Change and Social Detox

Didn’t have time for a Soundtrack Monday post yesterday. I am incredibly irritated with a world that will not simply leave me alone to write my weird little stories. Descending into the sewers to live as a cryptid–or donning a cape and wandering into the woods, never to be seen again–sounds very appetizing indeed. If I could get coffee and reading material delivered in either situation, I’d probably be gone like a shot.

I suppose some of the irritation is detoxing from Twitter. The site seems to be imploding, and despite knowing it would happen, I’m still upset. A sizable chunk of my professional life and connections were stored there, largely because I had no choice. We all knew it was a bad deal, but it was the only one on offer.

This is no longer the case. It’s fascinating to see the realization percolate.

It’s also interesting to watch a lot of people fleeing the implosion, attempting to get the same dopamine hit and rush of indignation elsewhere. I’m hearing the same complaints I did when Twitter started, when Livejournal died, during the Yahoo buyout of Tumblr (now there’s a cautionary tale for dumb billionaires), during the several waves of Facebook emigration, etc., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum. In particular, watching people arrive on Mastodon and try to replicate Twitter experience on a platform that was specifically designed to avoid some of birdsite’s more rancid problems and practices has been…well, I wouldn’t call it entertaining, but there’s certainly an aspect of can’t-look-away. Making the shift to a place that isn’t centrally controlled, where ads aren’t part of the ecosystem and the “home” algorithm isn’t controlling what you see and when, is disturbing for a lot of people trained by years of the Twitter Character of the Day, the ads, and the constant shadowbanning and suppression not of fascists but of their opponents. Add to that the fact that people are mourning the loss of a service that wanted, as Dorsey himself admitted, to be a public utility and gave many the hope and interaction they needed to get through the first few years of pandemic, and it’s rough.

It’s really rough. A lot of people aren’t being their best selves right now. Change is difficult–I joke about dogs and toddlers being absolutely unable to cope with disruptions to routine, but adult humans aren’t far behind. The server slowdowns of a decentralized, volunteer-run system looking to absorb such massive waves of new users are entirely reasonable and expected–but not pleasant.

I’m really looking forward to marginalized communities coming out from under the weight of having to fight Twitter’s deliberate devaluation of their posts, as well as the encouragement and intentionally engineered ease with which birdsite was used for harassment and silencing of women, people of color, and indigenous groups. I’ve heard the objection that defederation and banning on Mastodon will lead to “silos”, and I think it’s entirely specious. We already know that bad actors don’t want to be locked into their own little cesspools, they want to pollute the drinking water for everyone else, and force us to listen to their nasty bigoted howling. That’s their entire goal, and being able to lock such people out with a few clicks of a button–especially if one is an instance admin–is in my opinion a net good that will only increase over time.

“But social justice won’t go viral on Mastodon!” Uh, I’ve already seen calls for help, calls to action, and news rip through the fediverse at light speed. The only difference is that they often have content warnings. So I find this objection to be specious as well, from my own direct experience.

“But Twitter was freeee!” some people howl, like the rusty gates of hell. I dunno, my friend, was it really? Already the internet requires the investment in hardware and privilege to access, and birdsite only appeared free because user info was being sold, ads were being forced into the stream, attention was being bought by corporate actors, and governments were busy subsidizing and payoff-placating Dorsey the way they have been subsidizing Musk, Bezos, Murdoch, the Waltons, and Mango Mussolini (among others) for decades. It was never free, you just didn’t see the cost because it was folded into the daily scramble to make a living and pay taxes, both activities which end up lining the pockets of bazillionaires because that’s how our society is set up.

But then, I’ve been on Mastodon since ’17, keeping my eggs in more than one social media basket the way I keep publishing eggs in more than one container. (The effort required to do so is disruptive to my productivity, but can’t be avoided under current conditions.) I’m in the luxurious position of already being over the first bump of the learning curve–and there really is one, with any social media platform–but the angry biting from some people who are determined not to like a new-to-them system because “it isn’t Twitter and I’m mad and grieving” is counterproductive in the extreme.

Not that it can be helped. We’ve seen this all before, every time a social media system implodes under the weight of corporate malfeasance and greed.

I just want to write, dammit. And manage this detox. The way Twitter and Facebook–and Instagram, and and and–are engineered to take advantage of some very basic brain chemistry is amazing, but it also makes tapering off and moving away rather hellish. Maybe I’m wrong and the site won’t fully implode. I’m astonished that World Cup traffic hasn’t done it in, though I still can’t reply to anyone in DMs and the user experience is growing increasingly janky. I thought it would break irreversibly this past weekend, and can’t decide whether I’m happy to be mistaken.

And I keep thinking, if breaking the addiction to birdsite is so uncomfortable for someone who has been in the process of mitigating exposure to it for five-plus years, it must be dreadful for those who never wanted to leave. Things will shake out, though, and people will eventually find other ways of getting the connection and access to breaking news they need. Personally, I’m using CounterSocial for news and Mastodon for most everything else, though at least one of my publishers really really wants me to keep my Instagram fresh and oh fuck, how did I get on YouTube anyway?

