Balance and Baths

The sunrise was a blood-drenched smear again today, and though the daystar has mounted a bit higher in the sky it’s still a hazy orange-ish coin. I’m just glad the burning isn’t down here hugging the valleys; I’ve breathed enough of wildfire smoke to last me a lifetime.

I know next summer (or even later this one) I’ll be forced to breathe more, but right now the lower air is clear, and I’m grateful for it.

I am, however, gritting my teeth and didn’t know why. I finally realized someone’s running a leaf blower (at 8am, my gods) and since I opened all the windows to take advantage of some relative coolness the sound has a clear shot across my nerves.

I’m not complaining–it’s a weekday, after all, and work waits for no-one. But still.

I could also be slightly tetchy because I finished the first-draft revise of Cold North yesterday. Hopefully the story will stop burning a hole in me for a little while, because other things need doing–a follow-up to Damage, working ahead on Hell’s Acre, and copyedits for the third and final Hostage to Empire are landing soon, precious, soon. Once I finish those CEs the last wicket to go through will be proofs, and then I can consider that series put to bed.

I’ve…learned a lot, writing it. Some of the lessons have even been pleasant.

I got some very good news yesterday; nothing is absolutely certain yet and when it is I’ll let you know. But all signs point to something exciting indeed, and I’m cautiously hopeful. I’ve grown to dislike hope over the last few years, since it only seems an invitation to being kicked in the teeth, but it’s like a cockroach–I can’t stop it from welling up and skittering around my inner halls.

Boxnoggin and B had a bath yesterday, and much amusement resulted. Boxnoggin, of course, has forgotten the entire ordeal; he is slick-coated and dries easily, not to mention his skin stages a rebellion if he’s washed too often. Brushing is fine, we just have to be careful with bathing.

B, on the other hand, is getting elderly. Her coat doesn’t shake things off like it used to, so she gets the tub a little more frequently. And she hates it with a passion, attempting escape as often as she thinks she can get away with. I suppose it doesn’t help that she needs three rinses for every bit of shampoo, poor thing. She is still relatively upset about the whole deal, and insulted at the fragrance. In her mind, she worked hard for an honest stink and then the monkeys went and washed all that effort down the drain. Poor thing.

They like the treats afterward, though. It’s also pleasant to wash my sheets and coverlet and not have them immediately full of dog-schmutz. (Schmutz, of course, being a highly technical term.)

I should probably try to take today off since I finished the revision, but Hell’s Acre needs attention and I want to start working on the Damage sequel too. Klemp needs his time in the sun. He’s a patient fellow, much given to cracking jokes, but he’s waited long enough.

All in all a tenuous balance has returned to my internals, and I’m grateful. I don’t like feeling irritable or ill-tempered. I prefer my harmony, and seek to retain it. Some things, though, damage even my calm, and there’s been a surfeit of them lately.

In any case, there’s breakfast to attempt, the dogs to walk, a long-ish run to accomplish, and various other bits and bobs to arrange for the afternoon’s work. My innards might rise in revolt and force me to take a break, but until they do it’s damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

Come on, Thursday. You and me. Let’s tango.

Blood, Sunrise, Constant

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There’s a high thin haze today, hopefully blunting some of the heat; this morning’s sunrise was blood-colored. I think there’s some wildfire smoke high up, leaping over us instead of descending to clog as it did last year–for which I am devoutly grateful, because the suffocating fire-reek was a hideous time. Our sprinklers are finally working again too (don’t ask) so the garden is in much better shape. Even the tomatoes are happy.

And why did I see the sunrise, you might ask? Because unlike me, the dogs are morning people. They simply couldn’t allow me to stay abed any longer, not when there were fun things to do and naps to take in other areas of the house. Also, last night got a bit too warm for comfortable sleeping since the house was closed up, and Miss B didn’t like that at all.

So I was poked and prodded from slumber, and hopefully I’ll be able to ingest enough caffeine to keep my temper sweet. Or sweet-ish, as the case may be.

