Damp and Dry

Thursday has dawned misty-rainy. All day yesterday we had thickening fog-drizzle, the kind that penetrates every layer of clothing within fifteen minutes though you could swear it’s just a bit of cloud. The cloud, however, comes right down to earth and lingers, turning even treebark slick and wet.

I love this part of the world. Climate change will probably wreak terrifying havoc upon it, so I’m enjoying while I can. Really, the Pacific Northwest is perfect–moss on the trees every winter, rainy grey for most of the year so you can hear yourself think, nice even temperatures only rarely freezing or frying, trees everywhere, a relative lack of bite-y venomous things. It’s like it was made for me.

I’m told that statistically the PNW leads in coffee shops and serial killers too–on that last point, maybe we’re just good at catching them? I dunno. But certainly the entire area is awash with caffeine, which suits me right down to the (soggy) ground as well.

So far the area under the kitchen sink remains dry, though I am still irked at the home warranty company’s Very Bad Behavior, especially during a pandemic. I’m weighing my options on that front, putting off a decision until my irritation leaves the cold, quiet stage. If there is a single drip more…but let’s not think about that, it’s such lovely weather.

Very early Wednesday morning I woke up knowing how to solve the blockage in Hell’s Acre. True to form, the Muse, who did the original planning, is now unsatisfied with said original planning and wants to toss everything out and redo the last half of the book. Fine. It will end on a cliffhanger if it goes the way she wants–again, fine. I am not sure I’ll write the second book resolving said cliffhanger, though, for a collage of reasons. Which may or may not be fine, but we’ll see.

At least the realization meant I could get actual work done yesterday, which I haven’t been able to do for days. Between the stress of needing strangers to visit the house (the workmen masked up, we all obeyed precautions, but still, it’s bloody nerve-wracking) and dealing with the home warranty company’s petulant, money-grubbing refusal to live up to their responsibilities, I didn’t have the bloody energy. Plus there’s been an uptick in harassment, and that takes energy to deal with even if one has mitigation in place.

It also looks like that One Viral Thread has been taken over to the cesspit that is Facebook, so I’m sure I’ll be getting a flood through the contact form on that front. Harassers’ IPs and linguistic oddities are logged automatically, though, and retained for safety reasons.

There’s also been a rise in the incidence of Well Actuallys, Reply Guys, Debate Mes, and the like, especially on my funny little threads. (Like the recent Dracula in Sears bit.) Apparently Banana Truthers, Sears Truthers, the Historical Denim Brigade, and all that cohort are all very angry with me. It’s nice of them to show themselves in such unambiguous terms; my Block Party queue has been getting quite a workout.

Go figure, my contribution to the zeitgeist will be squirrel tales and the enragement of Banana Truthers. The amount of amusement I get from contemplating this outcome is immense, and borders upon deep satisfaction. Laughing at the absurdity is better than a number of other coping mechanisms, so I suppose I should thank them, just to be polite.

I get to run in the rain today, and the dogs will get walkies–yesterday they were obstreperous brats, and I didn’t feel like dragging them through the mist to get over it. Of course they’ll be doubly bratty today; I only put off the inevitable. But some days, that’s all one can do.

Then I get to come home, do the last-minute brushing-and-folding on the week’s subscription drop, and the rest of the day is mine to do with as I will. Which will be banging my head upon Hell’s Acre, with a bonus few hours spent on Sons of Ymre #2. Still no word on when #1 will drop, I’m just told “soon.” Everyone is having scheduling difficulties these days; patience is the watchword.

And all day there will be the grey outside my window, the dripping branches, the rain-slick rhododendrons and bubble-wet moss. It is soothing, and wonderful, and I love every moment of it.

It’ll do, my friends. It’ll do.

Victory, Price, Laughter

I should have known that every victory on the first Monday of 2022 would exact a price. It was going so well, too! I finally got repair for the dishwasher and the kitchen sink scheduled, not to mention some actual work on Hell’s Acre and Sons of Ymre #2. I went to bed feeling reasonably content, even if things are not exactly ideal.

