Frustration, Climbing Out

I’ve been rolling my eyes so hard this morning they threaten to pop right out of my head. The howling by authoritarian corporate dinosaurs attempting to return to exploitative pre-pandemic practices and meeting any faint resistance at all is bleakly amusing. I’m sure they’ll attempt to use the militarization of the corporate state to stamp out any resurgence of workers’ rights, but at the moment I’m savoring their baffled cries of “but we’re offering STARVATION WAGES, why won’t you let us abuse yooooou?”

There are a lot of frustrations in freelancing, and I am incredibly privileged and lucky to have the job I have. I know very well that I bucked the odds, but still, if the Princess hadn’t been working over the past year and a half, we’d probably be homeless. She didn’t want to quit, despite my fear of losing her to the plague.

I actively resent the government and corporate malfeasance, not to mention visible, public, sociopathic glee at the pain of the poor among that orange blivet and his coevals, putting us in this position. I’m also furious at the caving and caviling of Democrats to the Republicans who made all this inevitable. There’s half a million Americans plus dead, and the toll is only mounting despite the bare minimum of social safety net and help watered down at the insistence of rich Republicans.

It didn’t have to be this way. Everyone was warned. People screamed their heads off about this all the way through and were belittled, ignored, and mocked.

And the federal government has the temerity to charge me taxes for last year, too. It’s bloody maddening.

…I should stop looking at the news first thing in the morning. *sigh*

Yesterday was eaten up with (masked) errands and (video-only) social duties. Today I’m itching to get back to the second book of Black God’s Heart. The race to the finish of a zero won’t happen this week, but if I work through the weekend, possibly next? I’m possessed with the idea that this book is the last bit of 2020’s gauntlet to run through.

It’s an irrational conviction. I fully understand the irrationality. But I can’t shake it. I spent last year focusing on the next thing, then the next, then the next, going from handhold to handhold because if I slowed or looked down even for a fraction of a second, I’d be lost. Perhaps the recent physical collapse is a function of that.

You can only run the engine so hard, for so long, before things start to shake loose and ping around the compartment.

In any case, I’m up for more than twenty minutes at a time now, and despite still being exhausted I’m managing a fair amount of work. I write, I cook dinner, I go to bed. That’s it. The sum of my life now. The essentials, as it were.

I don’t have any ringing conclusion today. I barely have the wherewithal to get out the door to walk the dogs, who are somewhat impatiently waiting to prance sniffing around the block. The movement will do me good, and today will be spent with the book. Intellectually, I know that once I finish this zero draft I’ll find another book to obsess over, but maybe the recovery period will allow me to take a breath.

Maybe.

Take care of yourselves today, beloveds. It’s looking like we might have made it through the worst, but the hole is so deep that just stopping the digging isn’t the victory it could be.

Climbing out will still be a bitch.

Safely in Springtime

I survived another release day, and made it through the weekend after finishing yet another awfully hard revise. Now I can go back to actual creation, for some short while.

Unless, of course, I want to proof an omnibus. It’s gotta happen, and yet I have a deep and severe case of the Don’t Wannas. All I wanna do is write, dammit, preferably with some video game music going in the background.

I was real, real close to paying for a month or so of WoW this weekend too, but Borderlands scratched the itch. I’m still not sure if Blizzard deserves my cash. Until my conscience is easy on that account, I’m going to have to refrain.

Although listening to Darnassus music on loop is good for certain kinds of writing. Video game soundtracks are designed to be immersive and easily looped, which makes them great for wrestling with plot problems.

Anyway, I should send off the revision today and take the dogs for a walk. I’m slow and logy this morning, probably because of the wild weather sweeping through. My writing partner reported big fat wet snowflakes (someone’s shaking Baba Yaga’s counterpane) this morning, though they didn’t stick; my sinuses warm me there will be barometric fluctuations. Fortunately I’ve written with atmospheric pressure changes sending spikes through my skull before.

It might even add something to a combat scene. Who knows?

Anyway, the wild weather and plum blossoms have us safely in springtime. The dogs are gleeful and we did a lot of cleaning this past weekend. There was even mopping, which is one of my Least Favorite Things, especially since I didn’t have the damn spoons for it all last year. Bit by bit, the rebuilding continues.

Time to throw another hoodie on and get out the door. I mean, the dogs could technically walk themselves, but they don’t make good choices. It’s best I go along to keep them from chasing something they shouldn’t.

*wanders away, humming about manic Mondays*

Serial Fun, Deadlines

Hello again, beloveds. I took some time off after finishing an absolutely massive revision of The Bloody Throne1 and collapsing in a twitching pile of bare nerves.