I am not quite as snarling as I was last month, or even as peeved as I was yesterday.1 Another hard run this morning wrung a fair amount of sweat and stress chemicals free, so that’s good. The weather folk say Friday will bring a little rain, and that’s even better. I don’t feel quite right when the moss between my toes dries out; the Pacific Northwest is not supposed to be this arid.

Apparently mentioning werewolves yesterday made Cold North sit up and take notice, because that book informed me it was quite done marinating and would like a revision, please and thank you. I can’t find a trio of premade covers for the projected trilogy, but I keep looking–if a trad publisher won’t get interested in Tolkien Viking Werewolves2, I’ll just have to bring it out myself, which will stretch the timeline a bit but that’s life. One thing I will not do is let this story languish untold.

Some projects, I don’t mind if they stay trapped on my hard drive forever. Others want to go out into the world as a matter of course, and who am I to gainsay them?

It will mean a lot of thankless effort, and the first book’s insistence on revision now is already playing havoc with other scheduling. But a surplus of work is where I’m happiest, and if I put my head down and focus on the stories I won’t have to brood upon the state of the world, which is a large, deep mercy. I feel guilty for being unable to handle even looking at the news, but my resilience has reached a stumbling-block after the last four-five years.

I’ve had all I can stand, as Popeye says, and I can’t stands no more.

The roses have all recovered from their move, and most are even blooming. Even the ketchup-and-mustard seems quite happy in its new home. One of the blueberries appears to have given up the ghost, but I’m going to give it another winter to make absolutely certain before I decide what to do with its corpse. The terrible heat does seem to have made a dent in the slug and snail population, which means my hostas are doing much better than I had any right to expect, too.

These are the things I’m concentrating on, because I can’t bear to look beyond my garden gate at the moment. It feels like falling down on my responsibilities, but exactly nobody and nothing will be served by fretting myself dry about systemic failure driven by the greed of a few rich bastards and the foot-dragging cowardice of those elected to stop them.

And with that cheerful thought, I’m off to steep a cuppa (coffee might vibrate me right into another dimension, which might be a blessing but I HAVE DEADLINES) and return to the world of Solveig and her shieldmaid. It’s actually not a bad little story, which means I’m right in the phase I need to be with it. Don’t worry, I’ll start hating it around the copyedits stage.

At least that remains the same. Some things are stable and constant, even during *gestures wildly* all this.

Stay safe out there, beloveds. I’m trying to hope, though it’s difficult; whether I’m hopeless or not, though, the line still has to be held.

That stays constant too.

Return, Usual Harmony

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…well, it’s Monday again.

Not that I mind, really. I just finished a difficult revision and have a crop of administrivia as well as fresh writing scheduled for the day. It’ll be nice to get some actual new-text production going instead of just trimming and tweaking formerly written stuff. I want a lot more lead time in Hell’s Acre than I have; it’s time to do a kidnapping or two.

So to speak.

I also have to move some things on the detailed writing schedule for the next few months. This career being what it is, all sorts of things are in flux until a contract’s signed, then it’s time to work like a demon. Generally I can plan a year or two in advance, but when I get to the six- or three-month planning mark the longer-range benchmarks often have to be thrown out or altered to bear no resemblance to their original form.

Specifically, the Cold North trilogy (also known as the Silmarillion Viking Werewolves) will have to be written around paying projects, but several of those spaces have also opened up, so we’ll see what fits in them. It means a much longer timeframe before the adventures of Solveig and her shieldmaid can meet the world, but such is publishing.

I’m just glad the irritation and crankiness from earlier in the month have gone their merry way; upping my running mileage and clearing a difficult project both mean some of the usual harmony tiptoed back into my corpus. I don’t like feeling prickly as a herd of adamantium porcupines; keeping a deathgrip on my temper is unpleasant (though necessary, because friendly fire isn’t) work.

Let’s see, what else can I tell you? I read a few Vietnam War memoirs this past week, and might read a few more; I also have Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, about murder in Ancient Rome.

I suspect I shall savor the latter with quite unbecoming enthusiasm.

