease. If I play my cards right and do the proper kind of work in the proper proportion today, that might happen this evening.

I’m hopeful.

I also received an amusingly nasty missive yesterday, telling me to “shut up about politics and just write [stories]”. I am baffled how the letter writer thinks any of my work is divorced from politics, since I happen to be a human being, and have no intention of hiding my thoughts on the state of the world. Honestly, the things some people will say, thinking the internet grants them anonymity. (Spoiler: IT DOESN’T.) I had to laugh at the absurdity.

On a brighter note, as a treat and reward for finishing CEs, I got myself a subscription to the Criterion Channel, which I’ve been eyeing for some time and saving pennies out of the budget for. I’ve loved their Kurosawa and Kieslowski collections, and am looking forward to diving into the rest of their offerings. After I finish prepping this week’s subscription drop, I might settle with a plate of brownies, plus some cold milk, and watch something black-and-white. (Probably an Ingmar Bergman.)

Hopefully it will be soothing enough that I can crawl into bed early and do something more than just toss and turn. Come tomorrow (October approacheth, good heavens, where on earth did September go? Pandemic time is an elastic rollercoaster) I have to turn all my engines–such as they are, straining and whining–to the proofs of the final Hostage to Empire book. Maybe after that’s marked up and sent back I can take a slightly longer break. (Spoiler: Probably not.)

Miss B and Boxnoggin are no longer damp, but both are a bit perturbed at smelling like shampoo instead of their usual doggy selves. It must be a bit like vanishing; heaven knows when I can’t smell the world due to nasal drip I feel somewhat adrift. They’ll be back to their usual healthy aroma in no time, though, and today’s walkies will no doubt help with that. I’m seriously dragging, but they have kindly allowed me to consume a double jolt of coffee without insisting to be taken around the block posthaste, for which I am utterly grateful. I think they can sense my exhaustion.

I also have an idea for yet another romance novel, which I should stick in a fresh Scrivener doc and set aside to marinate just in case. My romance editor likes suspense, and this one’s a dilly. The brain never stops, even when trembling on the edge of deep burnout. I suppose I’m just not built to rest.

At least there’s lovely grey cloud-cover today and the prospect of rain later. If I had to deal with summer temps and the associated ills I might well turn into a puddle and save all the pearl-clutchers trouble by expiring from pure heatstroke.

And with that, my tongue firmly in cheek and my temper thoroughly reined by sheer tiredness, I shall embark upon prepping brownie supplies and walking very clean (and disgruntled) canines. September and the week are almost over, and my very favorite month approaches.

See you around, beloveds.

Torrent, Not Stream

Rain! Glorious, beautiful, tapslithering, life-giving rain. My soul is expanding again, the trees are regaining their turgor pressure, the gutters are full, and the gardens are drinking.

Miss B is unbothered, save for the fact that rain is a Change and All Change Is Questionable. Boxnoggin, poor thing, hates falling water and is curled up tightly on his bed in my office, staring mournfully at me. Not only has his human allowed such a thing as skywater to happen, but the window is open and he can hear it.

He adjusts to the rainy season a little more quickly each year, he just hates change worse than Miss B does. Any shift in the status quo is regarded as deeply dangerous, and requires him to either bark madly or glue himself to my side while he figures out what the hell. I’m sure the deep joy with which I greet the damp puzzles him as much as it soothes.

Walkies are going to be interesting today.

This week marks rather a change for me in other areas. I’m shifting things around so I’m not looking at social media so much. I don’t know whether this is a temporary fast or a long-term solution, I just know I’m exhausted and I cannot keep staring at the trashfire. I’ll still be around, don’t worry about that. But…I just can’t function with *waves hands* all that, all the time.

I seem to have discovered a hard limit. My capacity for endurance, while great, is not infinite. It’s looking more and more like my physical symptoms are burnout rather than The Plague™, which is…well, at least I haven’t lost my sense of smell. The scratchy throat and full nose have retreated somewhat, but the exhaustion remains. I could easily go back to bed and sleep another twelve hours or so.

Yet another reason to back off social media. It’s odd, but with The Plague™ and lockdown, this is the most social I’ve ever been. Video calls and checking in on folks has consumed a great deal of my energy, and I’m approaching the point where it’s unsustainable, especially with the kind of workload I’m having to engage in to keep the mortgage paid. Someone else will have to do the check-ins for a while; I just can’t. I’m tottering under a heavy load, and my emotional knees are starting to go.