It was nice to take a breath, even if every day of recovery irks me because it’s not spent writing.

In any case, it’s Thursday, I’m back at the wheel, and I’m excited because readers of my Robin Hood in Space serial get a scene that I’ve been building towards for the entire three seasons. I started deliberately seeding bits of a pretty big reveal back in Season One, and I’ve been waiting with varying levels of patience for us to get… here.

That’s one of the nice things about serial writing. You know where everything’s going ahead of time (mostly, I mean, as much as a writer ever does) and can see people discover the fun things almost in realtime. It also lets a writer practice highly contained narrative arcs within larger arcs, which is fun. Almost like juggling, I should think, though I don’t know how to juggle.2

Anyway, I’m really pleased with HOOD. We’re in the home stretch of the last season, so I’m about to start the process of revising, editing, and getting said season ready for publication.3 At the same time I have Book 2 of The Black God’s Heart to write, so the Viking werewolves will have to take a backset for a while. And the old, cranky mercenary story will have to take an even further backseat. That’s all right–I need to think more about the werewolves and the arc for a certain character in that trilogy, and the old, cranky mercenary’s quite happy to be left in peace for a short while.

I’ve decided that the next serial will be Hell’s Acre, so am prepping for that. I’ve wanted to write more alt-Victorian London for a while, since Bannon & Clare had to go on indefinite hiatus. And I’m going to have so much fun with rooftops, tea, dresses, manners deployed as weaponry, filth, and gaslights. There won’t be magic, though, unless it’s of a certain subtle type.

Anyway, the recent revision nearly broke me. Mostly, I suppose, because I finished writing the book in 2020 and that was uncomfortable. Reading what I wrote during some of the darker days of pandemic and ongoing slo-mo fascist coup caused deep, painful physical reactions during revision. Not only did I have the task of turning the last book of an epic fantasy trilogy into a 195k monster, trimming and tucking and making sure all the ends are nicely sorted, but I also had things I put off thinking about because everything was crisis, all demanding to be sorted, processed, and put in their proper place.

It was… uncomfortable.

But it’s done now, I took a few days off to try and get my head patched together, and now it’s straight onto into the next project. Keep swimming and always smile, that’s the ticket.4

It’s a sunny morning, in patches, which means the dogs will be beside themselves and other people will be out walking. The big yellow eye in the sky drives everyone around here mad. But at least once I finish the morning ramble and run I can hide in my office and get some work done.

That’s the plan, of course. Yet Thursday has a strange look in its eye.

Here’s hoping that’s not a bad sign…

Sleep, Cold, Carnivorous Sheep

The weekend was long, Sunday night sleepless; consequently Monday was spent in a fog. Not only am I recovering from finishing a three-season serial (at least, the zero draft of such) but Various Life and Historical Issues have reared their heads lately.

No wonder I collapsed into sweet unconsciousness for about twelve hours last night. It was welcome, but now I’m in what I think is a sleep hangover. Do those exist? They should, because I’m fairly sure I have one.

Sleep has always been difficult. It’s hard enough to shut my brain off for any period of time, however fractional. Then there’s the vulnerability aspect–growing up, any dimming of hypervigilance was dangerous indeed. One never knew where the next attack was coming from. In past years, sometimes the only rest I could get was while hiding in a closet.

Any closet. I’ve hunkered down in a lot of closets.

It helps to have the dogs nearby, breathing quietly and sometimes dreaming. And, as Calm Therapist used to say, “if you can’t sleep, just resting is good too.”

It’s a very chilly morning, at least for us–hovering near freezing happens rarely here in the PNW. The dogs are, for once, not pushing for walkies. Mostly because Boxnoggin went out this morning and gave me a Significant Look. “I left a nice warm bed for this?” He’s really not going to like when the mercury drops to the Fahrenheit twenties next week. Poor slick-coated fellow.

I get one more day half off before I dive into the epic fantasy revise. It’s yet another finish to a trilogy, and things I spent two doorstop-sized books carefully setting up come crashing down, landing precisely where I want them. (Or so close it makes no difference.) I’ve been marking time with Cold North lately; I meant for the book to be a very close, confined gothic but Tolkien crept in, and that means sprawl. So now I’ve got elves, a Black Land, and (in the most recent chapter) a mutated, carnivorous sheep.

I don’t even know. These things just happen.

I don’t cherish the idea of yet another epic fantasy–the last one exhausted me–but if that’s what the Muse wants, I suppose that’s what she’ll get.1

At least I’ve some finished works, going into 2021. If all else fails, self-publishing is an option for at least one of them; the other might do as a serial.

