The Pile and Piranesi


Since some energy has freed up–i.e., the relief of everyone having at least the first vaccine shot means I’m not plunged in a whirlpool of worry every time someone in the house coughs–I’ve been getting more in the way of reading done. I had a stack of manga by my bed, which has been absorbed.1 Now the stack behind it can be approached.

Clarke’s Piranesi is at the top. I read it all in one gulp on a warm night earlier in the week, and am in the same position I was when I finished Kolyma Tales. In other words, I am envious of everyone who hasn’t read it yet, because it’s just so good. In fact, I’m reading it again, but more slowly. I don’t often do a twice-in-a-row–there’s been, I think, under ten books in my life I’ve even been tempted to–but I don’t want to leave it. I want to savor every single word all over again.

After that will come Price’s The Viking Way, which I promised myself I’d move to the top of the queue when I started earnest work on The Cold North. I can’t wait to get into it, but that will have to wait until I’m finished rolling around in Piranesi once more.

If this seems a rather small pile, don’t worry. It’s only the “next in queue” next to my bed. I have many more books to read. And isn’t that the definition of luxury? Many a book to read, and a bed to read them in.

Enjoy your weekend, beloveds. I’ll probably spend mine working, as usual, but I’ll certainly be taking some time to visit flooded hallways crowded with statues.

Not Quite Planned

Rain last night and a sunny morning; I can almost feel the grass stretching, not to mention the grapevines, the hop vine, and the salvia. I’m sure the foxglove out front is pretty happy too, and the blueberries appear to have taken transplanting well. I also woke up with Janet Jackson’s Black Cat in my head at high volume, so of course I had to listen to it and dance a bit before brekkie.

Yesterday was a complete, total, utter Monday. At least it lived up to its name; one has to admire the thoroughness with which some days set out to become annoyances. Oh, I have to admit Monday wasn’t bad; I got basic wordcount on both Hell’s Acre and Cold North.

But that wordcount was mostly me ripping out and redoing the architecture on a foundational scene so that things I plan for later in the serial have a proper footing. So I wrote about 1.2k, but deleted a good 800+ words, so it was fiddly, finicky work that felt like running in place. And of course after a couple of 4k+ days on Cold North, the characters are exhausted and I barely got 600 words out of them.

At least the latter were good words, and I know more about a certain character now. I think he’s got a thing for the heroine, but she’s oblivious and in any case they have plenty of problems, including escaping an elvish cave-city. The Valkyrie in the story is having a bit of a day, too. Fortunately she has a spear, and with a spear all her problems become things to be stabbed.

Funny how that works.

I don’t quite have today planned out yet. All I know is that the dogs need walking and I must run. Yesterday I burned off a lot of anxiety by hauling my carcass along at what passes for high speed–I am not anything approaching swift, mind you, but I can keep a steady pace just about forever. As long as the zombies aren’t sprinters I should do just fine. Then I think I’ll go through some more Hell’s Acre to make sure all the foundation-stones are in place before edging into new territory, and get everyone in Cold North ready to leave the damn city.

I do have revisions on Sons of Ymre to turn around in the next few months, but right now I’m going to work on fresh wordage rather than editing. I’ve spent the majority of my time recently in revision, and while I don’t really mind–it’s where a lot of magic happens–I still prefer the heat of creation.

Both dogs are slumped in a rare sunbeam coming through my office window; mornings are often cloudy and the cedars along the back fence generally block any direct glare this time of day. It’s rare for them to be able to bask, and they’re enjoying every moment of it. Still, the instant I shift to take my empty coffee cup into the kitchen and lace up my shoes, they’ll be beside themselves with glee and anticipation.

I have only a few more minutes of quiet left before that, and I plan to use them breathing deeply. See you around, beloveds.

Hellebores and Chorin’

So far Monday hasn’t been its usual sweet self, but then again, neither have I. At least the hellebores are still blooming.