But at least there’s rain. Winter is my productive season, and when the rain starts it’s a sign that the words are about to become a torrent instead of a stream.

There is an avocado ready to be smushed onto toast for brekkie, and by the time that finishes there should be a short slackening in the falling water so Boxnoggin will only have to deal with drizzle instead of outright monsoon. Then I get to run, in the rain, finally, at last.

Things are looking up. I mean, the urge to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head is still deep and wide, but there’s work to be done and the sound of drops hitting the roof to ease my soul.

I wish you a pleasant Monday, my beloveds. I hope you’re having something as pleasant as falling sky-drops are for me.

Struggling For Momentum

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Yesterday was a wash.

Oh, I achieved a few things. I staggered through the day, throat-sore and nose-dripping, and got the bare minimum done. Then I slithered to bed very early, and was senseless until just a short while ago.

You’d think twelve-plus hours of solid sleep would help, but I’m just as tired as I was yesterday. Of course, I did six months’ worth of work in two weeks recently, and that leaves a mark. I can’t decide if my symptoms are sheer exhaustion, an incipient cold–though our little chez hasn’t had a cold or anything like it since before last year’s lockdown1 because masks work, or The Plague™.

Running is going to be a misery today.

Miss B is no longer vomiting–it was just a minor tummy upset, but she is an elderly statesdog, and I take every small health event seriously. She’s beginning to deteriorate with age, poor thing, and while her quality of life remains high I can see the time when it won’t be and I’m going to have to make a decision.

I try not to think about it much, to just enjoy the days we have left.

And at least it’s cloudy. The weather is swinging wildly between summery afternoons and cool damp mornings; the nights are chilly enough to suit both me and Miss B, who finds a warm night a torment. She is, after all, wearing a fur coat.

So. A portal fantasy out last month, HOOD‘s Season Three out this week, and I think my next release isn’t until November? I know the third (and final, for those asking) Hostage to Empire book will be out sometime soon, since I have the first proof pass waiting its turn in the queue. Plus, Sons of Ymre #1 (which is in the CE stage) will probably be out before it, and I just got confirmation that the contract for Sons #2 did indeed reach the publisher.2 Once preorder information is available for those latter, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it here.

I did watch some deep-dives on YouTube influencer drama, and am extremely glad that’s not my job. I meant to watch a Shaw Brothers film before bed–The Kid with the Golden Arm–but fell asleep before the first fight set-piece was over.

Ah well. That’s why there’s today.

My inner harmony is still struggling a bit. The small, toxic proportion of the population, addicted to cruelty, who still violently refuse to mask or vaccinate insists on spreading more death and destruction. Add to that the complete lack of help for the people who can’t afford to get vaccinated because a few days off work to deal with possible symptoms will drive them into an escalating spiral of poverty, and the entire thing makes one want to throw up one’s hands in despair. The moral injuries just keep coming, and the empathy fatigue grows steeper.

Still, no matter what else is going on, the dogs need their walkies and the words must flow. Hell’s Acre has taken a surprising turn, and I need to bring it back to centre to braid in a few other things so it doesn’t careen entirely off the rails. Today’s work will be a scene with the hero disposing of a corpse (because that’s the kind of guy he is), then shifting to She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to write about the secondary antagonist, a baroness who will find the hero half-senseless near the mill pond.

That will be amusing.

Come next week, it’ll be CEs and proofs all the way down. But for the remainder of this one, I can battle whatever health issue this is, try to get my head straight, and hope that another contract–one wending its way through a tortuous maze of legalese–will be done up soon so I can share some absolutely amazing news with you.

I suppose there are things to look forward to, even now. But it still doesn’t change that the dogs need walking and I should probably force myself to some breakfast, since coffee seems to be settling. After that I’ll be engaged upon the day, momentum having been achieved, and I won’t stop until dinner.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see what happens; if I end up almost faceplanting on my keyboard because I’m so damn tired a wee change might occur.

See you around, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves; for what it’s worth, the week is almost done.

Reading All Night

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I’m almost cross-eyed with insomnia, which is on the one hand familiar–I’ve spent a lot of time in this country–and on the other, deeply annoying, since it’s nowadays the exception rather than the rule by dint of sheer hard work. Learning, as an adult, how to relax enough to sleep consistently was difficult indeed, and I know one bad night does not mean I’ll return to my previous state of constant, dreadful hyperawareness.

It’s just hard to remember as much.

