Of Many Minds

This morning I peered at the internet, said “what in the Sam Hill…” and immediately thought of Stonehenge. It’s pretty certain the saying was around before Hill built it, but I never let that get in the way of a good free-association.

Yes. Hello. Good morning, it’s Tuesday, my brain is twenty-four coked-up monkeys partying inside a skull full of breakable things and odd ends, and that’s even before coffee. Once caffeine gets in there, it’s going to be a real party.

Yesterday was spent on the first third of Black God’s Heart, which needed trimming and shaping in light of the finished arc of the book. It’ll get easier as I go along, since the more I wrote the more of it I could see, and I eventually arrived (in a series of oscillations) right where Book One needed to halt.

Or… maybe not. I’m of two (more) minds about the ending, which has never happened to me before. I think I’ve the right one, though it’s counterintuitive; I would prefer the book to end a different way but a story does as it does.

Which means the ending’s a question for a different day. Today is for revision now that I see the shape and have a whole corpse, even if the fringe at the toes may need a slightly different trim once I finish this pass. My urge to pack a lunch, get in the car, and drive up the Gorge to see the ol’ Henge again probably has something to do with avoiding work and wanting to sink into a good long drive where I can dream and build new stories.

It’s so uncharacteristic of me to want to leave the house at all, let alone for a car journey, that I’m a little weirded out. I’ll ascribe it to pandemic stress and the urge towards solitude; I haven’t had the house to myself in months. Not that it’s bad–I have doors to close should I need it, and can always go for a rambling walk in the park(s). I know I’m lucky. And yet if even I’m feeling the urge to flee, well, I can imagine how bad it is for others who don’t have my luck.

*sigh* So it’s back to revision today. Yesterday’s work was not all I’d hoped for, but it will get easier as I go on. I’m waiting for the point where The Gangster in the story finally clicked into place and I saw his motivations clearly, plus once I’ve salted in a few more mentions of the Big Bad (not the garden-variety bad) the entire fabric of the book will hang much more smoothly.

At least I know what has to be done. Which is far better than just wandering around in the dark with a machete and a cord, looking for a socket or a monster, whichever happens first.

The coffee is half done. The monkeys have noticed I’m imbibing it. The dogs are waiting for their walk. And yet I linger here, glancing at the cedars out the window every once in a while, waiting to hear their whispers.

Sooner or later, they say.

Sooner… or later, you’ll be free.

I just have to work a bit first, that’s all.

Back To Work, 2021

It’s a totally new year1 and already I’m irritated. I mean, I knew the companies who said “we’re gonna help you during the pandemic” really don’t want to help anyone but themselves, but it’s still galling to see just how true that maxim is. *sigh*

Also, I woke up this morning with Toto’s Roseanna stuck in my head, which is faintly disturbing since I haven’t listened to that song in literal years. I have CaballĂ© singing Norma to wash the interior of my skull clean, but I’m not sure it’ll work. I do have a run this morning, and my exercise playlist is full of catchy stuff, so that’ll probably help.

I just… Toto? Why? The wiring inside my brain is a mystery even unto me, and I’m carrying the whole damn apparatus around.

I took the time between the 25th and New Year’s mostly off; I did finish the zero of The Black God’s Heart‘s first book. This week is all about getting that draft free of bracketed notes and sent off the the editor with queries, some notes, and a suggestion about cover art. I normally don’t do that last; I’m dismal at visual stuff. But I’ve got something good, something I think will really do well for the book(s), and I’m excited to share it.

I did spend some time cogitating restlessly upon a problem in the crisis of HOOD‘s third season, which will be solved in the writing I’m sure but it wouldn’t be a Lili book if I didn’t endlessly agonise over things like that. And I wanted to take a crack at writing a Viking werewolf gothic, but the story isn’t claustrophobic enough for a gothic since all the Tolkien I’ve been reading has crept inside and made itself at home.

I mean, I’m not mad, but I would have liked to be at least consulted about this change of plans.

I know, I know–that’s not the Muse’s style.

Anyway, there’s HOOD‘s Season Three to finish, Black God’s to brush up, and then I send a few chapters of the Viking werewolves to my agent because I think it’s got some legs. It would be nice to get something else sold soon, even if only on proposal.

I used to wait until I had the entire book written, but lately I’ve been working more on proposal. Either way there’s fierce performance anxiety, but after however-many years in the biz, I’ve come to the realization that there will be the same amount of anxiety no matter how I arrange the damn thing, so… yeah. Might as well just live with it.

I’m not going to proffer any wishes for the New Year. For one thing, I’m just too exhausted and glad (Maybe? Is that the word?) to have survived 2020 to scrape up any celebration or good thoughts. I hate the holidays, and long to go back to that short time in my life when I could just hide until they were all over.