If you’re suffering a dopamine shortage from fleeing Twitter’s protracted strangulation at the hands of Manbaby Melon Husk (one of my favorite euphemisms for the site’s new owner, I gotta admit), try to be kind to yourself. It feels uncomfortable because your brain was being hit with the equivalent of weapons-grade casino-type sucker-retention tricks daily, and now it’s…not. It’s gonna take a little while for things to normalize.

Me? I’m gonna finish my coffee, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. He certainly doesn’t care about a massive shift in the online social ecosystem–he’s got things to sniff, and at least one attempt to crap in oncoming traffic to check off his daily to-do list.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. See you around.

Autumn Shift

Slowly swam into consciousness this morning; my sleep was heavy as it has not been for weeks. I knew why when I lay still and listened.

Rain! Tapping at the roof, but not hissing through the leaves–they were already too wet. A good soaking has descended from heaven, trickling through the gutters, beading up on the freshly sealed deck, replacing some turgor pressure in tree limbs, cleaning the air, and blanketing tired dust. Now all yesterday’s activity makes sense–there were at least seven male stellar jays in the backyard most of the afternoon, screeching and carrying on amid several robins and a whole host of smaller birds. The corvids periodically came through as well, moving almost in a picket line while digging through grass and shrubbery; the squirrels were in a fury of burying anything nutlike and chasing each other away from hidden caches. Stink bugs were climbing any surface they could, a great risk while the birds were out, and it was just generally a busy rumble.

Boxnoggin is nonplussed. It took a bit of coaxing to get him out of bed, since the window is still dark. Dawn is obstructed by a pall of heavy grey–just the way I like it, in fact, the only proper way to greet that rosy-fingered goddess–and he was very nice and cozy. I rousted him for a trip to the backyard, following our usual morning protocol, and while he is very fond of habit and routine, the fact remains that he immensely dislikes rain since it is cold on his delicate paws. He gave me a startled look when the first drop hit his shoulder, then proceeded with a long-suffering sigh to attend his business before hurrying back inside. Now he’s in the living room, resentfully tongue-cleaning whatever fragments of moisture managed to reach him.

He’s not going to enjoy walkies as much as usual, but them’s the breaks.

My soul is expanding. I needed rain. And while I was rising through layers of consciousness, the solution to a particularly knotty plot problem in Cold North appeared, laid in my brain like a gift. I knew the Muse would drop it on me while I was occupied with something else; it was only a matter of time. The solution will mean a little more work, but at least I have it now.

The shift has happened. The world has tilted, and things are as they should be. The cedars are murmuring with joy, and the Venerable Fir’s boughs have started to lift again. There is even a bluejay on a handy branch along the back fence; I think it’s Ed, though he’s not screaming. He’s merely surveying his domain with a satisfied air, and probably waiting for Stede to arrive so the two of them can get into trouble with their gentleman crew.

Today holds a mountain of work. Now that I know the next solution in the revisions, it remains only to reach the particular point where it needs to be inserted. If I keep my head down and go straight through there might even be time for some narration after dinner. (The “narrate Victorian erotica with a straight face” project proceeds apace, too.) There was a Twitch outage yesterday so I couldn’t do the planned Reading with Lili, but I think I’ll do it this Friday instead of a tea.

Adaptation is the name of the game. And the title will be “Dracula, HO” because I am twelve inside.

There’s even homemade banana bread with plenty of walnuts for breakfast, once I finish coffee. I keep stopping to gaze out my office window at the inky-wet cedars, and each time I do my soul heaves another small sigh of relief and expands just that fraction more. Rain. Rain, rain, rain. Thank the gods.

Summer is over; I can begin to live–and work–again.

Resting Time

Not sure whether it’s a promise or a threat…

It’s been a busy month and I am frayed down to the bone. I’ll be taking now until Monday off to re-wrap the insulation on my nerves, not to mention get some serious work done on revisions. Consequently, there will not be a Tea with Lili today, though you can find old teas on YouTube.

I might also do some more narration of saucy Victorian stories for the new channel, just because. Yes, it’s blank right now because the first episode drops this very evening; I’m excited and nervous. It could all go terribly wrong…but at least I’ll learn a lot.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears.

Past the Crest

I’m choosing to find more things hilarious these days. It’s a welcome change, even if the laughter has somewhat of a scream-y edge. As a coping mechanism, it’s better than many others.

Not much work got done yesterday, but correspondence and a video meeting were dealt with, so there’s that. I might be doing a livestream reading of The Eye of Argon in the near future. (Blame Curtis for this one. HE’S RESPONSIBLE, IT’S NOT MY FAULT.) I know of the novella, certainly, but I’ve never read it before. So I’d be doing it completely cold, until I can’t go on or the story is finished. It sounds like a good bit of fun, and I’ll keep the recording up for a couple weeks. I might even ask Eustace the sock monkey (my newsletter readers know all about him) or Clara the rubber vulture for help during it. (Harlowe, Eustace’s best friend, isn’t interested.) So there’s that.