Alas, Past Me was apparently an unforgivable optimist. But maybe I’ll feel better about her habit of being hopeful after coffee. I suppose writing while uncaffeinated, as I am currently doing, means a touch of growl seeping into my voice.

The upshot of all this is that there’s errands today. Hopefully I can get them done with a minimum of fuss and retreat homeward, giving ground very slowly and making the year work for every inch it gains. The stage after the loss of sunny optimism is grim determination, teeth sunk into the hide of the monster and my claws working deeper and deeper, seeking a vital hit.

On the bright side, the heroine in Sons #2 is talking. She’s far different than the heroine in #1, which is only to be expected, and I think she’s just exactly what’s needed. But I made a mistake in the very first scene, and it’s such a deep and integral one I have to go back, rip out three-quarters of what I did yesterday, and rework it.

Of course, I’ll probably find out after reworking that said heroine won’t talk unless I have it the way it was originally written, which means I’ll need to throw out most of what I planned for the book itself and restructure from the ground up simply because a single character simply won’t cooperate.

I am not quite complaining about this, mind you. Realizing a mistake earlier rather than later is a gift. Plus, it’s far better than being so stressed the words refuse to come out at all, which has only happened two-three times in my entire life and is so awful I never, ever, ever want to endure it again. I’m trying to find the funny side–I’m arguing with the voices inside my head while my entire career is telling lies (which, let it be noted, manage to show a certain truth if I’ve done my job right) for a living.

Put that way, it is indeed kind of funny. So is the prospect of each individual errand I have to run today. They’re all hilarious if I look at them the right way.

Gods grant me the strength to hold up each one and turn it to the light in order to catch that funny side, however small and bleak. No doubt I’ll feel much better after a morning run, too. Yesterday was my first day back on the pavement in about a week (what with holidays, disasters, and Bad Weather making it Literally Unsafe To Step Outside) and the endorphin hit was most welcome, indeed. Plus it’s been over two weeks since our booster shots, so every single person in the house is as protected as possible.

There’s going to be something funny in all this. There has to be, and by every god that ever was, I will find it. If I must go down nibbled to death by a tidal wave of papercuts, I will go down laughing. Sure, it might be screamy breathless merriment, but merriment nonetheless.

Laughter is one of the 100% reliable ways to banish demons, after all. And now it’s time to finish this coffee, get the caffeine worked into my muscles, and walk the dogs, who could not care less about the rest of the world as long as they get their kibble, snuggles, and other assorted daily rituals.

If you hear a faint, screeching laugh upon the wind, beloveds, don’t worry. It’s just me.

Let the Tuesday games begin.

Goodbye, September

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.

Puzzled By Cruelty

Yesterday was all about line edits; Sons of Ymre #1 is inching that much closer to publication. (Yes, as soon as there’s preorder information, I will absolutely let my beloved Readers know.) I was up what passes for relatively late last night–the dogs went to bed without me, and are bright-eyed and fresh this morning while I drag.

I am a night owl by temperament, but years of having to get the kids ready for and delivered to school have left a mark. Now that’s over, the dogs are still on a schedule and creatures of habit who view All Change as Very Very Bad do not take kindly to schedules shifting. Left to my druthers I’d be up around 1pm, work until 3-4am, and fall into bed around 4-5am, depending.

Alas, it is not possible, and my body’s protests must be listened to though they change not a whit of what must be. Ah well.

The news from Texas yesterday put a dent in me, as well. I know a certain proportion of people just plain enjoy cruelty; it is a fact of existence on this planet, like gravity or nitrogen. Still, it’s puzzling. Why spend all your time being a racist, misogynist asshat when there’s a literal infinity of other things to fill one’s earthly time with? These people could go touch grass, learn how to unicycle, write songs, watch some movies, or even just take a goddamn walk.