Anyway. Our Eve was very quiet, except for the people setting off (illegal) fireworks, but those got rained out in short order just after midnight. It’s not like I quite blame them–after surviving pandemic and ongoing fascist coup, I might’ve wanted to blow some shit up too–but it was unpleasant for both the dogs and my nerves, and I won’t deny a single cackle slipping from my lips when the downpour started and the crackles, booms, bangs, and fizzes were abruptly cut off.

No, I’m not going to offer any wishes. Instead I’m going to say congratulations, my friends. We survived. Lots of people didn’t and we still haven’t had a chance to mourn. We’re still here, and still going. As Stitch so memorably said, “Little, and broken. But still good. Yes, still good.”

…I have not only woken up with Toto in my head, but I’m quoting Disney movies. Time for a run, then to get to work.

It’s a whoooole new yeeeeeear, after all. *strangles the Aladdin theme inside head, runs away screaming*

Forgetting Shoes

There was something in my shoe. I could feel it digging into my right heel like a pea through several princess-stacked mattresses. But I needed coffee before I could sort that out, so I put together the Moka pot and was standing there waiting, thinking about nothing very much in particular–

Huh? Oh, yes, I mean, I’m always thinking about something, the brain never stops while I’m even faintly conscious. (This, I suspect, is part of the foundation of my insomnia.) So I suppose, if I were to be absolutely honest, I was thinking about Richard Armitage as Thornton in a very well-laundered cravat.

Look, one takes one’s pleasures where one finds them, and that man has a lovely nose.

Anyway, I stood there waiting for coffee before it occurred to me, quite naturally, that the thing in my shoe was a problem I could conceivably solve without the assistance of caffeine.

And, as I sometimes do when a thought strikes me, I took immediate action and almost fell over. I banged my hip a good one on the oven door and my temple narrowly missed a counter-corner.

That isn’t even the funny part, although my aggrieved, uncaffeinated swearing was probably hilarious if anyone’d been in range to see the whole thing. The real joke was, there was absolutely nothing in my damn shoe.

A little while later, retreated to my office to drink the finally arrived sweet sweet java, I had the bright idea of tying said shoes in order to avoid further high-speed applications of gravity ending in deceleration trauma to my poor body. Again, I embarked suddenly upon the course that seemed best to me, forgetting one crucial factor.

That factor was Boxnoggin, who no doubt heard my office chair squeak in the particular way that means tying shoes, and of course tying shoes is a chore he feels requires his supervision, close coordination, and most ardent attempts to aid me in. Which meant he scurried into the office at high speed, nose-punched me in the eye, tried to eat my tied shoe, and sat on my untied one–with my foot still in it, naturally–in order to “help” me to the utmost of his ability.

So that is why I’m sitting here with my coffee, my hip aching and my eye watering, one shoe tied properly and the other left to its own devices while I blink at a glowing screen and every once in a while mutter, “Don’t forget your shoes, Lili.”

Of course I will forget. I will, I am certain, be halfway down the hall with both dogs dancing around me and eager for walkies (because after the coffee and the tooth-brushing, it is WALKIES TIME, and may the gods help those who interfere with the habits of dogs) and it will be a miracle if someone does not step upon untied laces and topple me like a certain clay-footed statue.

I’d blame 2020 but I’m certain this is just Tuesday being Tuesday. I never got the hang of Tuesdays, or indeed any day of the week, and there are three scenes to write in The Black God’s Heart before I can count the zero of Book One done.

I might even get there today, if I can just tie my bloody shoes.

Wish me luck.

Last Monday, 2020 Edition

It’s the last Monday in 2020. I just read John Scalzi’s reflection on the year–my own is closely parallel. On paper, it wasn’t a massively bad trip around the sun. Our day to day life didn’t change much with lockdown, except for my son not going into the building for his last year of school. (Frankly, he likes home learning better. So would I, in his shoes.) I have a new agent, I sold some books. We’re largely still healthy here.

But that’s on paper. Out here where the rest of me lives, 2020’s been almost as stressful as buying the house, or the terrible Divorce Year. At least during Divorce Year and house-buying I had some kind of goal, I knew things would Get Better.

2020 has given me no such assurance. I’m forced to regard simply surviving the year as a badge of honor, and even if 2021 is worse we can be proud of surviving its predecessor.

At least, so I think.

I spent Boxing Day through the weekend doing what I could to refill the creative well, including a little bit on the Viking werewolf gothic story. It may turn out less “gothic” and more epic, but for right now I’m just playing, using it as a break from HOOD and Black God’s Heart. It’s always good to have an unsold book to make other projects jealous of.