Half the weekend was spent working despite my best efforts; I meant to take it completely off and get a bunch of chores done but 4k of Cold North fell out of my head. One of the elves brought the heroine a gift with teeth, and I just had to see how that worked out.

Sometimes, when a story heats up, one’s required to put everything else aside and get it out of one’s aching head. Come Sunday, though, I had to get some damn chores out of the way.

So I did, and read a lot of manga. I finished Amu Meguro’s Honey So Sweet series, which was a lovely palate cleanser; then I started on the kids’ Rurouni Kenshin collection. For years, I used to take the kids to Borders (now closed, sadly) and they got one or two manga every time; as a result, they’ve quite the mountain of right-to-left reading. Years of the kids excitedly telling me everything about the stories at the dinner table mean it’s like meeting old friends. They can talk for hours about plot points, ins and outs, and character motivations; I love listening.

I like manga a bit more than anime; I’ve always liked reading more than just about anything else. The kids are fond of Yu Yu Hakusho in anime form, and if I ever got around to watching it I’m sure I’d recognize everyone just from the descriptions I’ve gotten during dinner.

As a result of dipping my toe into the manga waters again, the Princess is reading Hellsing once more, and the Prince is watching a new anime he’s going to give us all a rundown of at the dinner table. I’m sure the kids will argue about the difference between Hellsing‘s manga and anime form, and I will once again mutter about Vampire Hunter D.

Goodness, that takes me back. Wow.

In any case, I also got a chunk of chorin’ done, including sweeping the garage and taking a swipe at the car upholstery. Miss B got a bath once the Princess got home–she was furious, of course. The funniest thing about bath days is about an hour after the washing is done, when Miss B is still damp but doesn’t remember quite why, she only suspects something dreadful happened and is determined to express her displeasure through interpretive dance around my feet.

She gets many a pet, pat, and treat to make up for the horror of being bathed, poor thing. And of course Boxnoggin needs a brushing (his skin gets irritated with too much bathing; he is a very slick-coated fellow) and many a pet, pat, and treat as well. He loves bath days–unless it’s time for him to get in the tub.

That was the weekend; now it’s Monday again, and neither the day nor I are quite ready for it. I’ll be all right once I have a run under my belt and a few moments to fall into a story. Not quite sure what’s going to happen in Cold North today, but I know precisely what Hell’s Acre needs next, and that’s a very tired heroine learning the rooftops of an alt-historical Victorian London.

She might even make a few friends, or at the very least, engage in combat with a very surprised hero.

And of course when I get to bed tonight there’s a nice big omnibus of Rurouni Kenshin to make my way through. It’s something to look forward to; I’ve just got to survive Monday’s attempts to shake me from its back. And I should water those hellebores.

I think today’s run will sink my teeth firmly into the day’s ruff, and once that happens I’m impossible to get rid of.

Off I go, then. Wish me luck.

Retrenchment

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue blogging. It’s not that I want to stop–I enjoy it, which is a good enough reason for continuing. And it’s not quite a journal or diary, because those are separate and private. I suppose it’s always been a way of shouting into the void, even during the ol’ LJ days.

Man. Livejournal. That takes me back.

Every once in a while I look to see if I want to keep doing it. I used to have more post ideas–there were Soundtrack Mondays and Friday Writing posts, for example. But then 2020 hit, and kept hitting.

And kept hitting, and kept hitting. And kicked for good measure.

I know everything changes. Still, I miss telling backyard stories. (There was a squirrel on the deck while we were having dinner just the other day, and the quick movement when all three of us involuntarily checked for footwear was hilarious.) Norbert the Gargoyle is in a new home–I never did tell you guys how that turned out–and the gnomes, from Emphysema Joe on down, are their usual cranky selves. We have a new crop of squirrels, though–the old ones have either changed their territories or moved on.

Brief is the life of a garden squirrel.