The morning music queue is serving up a lot of Portishead, and I’m not quite sure what to think about that. I suppose I’ll just groove with it, since Past Me is the one who went on a mad trip-hop jag while finishing up revisions. I’ll add some Copland and Gershwin, not to mention some thrash metal, to confuse the algorithms later in the day.

I am large, I contain multitudes.

So today is for the last bit of finish work before sending revisions in well in advance of their due date (love it when that happens) and a great deal of administrivial paperwork set aside during the push to get said revision done. On the one hand it’s got to be done and has lingered long enough.

On the other, I absolutely despise bureaucratic triplicate. I often mutter, “Why doesn’t your mother commit murder more often?” and both children chime, “Because it makes paperwork, that’s why!”

…look, one has to go with the objection that works, and if the disdain for paperwork keeps me from running amok, I’ll use it.

One of the neighbors put in a backyard fountain this past weekend, so I suspect Carl, Sandra, and Jerry will disdain our plebeian birdbath’s stagnation for this new luxury. Being what they are, I suspect they’ll tear the damn thing apart in their enthusiasm and I will be treated to someone else screaming at the local fauna for once.

It’ll be a nice change. I’m almost looking forward to it.

Enjoy your Monday, my beloveds. It’s a tricksome day even in the best of weeks, but with all of us watching it can hardly do more than twitch, right? At least, we can operate under that assumption for now. I’ve the machete ready and I don’t even want to know what the rest of you have stashed.

Over and out.

Another Zero Bites Some Dust

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Late on Tuesday–I think it was Tuesday, yes?–I finished the zero draft of Black Land’s Bane, first in the Cold North trilogy. That’s the Tolkien Viking werewolves, for those keeping score.

I thought it would sell before now. But oh well, at least it’s another zero in the bag. It will need a significant amount of working-in and embroidery; right now it’s very lean even at 103k words. There’s some serious epic chonk that needs to go into this bad boy, including expanding the Giant Spiders section.

If there’s anything this book needs, it’s more giant spiders. The Valkyrie shieldmaid Arneior steals most of, if not all, the scenes she’s in, and the emotional heart of the book is the relationship between the elementalist and said shieldmaid. Men come and go, after all, but a childhood friend with a spear and a temper is forever.

The cicadas are already starting in the treetops, which means it’s going to be very hot indeed. We don’t get the seventeen-year kind out here, but I can well imagine the din in other places. Regardless, the insects know about the coming heat ridge, and even the dogs are subdued.

Black Land’s Bane finished easily; I wasn’t even aware I was pushing for the end. I thought, huh, in two more scenes we’ll get to the natural terminus, then before I knew it I was there. It’s by far the easiest a zero’s ever finished itself, which makes me nervous.

I keep waiting for a shoe to drop, so to speak. And since I didn’t reach the end with screeching tires, all the energy of pushing through the book is ricocheting inside my entire body. It’s unpleasant, but I just have to let it settle. Next up comes revising Sons of Ymre, sending off the line edits on book three (the final volume!) of Hostage to Empire, and then turning my engines to writing two more romances and the zero of Hell’s Acre. I’ve even put some throwaway text on the beginning of Book 2 of Cold North, which opens with Solveig and Arneior imprisoned in an elvish citadel because of course it does, as Arneior would mutter, how could we have expected anything different?

I can’t decide whether it’s good or bad the elves didn’t decide to put them in an oubliette, but Labyrinth references might make the book even more of a hot mess.

*is thoughtful* Not that it’s a bad thing, mind. Maybe I should add more giant spiders and an oubliette, or even a Pit of Despair. After the extended Turin Turambar references and the Glorfindel anagram I’m sticking in, I’m not sure there’s really a good place to stop. MORE IS MORE, AFTER ALL.

Still, that’s for revision. Today is for preparation, bracing ourselves for the coming bad weather. All we can hope for is some part of the predicted heat ridge cracking earlier than expected. At least we’ve the downstairs, which stays cool even in the most torrid weather.