Christmas was… difficult. There are good years and bad years, and this particular year was dragged over bare wires, the insulation stripped free.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be in-office before the official end of the year. I just want to hide in my closet, preferably with a bag of edibles, until 2020 is gone. I’m not the girl in a horror movie who comes out when she thinks it’s quiet, oh no. I’m staying in the bloody hiding spot until well after the credits. A final chase through the house might be in the script, but they’re gonna have to get another girl for that. I’m done.

The dogs don’t care about such things as calendars, and it’s a good thing, too. They know only that the Time of Ham (a blessed time that always happens in winter, its lore passed down from one dog to the next) is almost past and the Time of Running While Swearing At All These New People On The Road is about to begin. Things won’t calm down and get back to normal until the first week of March or so, when all the people who are going to continue running have found their routes and the rest have decided–probably wisely–to stay home. By then Boxnoggin will be used to running on my right side, and hopefully we’ll have less gravel to pick out of my skin.

Hopefully.

I have grand plans of wordcount today, but I’m not sure I’ll get there. I might celebrate it being the last Monday by continuing to poke at the Viking story. The protagonist has a very strong voice in that one, and I’m sure there might be a troll or two. In other words, big fun.

We’re in the home stretch. Be careful and hydrate, my friends. I’d hate to lose you now. If we’re trudging for the end of the year, at least we’re not doing it alone.

*wanders away muttering about standing stones*

Doldrums and Walkies

Did everything correctly to make coffee this morning EXCEPT put the coffee in the Moka pot.

*headdesk*

In my defense, the insomnia is pretty bad lately, and between holiday stress and vicious deep embarrassment I’m not surprised little things like “actually put the fuckin’ grounds in the basket” are slipping through the cracks. But I realized my error when I started to pour a liquid that was definitely not coffee into my cup, so there was only the problem of cooling the Moka pot down and then restarting the whole damn process.

Back to square one, in more ways than one.

I’m also in the doldrums of “intent doesn’t matter, the harm caused matters.” I’m really glad I was finally told there was a problem, I’m angry with myself that I didn’t know, and I’m sad it took months for the news to reach me. I should have known that enjoying myself to the extent that I did meant something was wrong, but I was so happy and excited I wasn’t looking. In any case, the problem is now visible and a fix is in process, and I’m really glad someone finally said something to me about it. Embarrassment is valuable; it means I won’t do it again. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.

Boxnoggin is Very Excited; I think he senses today we’re going to try running again. I’m going to have to switch him to my right side where Miss B usually ran, which means I need to make a sharp division between “walkies time”–he and Miss B on their usual sides–and “running time,” where he’ll be on my right. That will make sure he doesn’t go through me when startled by a bus again. All the scabs from last time seem to have mostly healed; I don’t need a new crop.

At least, that’s the plan. Dogs do not like change, and initially I thought it would be better to just keep him on one side for walkies and running. Patience and coaxing, along with several rounds of “you’re such a good boy,” will mean we probably don’t run far or fast, but that’s all right. We’re going to be doing this together for a long time, we can start slowly.

At least burying myself in work to escape from stress means I’m drawing nearer the end of Black God’s Heart. Book One is almost at its crisis point–the ride on a big black horse to a well under a cherry tree, thank you, KT Tunstall–and once the zero is finished it’ll be time to turn all my engines to HOOD‘s Season Three and deciding which serial to do next.

A surfeit of work is better than a paucity, amen.

But first I’ve to finish the coffee (finally), walk the dogs, and brace myself to get through another day. I can already tell it’s going to be a dilly, but at least everything is funny instead of heartbreaking now. If I’m laughing, I’m fine–they’ll probably put that on my urn.

See you ’round, beloveds.

Commended, My Running Corpse

What with video chats and stuff, lockdown has meant me being more social than at any other time in my life.1 Normally I don’t speak to anyone I didn’t give birth to for days at a time–except for on social media, of course, but text-based asynchronous communication isn’t nearly as draining as video chat or in person. The latter two are such a flood of information; there’s tone of voice, eye contact, microexpressions, body language, the whole enchilada.

Pretty sure the hypervigilance trained into me at a very young age doesn’t help.

Not that I’m complaining! I’m super grateful to be able to talk to My People. I just have to set strict time limits and give myself recovery days.

Lots and lots of recovery days.2

I spent some time reading Unfinished Tales last night, and I do really want to yell about The Children of Hurin. Mostly because all the V.C. Andrews jokes are just laying there, ready to be used; I know Tolkien probably had something more like Sophocles3 in mind but I am not a Very Big Brain Oxford Intellectual.

I’m more a Hilariously Niche Areas of Pop Culture Screaming Maniac.

Plus, Glaurung the First Dragon holds a special place in my heart. Smaug was cool, yeah, but he was a teensy fellow by comparison. Glaurung was Morgoth’s first attempt at dragonmaking and succeeded better than even that very powerful Ainur had a right to expect even though he didn’t have wings.4 BUT ANYWAY.