In short, there’s a lot going on, but getting it all down is the difficult part. There’s been so much else to talk about. Plague, war, fascist coup–all of it’s exhausting.

There’s no ringing conclusion or grand decision today. I’m just…looking at things. And I don’t think I want to make any hard and fast resolutions until there’s been at least a short period of calm. The news cycle hasn’t been pummeling me like it did last year, for which I am devoutly grateful, and yet the hole we were cast into is just so deep, getting out is an epic in and of itself.

Speaking of which, how am I writing two epics at once? There’s Hell’s Acre (which premieres in June) and Cold North, both massive undertakings. But then, I’m not really myself if I’m not juggling slightly1 more than I think I can manage. I’ve edits coming down the pike too–a final look at The Bloody Throne, revision on the second half of The Black God’s Heart, and today I hear from an editor about Sons of Ymre.

Publishing is such a delayed-gratification game. It’s unreal. By the time a book hits shelves, I’m already two years farther down the road. Also, Moon’s Knight is resting with a certain other editor now, and if they don’t take it, I’ll be looking for a cover. Because dammit, my beta readers deserve to see that book out in the wild, sooner or later.

The amount of work I managed to get done last year is somewhat shocking. I didn’t think I’d done anything at all. Looking back and realizing “no, Lili, you kept working frantically because the alternative was sinking in quicksand” is…well, not quite uncomfortable, but not pleasant either.

I suppose it’s a measure of hope that I keep going, both with the books and with blogging. I’ve always hoped that seeing the life of a working writer a little closer–though not intimately, I save that for other spaces–might help other writers feel a little less alone. This kind of career is both achingly lonely (when there’s nothing but you and the blank page) and shockingly crowded (when one deals with agent, editors, marketing, production staff, and all the other quality-control staff). The dichotomy can drive one mad.

I mean, if one isn’t already mad just contemplating this kind of work. It does tend to rattle one’s bolts.

Case in point: When I started this post, I was thinking solely about whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I’ve ended up amazed at the amount of work I did last year under some harsh conditions, and am bracing myself for another glut of revisions to fall on my head.

So it goes, I guess. And through it all, the dogs need walking and I need caffeine–the withdrawal headaches are no fun at all. So I bid you a fond adieu, beloved Reader.

But only for a short while. I think I’ll keep blogging after all.

Over and out.

No More Anvil

I lost Sunday to post-vaccine fatigue. I’m not entirely sure if the exhaustion was from my body being taught how to fight off the plague or the sheer relief of getting the first dose. I suppose it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Spending yesterday catching up on Sunday chores means I feel like today’s Monday. It isn’t, I swear I know it isn’t–but I keep checking, just in case. I probably need more coffee, too.

That’s a given.

Walkies were accomplished in a state of near quietude. There was nobody else out, which meant the dogs could take their time and Boxnoggin wasn’t disposed to yell at anything. He’s very certain any fellow pedestrian is suspect at best and openly threatening at worst, especially if they’re accompanied by their own canine duennas. Miss B, of course, just rolls her eyes and nips at him, but that sets him off further and I have to separate them like toddlers in the ball pit.

All the time I’m telling him, “This is why nobody will play with you, you’re bossy and mean. If you’d calm down I’d let you say hello–No? This is how you want it? FINE.”

Other walkers no doubt find this hilarious.

Today’s run, the first post-vaccine, went extremely well. So much of running is a mental game, I literally can’t tell if it’s just the relief making the activity easier or if the vaccine has genuinely wiped out some long-hauler’s syndrome. It doesn’t help that we were never able to get tested to see if we’d had the damn plague, but at least the entire question’s academic now. I managed a full run, though somewhat slower than usual. I’m going to blame the time off after finishing the diptych and the further recovery time after the jab.

Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on social media, but I felt like changing it up today. It’s just such a blessing not to carry the anvil anymore. And there were a few bees, bumbling into my hair and making themselves at home for a short while before staggering out, falling into the air, and zooming away upon their regular business.