Instead, they apparently want to be nasty little fascist dipshits. Why spend that kind of effort? It’s absolutely and literally easier to just…not, to simply be kind or at the very least leave other people alone.

I suppose that’s part of why I write. Not deepest, most overarching reason–I am, quite frankly, unable to stop, and have been ever since second grade–but an important one nonetheless. The addiction of some people to cruelty has baffled me literally all my life, starting with childhood caregivers who hurt me apparently just for funsies. It made no sense to Child Me and makes even less to Adult Me. (For whatever value of “adult”, I suppose.)

I wish I knew why. Attempting to understand might be the writer’s curse or just a function of empathy, I haven’t decided. Yes, I’ve written villains; I’ve even written characters who enjoy cruelty for its own sake–Perry in the Kismet series, for example, or a few of the antagonists in Afterwar, not to mention Summer in Gallow & Ragged.

Now that I think about it, “comfortable with cruelty” is a hallmark of many of my villains or antagonists. Yet those characters, foul as they are, cannot hold a candle to the petty, nasty, apparently endless brutality and mendaciousness of real-life authoritarians. Even Perry, and he was dead set on killing the entire world if it got him what he wanted from Jill.

Fiction has to make sense on some level. Real life, alas, does not.

I wish I understood. It’s long been my fervent belief that understanding breeds compassion, and while I’m fully aware sociopaths and narcissists view compassion as weakness it’s still integral to me, I will keep it that way, and it doesn’t mean I’m unprepared to enforce my boundaries. I can even view the understanding as a way of anticipating the behavior of those who like cruelty for its own sake, so I can protect me and mine from their depredations.

I suppose the only hope is to keep writing. There’s finicky little changes to go over in Ymre now that the bulk of the line edits are done, I just approved a shiny hardback for Moon’s Knight, and today is subscription day. The next major project is revisions on The Black God’s Heart diptych, but there’s a fellow writer’s book to beta read and an article to copyedit for another friend in the queue, so those will be loaded to the cannon first.

Not to mention walkies with a pair of excited, bratty, furry toddlers and a run to get in. The latter, at least, will help me concentrate and get through the rest of the day. I will mull over the mystery of why some people are cruel goddamn dipshits during both, I’m sure, and arrive at no answer other than, “They like it, and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.”

It is not a satisfying explanation, but at least it grants some succor. It will, as I often say, have to be enough.

Over and out.

Heat Damage


The browned bits at the fir’s fingertips were soft bright green in spring. The heat dome crispy-crittered them, and the damage has spread a bit despite the better weather. Even on our morning walk the signs of terrible heat stress are everywhere. Even the ragweed had a hard go of it.

Global warming is real. I have no patience for anyone who willfully refuses to accept the fact, just as I have no ruth left for the selfish who choose to remain maskless and unvaccinated. (Yes, I am aware that vaccine access isn’t universal, so keep that objection to yourself because that’s not what I’m talking about and my temper is best not tried this morning.)

I’m head-down and buried to my knees in Sons of Ymre revisions. The last third of the book should go relatively swiftly, and that will consume my Friday in honorable fashion. I’ll feel a lot better once it’s done, and might even attempt a day off–for whatever value of “off” I can tolerate, which will probably just mean writing erotica.

We all have our coping mechanisms.

Have a lovely weekend, my beloveds. Stay cool out there.

Mileage and Cheese

A lovely cool grey morning, though without a single spatter of rain, has me feeling almost myself again. Almost, just not exactly quite. I managed to get out the door for the morning dog walkies a few minutes early, which meant less traffic on the sidewalks; the day’s run was accomplished at a slightly lower speed than usual since I’m bulking mileage. Come Friday or so I’ll do some intervals, then after a few days’ worth of rest my speed should start to creep up while my distance remains steady.

Or at least, that’s the plan.

I did not get a heroine involved in a stabbing yesterday, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. I think the stabbing has to come today, in the hero’s POV. Serves him right if he gets a puncture; he’s been getting a bit arrogant lately and needs someone to take him down a peg or two. This being Hell’s Acre, of course, he’ll get it in the most mannerly way possible from our dear heroine.