Today in HOOD the “fine, get snitty with me over being a girl writing sci-fi and I’ll do a whole chapter of Star Trek references” chapter goes out to subscribers, and I am unreasonably excited about this. I also get to take Boxnoggin on his first run since the whole Bus, Bolt, Drag Mum Over Pavement Incident, which is going to be a real barrel of laughs for all concerned, I’m sure.

Last night a part of Black God’s Heart I didn’t plan for fell out of my head almost whole, too, and I have giant plans for a Viking werewolf fantasy gothic heavily influenced by du Maurier and The 13th Warrior. It’s been a while since my head was full of neat things I’m excited to share; what with 2020 it’s been mostly stuffed with “the deep scrambling desire to find a hole deep enough to hide in because I see what’s coming down the pike.”

Anyway, it’s time to get out the door. I got up this morning and staggered around determined to find the source of a particular sound that was Not Quite Usual; you can imagine my chagrin when, after searching the entire house, I found out it was (are you ready?) the dishwasher, and my head was so stuffed it just sounded funny. But there was a pan of brownies waiting to be plundered for breakfast and if 2020 has taught us anything it’s eat dessert first, so that was fine. The coffee is almost absorbed, the dogs are circling restlessly, and there’s a long involved joke about Turin Turambar and Tuor son of Huor meeting on the road I want to get just right, though nobody but me will ever find it funny.

…that happens a lot.

Anyway, it’s Thursday, and I don’t have a single video conference today. I get to rest, renew, and shed my human form for a wee bit. After, of course, I run it into the ground with Boxnoggin’s “help.”

The urge to cross myself and commend my poor corpse to whatever god looks out for running fools is well-nigh irresistible. Put in a good word for me, if you’re the praying sort, I don’t think I should commit any more head trauma upon myself for a while, so I need all the help I can get.

Over and out.

Portal Fantasy Weekend

Spent the weekend reorienting myself, by which I mean “taking two days off and writing nothing but portal fantasy.” Subscribers will be happy to know Moon’s Knight is coming along nicely, and I’m almost ready to throw the heroine out into the Underdark to make her way somewhere very special.

I’m a little taken aback by the response to what was intended to be a throwaway few chapters of a story that would probably never gather steam. I suppose now I should finish it, but it’ll take a while since it has to fit around three paying projects. All of which I’m either behind on, or deathly afraid of becoming so.

Pandemic and fascist coup tend to put a spike in one’s productivity, alas.

The urge to retract into my shell–or crawl into a hole and tug the hole closed behind me–is well-nigh overpowering. Shutting off the wireless and just writing, fueled by tea, seems the best option right now. Looking at the news is a fool’s game. I’ve lost all hope of being able to turn any fraction of the tide. A vast mass of Americans not only wants to worship death and kill itself choking on its own jackboots and phlegm, but also wants to take the rest of us into the abyss as well. Fighting that current is exhausting.

But it’s a Monday, and today I start the last half of the last season of HOOD. Then I shift to The Bloody Throne, where two women are accosted by an Emperor in a garden and nobody gets what they want out of the interaction. Last but not least, I’ve dinner to think of, and finishing the day by getting the protagonist in The Black God’s Heart out of her city and well on her road trip to the West.

And Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped. At least I’ve my health.

At least I have music. Today is for Anonymous 4 and Alan Parsons Project. I don’t know why the Muse wants them in alternating order, but I’ve long since learned to just give the bitch what she’s yelling for and let it go. We work better together when I just feed her what she demands. I’m hoping she’ll let me listen to some Willie Nelson soon, I have an urge to put Red Headed Stranger on repeat once the church songs and synthesizers have scratched whatever is itching on the Muse’s back.

The dogs are eager for their walk. After Boxnoggin’s recent shenanigans he has not only his harness but two collars and a leash; the new, hopefully escape-proof harness arrives soon. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. And there’s a run to get in today.

If you’ve lost the ability to deal with *gestures at the world* all this, you’re not alone. I’m taking refuge in work, as I often do; I wish I had some advice that held even a glimmer of making any of this better. Alas, I’ve got nuttin’. All I can do is write, and gods grant it’s enough.

And who knows? If I get all my work done today, I might steal a few minutes for the portal fantasy. Stolen time is the sweetest and most productive, as we all well know.

Happy Monday, chickadees. Take care of yourself today. We need everyone, especially you, so do what you’ve gotta to re-wrap the insulation on your nerves. I don’t see this ending anytime soon–and with that cheerful thought, I’m going to finish my coffee and walk the beasts. Pretty soon Boxnoggin will be in a hamster ball for the daily promenades, just to keep him out of trouble.

And with that hilarious mental image, my beloveds, I am over and out.