I don’t even know, man. But it’s nice to be back. Today I work on Hell’s Acre, getting chapters ready for the June launch–there’ll be a cover reveal soon–and also a little on Cold North, since I want that in good shape before I make final decisions on my post-June writing schedule. Soon I’ll be getting revisions, proofs, and other stuff back, so I’ll be complaining about revising when what I really want to do is write.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. For now, there’s more caffeine to be had, and plunging into a fresh new world to accomplish.

I can’t wait.

Pokey Side-Effects

The Princess had her second dose of Pfizer on Friday; the Prince and I visited the mass vaccination site on Saturday and got our first. It took about twenty minutes from the gate to the observation area, and the only reason I didn’t cry was because I had a mask on and that gets messy.

So far the only side effects are slight arm stiffness and fatigue, but the latter could very well simply be the relief of finally, finally having some real hope. Even one jab guards against the biggest fear, which was going to the bloody hospital.

In America, one doesn’t ever want to do that. I know other countries’ healthcare systems are indeed in the business of healthcare, but that’s not quite the case here.

I spent yesterday–usually a day full of household chores–trying to stay still enough to recover. I could have gone back to bed (after sleeping seventeen hours Saturday night) and easily slept until this morning. It could have been side effects or just plain relief.

“It’s like I’ve dropped an anvil I didn’t know I was carrying,” the Princess said. While this illuminates the depth of the relief, it also points out just how much Looney Tunes the kids watched growing up.

I regret nothing.

The Prince and I have our second jab all scheduled, too, which is another giant relief. I know we’re not done yet. We’re still masking up to protect everyone around us. We were washing our hands regularly before, but now the kids have actually thanked old stick-in-the-mud Mum for making it a habit since childhood. We’re still in quasi-lockdown–half-vaccinated does not mean going hog-wild and endangering other people.

But I’m breathing a lot easier today, and while I’m sure most of it is psychological there’s the bit I wonder about. We’ll never know if we had the plague or not, because there wasn’t any real way to get tested. *sigh*

I was struck, at the mass vaccination site on Saturday, by a deep feeling of gratitude for everyone in the big drafty country-fairground barn. From the National Guard soldiers to the shot-givers, from the people doing paperwork to the ones collecting the containers of used sharps for disposal, and especially for the other people who waited in line, listened to the directions, and got their damn shots. I have very little faith in humanity let after the last few years, but that was nice to see.

And it’s even raining, which pleases me to no end. Miss B will be happy enough with this turn of events, but Boxnoggin will prance on his delicate paws and give me many a reproachful glance.

Before vaccination, walk dogs and do laundry. After vaccination…well, it’s dog-walking and laundry again, my friends. I may also have had homemade chocolate chip cookies for breakfast to celebrate the anvil’s drop. Or, if not the drop, the fact that no toes were under the damn thing when it hit.

Silver linings everywhere, even in the rain. I’m even eager to get back to work…but not quite yet.

Today, in celebration, I’ll only write what pleases me.

Hole-y Habitat


I went for a ramble last night after dinner, and found this in the park. Woodpecker holes? Insect holes repurposed for mason bees? I kind of wanted to bring it home for our mason bees (we have quite a crop this year) but I don’t know what else I’d be bringing, so I decided against it. It was still super cool to see.

The recent spate of warm weather has made quite a few things flower and stressed a bit of the groundcover, but the dryness has cut down on slugs and snails. Maybe we got this instead of a hard freeze to keep the gastropod numbers in check.

I also celebrated some very good news by grabbing some vinca, lithadora, a couple begonias, some golden millet grass, some oxalis, and a salvia, all in tiny pots. Now everything is in the ground and watered, and tomorrow’s rain (should the forecast hold) will only do good things for the entire garden. I may almost be recovered from the push to finish the last zero.

Almost.

Have a lovely weekend, my beloveds. (And subscribers–you guys may get a treat before said weekend is done…)