I mean, she’ll stab, but she won’t be rude.

Other than that, the day is set aside for revisions on Sons of Ymre. There’s a lot more horror than romance in that book, and the Lovecraft and King in Yellow references fall fast and thick. My poor editor. *evil chuckle*

I’ve queued up a lot of Miles Davis for the afternoon’s work, and am attempting to use another jolt of coffee to clear the mud out of my head. I’d forgotten how absentminded upping my running mileage makes me for the first couple days. On the plus side, I’ll sleep well tonight, which is a blessing all its own.

The minus is that my usual work pace has dropped to what feels like a snail-crawl. I know it’s not, I know I’m in a good spot and can afford a few days’ worth of not-quite-top-speed, but still. It irks me to be operating at less than full capacity.

Some of my slowness could be the absence of lunch, a problem easily rectified even if the dogs are going to be underfoot as soon as I twitch to rise from my office chair. Since I’m contemplating midday bruschetta, their cheese-sense is no doubt tingling. I swear, the instant any human in the house even thinks about thickened milk product, both dogs perk up and scuttle forth to beg for treats with single-minded intensity.

…I just glanced at the office door. Miss B is sitting, ears up and eyes bright, waiting. Every inch of her is expectant.

I suppose I can’t disappoint the poor elderly dog–and Boxnoggin is coming down the hall, his nails clicking on hardwood. Time to wade through canine excitement in the direction of the kitchen and hope the kids left me some fresh mozzarella.

Picking Battles, No Not Those Ones

Coming back after a long, long weekend, looking at a particular thread in email, and deciding, “Welp, I can be done with this issue, it can be dead to me,” is particularly liberating. I’m not sure I would have arrived there without the past few days spent consciously and resentfully Not Working.

Maybe that’s why everyone likes vacation so much; it repeatedly massages one’s sense of the possible and acceptable with a giant stick.

It’s not a bad thing. I already have as much work as I can handle. I just wanted things arranged a particular way and if that’s not going to happen, fine. Moving on.

Today will be all about retrenchment and planning. Fortunately it’s a lovely cool morning and the marine layer is doing good things. This weather is far more to our liking–and by “our” I mean not only the humans and dogs, but the trees and shrubbery, not to mention smaller green things. If I could just suss out the problem with the sprinklers, we might be sitting easy–but as it is, I’m still watering by hand.

Not a bad price to pay for some tomatoes; the seedlings are past the most critical stage. Still not sure why the squirrels seem intent on grubbing up a few things, but I guess that’s arboreal rodents for you.

Speaking of squirrels, the Princess saw one with a ring-striped tail the other day. (Are you sure it wasn’t a baby raccoon, I asked, and she whipped out her phone with a long-suffering sigh. It was, indeed, a squirrel, and she had proof.) “It sashayed right across the deck. It stopped to LOOK at me when it was near the door, Mum. I had to check that I had shoes on even though I was inside.”

Which is, as we all know, the most reasonable thing to do when faced with one of those hyperactive little barstids.

I do have a Tale of the Backyard to tell you, but it has to wait. Today is for other things, like rearranging the ol’ publication schedule and divvying up the day between revisions on Sons of Ymre, an audio proofing (listening as the book is read), revising a combat scene to get it to acceptable zero-draft status, a run, and as much coffee as I can stuff down my word-pipe.

Coffee goes in, gory little stories come out. It’s the circle of life. It’s gonna take a much longer time to finish Cold North‘s trilogy now…but that’s okay. We can wait for good things, and besides, this means it can be told the way it wants to be, without well-meaning interference. So on the bright side, there’s that.

Anyway, as soon as I can, I’ll take a few pictures and tell you all about the Gargoyle’s Body. But that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Today’s full-up, no more can fit, that’s too many battles, put some battles back.

Over and out.