Not Quite Vacay

It’s raining, and I woke up with Rain’s Sad Tango playing in my head. Which isn’t bad on either count. I get to run while water is falling from the sky, and there’s also a catchy groove to do it to.

I meant to take this week as a vacation, at least from serial writing. Unfortunately life has other ideas. Cold North is still going great guns; the elementalist has left that world’s variation on Nargothrond and is heading for a hill topped with red foliage. (Turin Turambar fans are going to get a kick out of this part of the tale.) I’m also getting plenty of progress in on Hell’s Acre, which has a scaffolding somewhat resembling an outline–though anything approaching an outline gets thrown out about two-thirds of the way through any work.

I just can’t stick to directions when it comes to a story. It has to take its own organic shape, and though I can often predict said shape, the execution is always much different than the projection.

…I just took the first gulp of today’s coffee, and my gods is it ever welcome.

I’m having to switch back to tea in the afternoons, since sleeping is becoming difficult again. On the one hand, I could just get up and work when insomnia strikes. On the other, I’m getting older (surprise, surprise) and the very thought of pulling all-nighters the way I used to makes me even more tired. I might as well give my body all the help I can. Besides, tea is stuffed full of anti-depressive chemicals, and that’s always a bonus.

I’m also ready to open up my Discord server for a new round of members, so come on in, the water’s fine! The invite link will last for a week, unless we get an influx of bad actors. (Which sometimes happens, this being the internet and all.) Patreon and Gumroad folks get special access on the server, and I’m kicking around the idea of doing some voice chats with subscribers–an AMA or two sounds like a good time, especially with a cuppa. The server has a living room, a place to discuss the books of Yours Truly, a place to discuss other authors’ books, a hellhole where politics are discussed, and more.

I’m slowly working my way through coffee. It’s a nice quiet grey morning, and after listening to Sad Tango on repeat I figure I’ll shift to the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack, look over the day’s work, and finish said java before taking the dogs on walkies. Boxnoggin will be extremely put out that it’s damp, but B will be just the same–she’s all-weather, all the time.

OH! I almost forgot. The Princess informed me yesterday that the Yankee Squirrel Flipper is doing its duty, and a squirrel has been flung at least once into the Venerable Fir. Sadly, I did not get to witness the occasion, but I have to admit to a bit of evil laughter, especially since the damn arboreal rodents have been digging up my seedling trays to bury their bloody peanuts.

Yes, someone in the neighborhood is still feeding them. I don’t even know.

That’s the news that’s fit to print, I suppose. There are rumbles in the distance, both concerning Cold North and Moon’s Knight, but nothing definitive yet. And come June 1, not only will Hell’s Acre be live, but I’ll have to shift engines to do revisions on Sons of Ymre, which should be out later this year (but will probably be retitled, so stay tuned).

My goodness, that’s a lot. I started this post thinking there was very little if any news, but apparently I was wrong. It’s a good thing I don’t mind being wrong. I even enjoy it, in some cases.

This vacation is turning out busier than many regular work weeks, but that’s my own fault…

…as usual. Onwards, upwards, and inwards to Thursday, beloveds.

Outlandish Dread

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I keep thinking Cold North is going to slow down, but apparently Viking werewolves don’t know how to “relax.” I mean, they’re under a centuries-long siege from basically-a-god, and even though the elementalist is telling them “I’m not the girl for you,” they still insist on thinking she’s the solution to the endless warfare.

It’s, uh, not going to end well. At least not for two and a half more books. Even then the ending’s going to be more “right” than “happy”, and I’m sure that will upset some people.

I have coffee sinking in, trying to make sense of everything. I’m listening to RJD2’s Ghostwriter on repeat, and I should really be doing some reformatting instead of sinking 80% of my working time into Cold North, which after all hasn’t even sold yet.

But…I can’t stop, and might as well strike while the iron is hot.

Yesterday was very social, with video meetings and mentoring. Consequently, this wee introvert is withdrawing into a cave for a few days to recharge–and Saturday is the second and final vaccine poke for both the Prince and my own sweet self. I’m scheduling a couple days of very low intensity work after that in case the side effects (physiological or otherwise) stage a comeback.

I’m sure the feeling of relief will be so deep as to completely wreck me. It did the first time around, naturally, and this wave will only be more intense. Maybe I’ll finish a zero draft in a blaze of inspiration, and finally get some of this book’s possession-grip loosened.

There’s also Hell’s Acre to work on, and the said reformatting, not to mention I should stick a third writing project in the queue just to keep myself producing at a reasonable rate. I normally have at least one romance going at a time, and the editor for Sons of Ymre wants Jake’s story. (I’m thinking it will involve a vet tech and Jake getting his ass bitten by not only regular animals but also chthonic horrors; if ever a character deserved it he does.)

But that decision’s for after the second jab. Until then I’ll be useless for anything but the Viking elementalist, werewolves, and elves banding together to reach a hidden city after one of the elvish strongholds in the North has undergone a sudden, dragon-assisted change of inhabitants and contours. If I’m focusing on their problems I’m not brooding over the million things that could go wrong before we get to the mass vaccination site in a few days’ time.

2020 taught me to twitch-worry at everything. I mean, I already did so before, but last year was like an Olympic masterclass. Absolutely nothing is too outlandish for me to dread.

And yet the dogs still need their walk, and someone’s running a leaf blower.

Yesterday it was some kind of grinding or cutting metal, from around 8am to about 4pm. It was coming from the direction of Mike’s Deck1 but there was no accompanying crashing or shouting, so I’m cautiously hopeful everything, er, went well. Of course, I can’t see anything, so it might be another house entirely.

The leaf blower is coming from an entirely different direction, and it’s just close enough to drag the noise over my nerves like a sawblade. Which means putting in earbuds, walking the dogs, and running my weary carcass will be not only good for said physical carcass but also my temper.

Said dogs are waiting patiently for me to stop staring at the glowing box and muttering imprecations upon leaf-moving devices yea unto the seventh generation, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.