All that can wait. There’s walkies to accomplish, after all, and a morning run to get in while I’m still feeling bouncy. I like inclement weather because it leaves the sidewalks free and those damn middle-aged white men who won’t leash their dogs stay inside.2

The house is quiet. The coffee is sinking in. If this is what “enough” sleep feels like, it’s quite pleasant and I wish I could have more of it. But life is about what we have, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.

Time Loop, Recovery

Between various bodily aches and canine upset tummies (Miss B is an Elderly Statesdog, and has Elderly Statesdog Problems) I was up and down all night. I really could have used some sleep after the weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. Groundhog Day is, after all, here.

Again.

I suppose I could have gotten up and done some knitting, but instead I lay in the dark and thought about things. The mind is always a sack of squirrels; it never, ever shuts off. I suppose some part of it is the genetic predisposition to anxiety triggered and reinforced by my upbringing. Consequently my main strategy to gain some rest is pushing myself to exhausted collapse, which isn’t exactly optimal.

On the bright side, I got a character stabbed yesterday, and since there’s no run today (the body simply won’t have it, for once) I can work through the consequences for long uninterrupted hours. That’s the plan, anyway. Anticipating uninterrupted work hours is a sure way to ruin and disappointment, but I can’t help myself. I long for some time to simply roll around in a world of my own creation, escaping from this one.

It might not be healthy, but it’s my job, and I like it. If I were caught in a time-loop I’d probably spend the day doing the same thing, for at least a century or so.

At least Miss B appears to have no lingering ill effects from the night’s games. She is, in fact, her usual spiteful, jealous, stubborn, lovely self. I’ve rarely been so pleased to see her muscling Boxnoggin aside to get in on pets and treats, or patrolling the hall as she attempts, once more, to boss every human in the house into a single room where she can supervise us. We don’t listen, of course, but without something to herd she is at somewhat of a loss, and Boxnoggin has decided he wants to be curled upon his fancy memory-foam bed in the living room until it’s time for walkies.

Part of recovery is the spinning mental merry-go-round married to physical lethargy. The tension between the two is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s just one of those things one has to get through. The body will not let go until it’s processed everything one pushed aside to survive an awful event, no matter how one ducks and dodges. Might as well sink into it, let it happen, deal, cry, scream, use the heavy bag, so forth, so on. Fighting the processing gets one nowhere.

I should say it’s never gotten me anywhere. The only way out, as I tell the kids, is through. Trying to avoid processing just burns energy I could use for other things, like getting this damn zero finished, getting through the epic fantasy revisions (third and last of a triptych, my gods), and figuring out the next serial–which I think will be Hell’s Acre, my alt-Victorian melding of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and The Da Vinci Code, with plenty of other things (the Roman Empire never fell, for example) added in. I’m going back and forth between that and Mandeville & Starke; we’ll see what I finally land on.

So if your brain feels like a bag of methed-out cyborg squirrels and your body feels like it’s been beaten with a club, you might be simply processing the last few years’ worth of constant trauma. I keep saying you’re not alone because if I can help even one person through the woods, I consider it time and effort well spent. We must save each other; goodness knows nobody else is coming to.

Now Miss B is nudging at my knee, knowing from the way I’m breathing and shifting that I’m almost done typing, which means it’s almost time for walkies. (Dogs, as well as human toddlers, are great believers in habit and ritual.) When I stand, the creak of my chair will alert Boxnoggin, and despite my aching body and exploding brain, I will smile because he will thunder down the hall full of excitement.

It’s not a time loop, but it’s a nice reminder nonetheless. It’s Groundhog Day, again. I don’t know how many more I’ll have with Miss B, but I plan to use each one to the full.

Over and out.

The Muse and the Spanner

I spent a long while on Cold North yesterday (that’s the Viking werewolves/elementalist story) though I really should have been working on HOOD. But the latter has some things it needs to cogitate upon if it’s not going to take the ending I had prepared for it.

Goddamn Muse. If she thinks I’ll let her off the hook now, she’s dreaming. She can fight all she wants, but we are finishing this goddamn serial. And if she wants to throw a spanner in the works now, she’ll find out I have a bigger one to bounce off her pretty fairy-dusted skull.

I do hold the Muse in some caution and an appropriate amount of reverence, but we’ve been working together for decades now and sometimes one (or both) of us need(s) a brick upside the head. Pretty sure when the Viking elementalist realizes she’s surrounded by werewolves and the first troll shows up, the Muse will decide I am the one who needs said brick.

Mutual application of head trauma is a certain sign of affection between a writer and her angel, I should think.