I’m devoutly hoping for no gender reveal parties kicking off border-jumping wildfires this year, too. It’s a small dream, but it’s cherished. I might be recovered enough from this zero draft to risk heat prostration; if I set my alarm early enough I can get out while it’s still relatively cool.

Not today, though. Today I try to get the flywheel inside my head to spin down. As easy as finishing the zero was, recovery is correspondingly harder. I knew there was a catch to a stroll over the finish line instead of a desperate scramble.

The dogs need walking, and I think I glimpsed Carl in the backyard. Maybe I should take the Sekrit Weapon (i.e., the Golf Club) along.

Further bulletins as events warrant…

Between Music and Tomatoes

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I got all the tomato plants into the ground on Sunday, but I did not hoover. There’s always a catch.

On the bright side, I didn’t work? At least, on anything sellable? So that’s a plus?

The kids put their collective foot down; I gather I was looking a little wild-eyed. I was absotively, posilutely not allowed to work on anything for a couple days. It got so bad they would glare every time they passed my office. “You’re not…working, are you?”

“NO NO I’M WRITING WEREWOLF EROTICA, FURTHEST THING FROM WORKING POSSIBLE, I SWEAR…”

On the bright side, the Selkie pinged me on Saturday and we ended up bombing into Portland for an Everyday Music trip. Masked up and vaccinated, we found all sorts of goodies–she had a list, but I, of course, just winged it.

Consequently I got a set of old radio plays1 and a Gormenghast DVD set2 as well as some, well, actual music. Including a still-sealed CD which made my nose twitch3. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

Between music and tomatoes, I didn’t get a lot of household chorin’ done, but I suppose that’s okay. It is summer, after all. And I’m halfway between projects, shifting gears rapidly and repeatedly to get edits done at the same time I’m producing new text.

Today I want to get Avery through the rest of that damn combat scene in Hell’s Acre, and if I’m still near the end of Cold North (at least, if they aren’t attacked again in the forest) I can get everyone to the hidden city and thrown into the dungeons, which will be a nice place to end the first volume of what promises to be a very long trilogy.

This is, of course, assuming the heat doesn’t prostrate me and the kids don’t tie me to the couch yelling “YOU’RE NOT DONE NOT-WORKING YET.”

Considering it’s a Monday, this could go either way…

Damp Sledgehammer Monday

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Rain! Marvelous, glorious rain all yesterday. I do have to dump out the basins and catchers under the seedling pots, and even though today is already quite busy I should get some of said seedlings in the ground to take advantage of all the nice skywater.

It’s almost enough to make me tranquil. Except revisions have landed, there’s a million chores I didn’t get to yesterday, and school administrators are doubling down on their bullshit instead of simply doing the necessary thing and moving on.

The fact that I just knew they were going to continue with the bullshit when they were called on it makes it even more irritating.

Anyway, there’s the rain to listen to, the dogs to walk, a run in lovely warm summer damp to accomplish, and revisions on the third and final Hostage to Empire book to begin. If I get those final edits out the door this week I might be able to knock off the Sons of Ymre edits next week and be ahead of the game–except for I also need to be producing on Hell’s Acre that entire time. I’m ahead, of course, but not as comfortably as I like to be in a serial. At least the combat scene isn’t giving me trouble.

A scene that takes a writer weeks to craft might be read in a few moments, and sometimes people think it detracts from the value of the writer’s labor. Far from, my friends, far from.

What I really want to be doing is lunging for the end of Cold North. Sol the elementalist and her merry band of companions are in a bad fix indeed; though I know how they get out I am not entirely sure a few of them will make it alive. I suspect, of course, and I’m pulling for them…and yet. It’s hard on a writer’s nerves, not knowing which of the characters will meet a bad fate in the text.

I mean, there are intimations, and occasionally I absolutely know when a character is doomed, but most of the time it’s a surprise even to me. An uncomfortable one, to say the least.

Miss B is very ready for walkies, and is nudging at my knee. Time to get out the door and embarked upon a Monday which has started very Monday indeed and looks fair to continue.

It’s enough to make me grab the goggles and reach for a sledgehammer. I’m ready to tango.

Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.