It’s been a while since I was up all night reading, by far the most pleasant way to spend such sleeplessness. I finished Cornelius Ryan’s classic The Longest Day, which I’d never read before; I have his A Bridge Too Far and The Last Battle as well and will probably knock off one or both of them today. I don’t think I’ll be able to get much in the way of actual work done, but reading is important too.

It is a continual perplexity and grievance to me that I can’t read in a genre I’m actively writing in, while I’m actively writing in it. If I want to read paranormal romances, I need to stuff them in when I’m not writing them; same for epic fantasy or suspense. My inner editor goes absolutely bonkers and I end up trying to rearrange the text inside my head rather than reading and enjoying it, so I’ve learned to stagger and schedule my reading-for-pleasure. I suppose that’s why I tend to gravitate toward so much history. It’s oddly restful to read what I can’t change and will probably never write.

My productivity is going to take a hit today, but we’re still in a pandemic, so…I’m going to try not to worry much about it. Even my capacity for anxiety is started to break down under current conditions, which says a lot. Fortunately I can write something just for me, tell myself knocking off early to continue aforesaid history reading is research, and go to bed even earlier than usual tonight.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes, being Monday and all.

I suppose I’m still climbing, hand over painful hand, out of a pit of hopelessness. I haven’t quite hit the “everything is absurd and I must laugh to keep from screaming” stage yet, but I was startled into grim amusement during the long slow shoal between three and five a.m., the worse time in my particular insomnia cycle. You see, the thought I could just choose not to care about this went through my head, and the Three A.M. Wiggins, as the “what-ifs” which tend to crowd at that hour has been named chez nous, fled like frightened birds.

At least they didn’t lighten for takeoff like real birds. I felt a great flood of relief, but it was too late to attempt sleeping, so I just turned the light back on and read some more history.

Whether a poor silly human is sleepless or not, the dogs need walking, which means I should probably get some toast and strap said canines into their harnesses, in that order. Another jolt of coffee wouldn’t go amiss either, I’m sure–but that can wait until we get home. It’s a nice chilly morning, fresh and clear since we finally, finally got some rain.

Maybe that was the sleeplessness, my weary corpse glorying in the fact that summer might win one or two rearguard battles but is definitely and irretrievably in retreat. I know it’s many people’s favorite time of year, but I’m always happy to bid it farewell.

All of which is to say, I’m still hanging on, out here at the raggedy edge. One finger slips, then another, but my grasp is still relatively solid.

Relatively. So I’ll go put some toast on, tell the dogs they can wait for brekkie like always, take a deep breath, and start what’s going to be a day filtered through a lens of sleeplessness. Around 3pm it’ll take on the particular underwater wavering, another familiarity, and I’ll start counting down the hours until I can crawl into bed, grateful and hoping for a win at the roulette wheel of unconsciousness.

Monday and I are eyeing each other from foxholes, and I devoutly hope Monday knows the ancient rule of don’t start none, won’t be none. If the day forgets, well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to teach that lesson, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Over and out.

Waiting for the Deluge

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The prospect of rain has me positively giddy.

At first they said “Wednesday” but now the fronts appear to be arriving Friday, and I’m sure that will change too as the day gets closer. But it’s September, the rain is on its way, and soon I’ll be able to run while water falls from the sky. Puddles and grey skies and relief from incessant glare and heat–oh, I’m ready. I’m so ready.

My favorite time is almost upon us. There is a Spirit Halloween pop-up very close by; it’s the one time a year I can get decorations matching my everyday aesthetic, and at a good price too. The only thing I miss is giving out candy, but between the dogs and the plague, well, that’s going to have to wait. Some years I would put a large bowl of candy and a “take one” sign out, and while the younger kids could absolutely be trusted several parents and teenagers apparently cannot.1

The “ruin it for everyone” crowd starts small, and close to home.

I’m very sure my irritation will also smooth out as soon as the first drops are well and truly fallen. I’m looking forward to the spike in productivity rain always brings me, too. I could use it; I’ve spent the last few weeks doing formatting, forcing a certain print distro to do their bloody job or communicate with something approaching professionalism2, proofing, CEs, spot-reading–all the stuff around writing that isn’t writing.

I have finally gotten through all that (except for the proof pass which will land next week, I think, and finishing up that book will be such a relief) and it’s time for me to settle into more actual writing instead of just stealing a few minutes here and there. Of course so much in life conspires to keep me from the keyboard, and I resent a great deal of it. Just leave me alone to write, I want to howl. Leave me alone with my thoughts and the thing I was meant to do.