Time is still doing strange things, stretching like taffy and yet slamming into me over and over like machine-gun spray. Intellectually I know it’s the trauma of the last four-five years (because it started well before the 2016 election) plus pandemic messing with my brain’s wiring, but that knowledge doesn’t stop the strange sick feeling when time begins to get all wonky or I realize that something did, in fact, only happen a week ago instead of months, or a month ago instead of years, or a year ago instead of yesterday.

At least I have a few more chapters of the serial to send to subscribers, so that’s good. I was beginning to think I was either going to have to pause all subscriptions and take a week off or have another nervous breakdown, but things have eased a little. Only a little, but I’m using the pause for all it’s worth.

The news is zany, but not as malignant as it was two weeks ago. I know the damage isn’t anywhere close to being fixed and work is needed holding elected officials’ feet to the fire, but it’s so nice not to be checking hellsite over and over and getting punched in the gut by the sheer malignant sociopathy in power each time. I’ll take it.

It’s about time to tie my shoes and get the dogs out for walkies, though neither of them is particularly excited about the notion for once. Miss B is sulking after being caught in the compost pile (long story) and Boxnoggin keeps looking at me like “Are you nuts? It’s cold out there!”

He’s from Texas, after all. Things were a bit different there, and though he’s been with us for YEARS he won’t let us forget it.

At least I’m still able to run. And it’s probably during today’s workout that I’ll find a solution for the spanner that damn Muse decided to toss into the works. It might be that I’m struggling against finishing because HOOD‘s been one of the things keeping me going through the last year-and-change of hell, and I might not be quite ready to let go of the characters.

But I think I have the next story lined up, which is nice. I can’t wait to share this one with you, too. But first, the dogs and I both need our ramble.

Be gentle with yourselves, my beloveds. Healing takes time, and our survival is still resistance.

Over and out.

Repair or Gasp

I should be occupied with the copyedits and with finishing HOOD‘s Season Three. I have errands to mask up for–things that can’t be put off, no matter how much I want to. We’ve been in strict lockdown since last year (my gods, what a sentence to type) but groceries still have to be obtained, and delivery is too expensive.

At least there’s rain; the downpours and flood watch means not a lot of other people will be out unless they have to be. The dogs won’t like their walk being so damp, but it’ll mean Boxnoggin won’t feel he has to defend my honor against another dog or a passing van, at least. He’ll be too busy complaining about the wet.

For all his square head (he’s often mistaken for a nanny dog) and big mouth, he is a surprisingly dainty and nervous fellow. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch; still, she is becoming an elderly statesdog and I don’t like making her endure rough weather.

I closed yesterday asking for tiny victories and little hopes, and goodness, did you lot answer! A lot of Readers are into pottery, which I love but haven’t had a chance to indulge in since high school. I took one pottery class and was absolutely enthralled by the wheel. I remember reading in a history book that pottery’s big revolution was the building of a container around nothing, which also represented a leap forward in human understanding, and the idea has lingered in the back of my head ever since.

Everything about pottery fascinates me. Jude’s breakdown while slamming clay in The Marked gives me goosebumps to reread; writing it was one of those times I felt I was channeling something else instead of Being In Charge, so to speak.

If I had the energy, I’d go on a digression about the different altered states one falls into while writing, or indeed during any creative endeavor. I’m not sure what portion of creativity is fueled by the fact that humans just love getting high in whatever fashion–the states of flow or channeling or grace or what-have-you while Making New Things have a lot of similarity with chemical enhancement of various sorts.

I’ve also been told that I’d enjoy The Repair Shop, which I should add to my queue. I do have to watch the second season of The Mandalorian first though, since my beloved Left Hoof really wants to nerd out over it with me.

It’s strange to be looking forward to things, however dimly. I spent a lot of 2020 just trying to keep my head above water. I’m swinging wildly between faint hope and deep despair, for obvious state-of-the-world reasons, and each time I’m in hope there’s just so many good things lying about to be discovered.

The despair, though… it’s a real doozy.

Enough. I’ve to finish this coffee and get started. The lights are flickering; the wind and rain might put paid to any errands. Which would be upsetting, since I’m setting aside a run today to get them bloody well done, but it would also be all of a piece with 2020’s lingering effects. I’m unsure whether the faint flickers of hope are the timeline healing itself or the last gasps before we plunge downward yet again.

I know it’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s where I am this morning. I’ll probably feel better once coffee (and dog-walking) is done.

I wish you safety today, dear Readers, and I hope if you have errands they can be achieved quickly and with a maximum of social distance. I can’t right the entire timeline, but I can try not to make my tiny part of it worse, and that’s my entire goal today.

Dream big, and all that.

See you around.