I don’t often close my office door–for one thing, even though the kids are grown the old habit of being on call 24/7 for them does not go away–but I’m considering it. Not to shut out anyone in the house, though the dogs will probably play some version of Rum Tum Tugger3.

No, instead it will be a signal to shut the rest of the world out, including online. My empathy has been pummeled like a speed bag, and I need time to heal. Or something, I’ll just be glad when the drubbing stops. I need a breath, even just half a breath.

Maybe my furious productivity all year to keep from sinking was a bad strategy. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I’m just tired and longing for rain. I won’t know until the first drops fall and I feel that huge, numinous relief.

Other people are hopeful in spring. I’m hopeful when the PNW turns grey and chilly, when sodden leaves clog gutters and storm drains, when the world smells like cold wet fir and mushrooms in moldering forest litter. Maybe this winter I’ll feel like baking again; I did practically no bread last year–why bake when there was no hope, or so little hope I had to reserve it for tiny spoonfuls?

…I didn’t mean to write most of this, but I think I’ll let it stand. There must be other people anticipating the advent of autumn with quiet, longing relief. Besides, there are the dogs to walk; Boxnoggin will not like the return of wet days but very much likes being toweled off when we return from soggy rambles, and also loves the office heater when I am forced to drag it out every fall.

I didn’t even have the spoons to put it away in spring. There are many little things I’ve looked at all year and just thought, “I have no energy for that, it’ll keep.”

Which turned out to be right, but every time I look at some of those small things I feel a definite draining sensation. Maybe this weekend I’ll forego the usual chores and just have a day of doing things I’ve put off. But that’s days and days from now, and I’ve writing to do.

Always, there’s writing to do. I can’t wait to get to it, so I bid you a very civil adieu, beloveds. I hope you have something pleasant to anticipate today, if not all week.

Ambitious Blue-Word Hilarity

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It is a lovely grey morning. I get to run today, after tweaking my ankle last week on the stairs. Everything should be healed up and ready for another brutal road-thumping session.

I can’t wait.

Before that, though, coffee must be absorbed, the dogs need walking, and some breakfast probably wouldn’t go amiss. Once I get all that done and my corpse pushed through a few kilometers at what passes for high speed, the rest of the morning will be given to administrivia like answering correspondence, since there seems to be a fresh crop springing up like mushrooms after rain.

But the afternoon, ah! The afternoon will be for a combat scene (Hell’s Acre is coming along nicely) and some hilarity in a short story (She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero) for my subscribers. I might also be able to shoehorn a bit of Klemp’s book in, too. I am ambitious today.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to feel ambitious. Maybe I’m adapting.

Last week ended with a great deal of hilarity. Someone was very upset at the fact that there are (gasp!) bad words in my books, and that the protagonist of Moon’s Knight standing at the funeral of her best friend was angry at a god.

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What precisely have you been reading of my work, that this is a surprise?

I find this fascinating as well as risible. I did a whole five-book series about a Necromance, a seven-book series about a hellbreed hunter whose feelings on her own Catholic god are complex at best, both full of bad words galore, and all my books have violence and questionable content, let alone wrestling with questions of belief and going toe-to-toe with the divine. Said books, not to mention my social media feeds, let alone this very blog, are stuffed with four-letter and blue words deployed for maximum effect, hilarity, or emphasis.

What, precisely, about a grieving character thinking–not saying aloud, mind you, but thinking–a few bad words in a sky-fairy’s direction while standing at the side of her best friend’s grave offended in a way that the constant use of every bloody-blue word I wish to employ doesn’t? How exactly could this ever be a surprise to anyone with even a cursory relationship to my work? It’s baffling and hilarious at once.

I don’t mind the one-star rating–you do you, Anonymous Reader, you’re entirely entitled to your opinion–but the pearl-clutching does irritate me a bit. It seems just a teensy tad disingenuous, considering my oeuvre. And yes, the only reason I’m highlighting this is because said person is entirely anonymous and will stay that way. Otherwise my amusement would be entirely private.

Though no less intense.

At least I can laugh at the absurdity. It’s always nice to have a chuckle or two on a Monday. Sets everything going in the right direction.

The dogs are crowding close, expressing their ardent desire to get out the door for their usual sniff-and-trot. Miss B is reminding me I am, after all, made of meat, and Boxnoggin is using the strategy of giant dark puppy eyes to slather on a layer of guilt. I suppose I should get moving instead of snort-laughing while I type.

Let’s kick Monday in the pants, my friends. See you, as my grandfather used to say, in the funny pages.