I also got the most hilarious review late yesterday evening. Normally I don’t look at reviews, but I happened to glance at a certain werelion book‘s page while updating some info and…well, apparently picking a VC Andrews-esque cover, crafting breathlessly purple copy to go with it, and OPENLY saying “this book is an homage to the wonderful nuttery that the writer of Flowers in the Attic was known for” wasn’t enough to warn some people, and they might be…shocked. Or startled.

Good. I don’t know how to signal any more clearly “there are nutbar hijinks in this book”–one would have thought the shamelessly brazen pseudonym alone would give it away–but here we are. Do not get me wrong–it’s a fabulous review, it shows that I did exactly what I set out to do, and I am utterly grateful for this particular Reader, not to mention all the others. I’m absolutely chuffed. I could not have asked for better feedback, and I am still giggling like a mad chipmunk this morning every time I think about it.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing one not only understood the assignment, but knocked it out of the park.

Also, it smelled like rain this morning. There won’t be any, we’re still in the dog days and the sky is that pale shade presaging a very dry, warm afternoon. But we’re past the crest of summer and it’s all downhill toward autumn’s damp from here, and I’m ready. So, so ready. The first real rains will probably trigger a great burst of productivity from me, which is grand. I need it.

It’s probably over a month away, too, but at least I can look forward to the event.

My coffee has cooled, Boxnoggin cleaned his breakfast bowl for once (the dab of bacon grease in the bottom might have something to do with it), and there is a cool draught from my office window. The birds are calling every once in a while, readying themselves for the day, and the birdbath has seen a great deal of action already to judge by the peanut shells littering its bottom. I’ll clean that out before I go on a run.

I wish you a pleasant day, my beloveds. Try to laugh a bit, if you can. Everything is absurd and we’re all locked in the same room for a while.

Might as well enjoy it.

Relatively Unfiltered

The heat is awful, but there are signs of it breaking. We might even have a temperature crest below 90F today, which will be a distinct relief. None of us are sleeping well except Boxnoggin, who is from Texas so this must feel homelike to him. This morning, however, he is pacing the house whining because I won’t let him chase the neighbor’s cat, and he can hear squirrels in the cedars because all the windows are open to catch some morning breeze.

Poor Lord van der Sploot; his is a life of woe.

Tomorrow the paperback for That Damn Werelion Book releases. The ebook will be out in September, and the soundtrack for writing it is here. I’m nervous, naturally, even if it’s under a different name; I didn’t intend to publish it. But why the hell not–it might sink like a stone anyway and in any case after 2020 I’ve decided life is short, why not in a number of areas. Maybe it’s only a function of hitting my forties and I can’t blame it on a specific (albeit historic) year. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I meant to spend the weekend doing rereads so I can jump back into new text on the two projects which absolutely must be finished soon. Unfortunately, heat sensitivity meant I could barely drag myself through the usual weekend housework, and that had to take priority. I spent the remainder of the time flat on my back, cursing the weather and my unreliable meatsack while wishing I could bloody well work. Ah well, today is another chance.

Last week’s Tea with Lili is also up on YouTube. It was about the current crop of reboots, reader expectations, and (of all things) Cinderella. I’m not sure if I’m getting this streaming thing down; it’s full of weirdness and I’d much rather not be on camera. But people seem to respond to the conversational format, and to it being relatively unfiltered. And frankly it’s the internet, so if someone doesn’t like it they can hit the back button or close the tab and be done with it. I’m sure there will be those who want to troll instead, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for that bullshit.

At least it hasn’t been too hot for coffee–I don’t know what I’d do without the morning jolt, and I dislike iced caffeine. Cooling to tepid is fine, but sticking ice in it and downing it cold is just not for me. Someone else can have my share of that.

And at least I recognized a plot problem in the last 4k or so I wrote of Sons of Ymre 2; I can fix it on the read-through I’m going to give all my attention to today. It’s best to not make an error at all, of course, but it’s also good to realize one’s in the process of committing it and immediately stop to tear out and fix it. I might even get the zero of this book done this month. Might.

There’s a lovely cool breeze through the window, and my skin is positively bathing in it. Boxnoggin and I will enjoy his morning ramble, but we’d best get out there. I don’t quite trust the weather app saying it won’t be awful today, and should get anything outside done sooner rather than later. A good ten degrees (Fahrenheit, naturally) cooler will make a difference, right? I certainly hope so.

Welcome to Monday, my beloveds. Let’s hope the day behaves itself. If not I may have to reach for the machete–or even the Peace Prize. I’m not quite expecting the day to step out of line…but I’m ready.

See you around.

Quiet Island

Took yesterday completely off social media, and it was so nice I may simply crawl back into the cave today as well. I lack any desire to look at the news.

The weekend involved a lot of yard work. The grapes are trimmed, so is the Japanese maple. A whack was taken at the pampas, but that’s going to be an ongoing campaign, not a single battle. Some dahlias have proved they were not, in fact, murdered by squirrels, so there’s that. I’m moving laurel and lilac volunteers to along the back fence, for reasons best left unspoken, and I suppose today is the day I get back to actual work instead of floundering and almost-procrastination.

There was also a great deal of housecleaning going on. Entirely necessary, because I’ve let a few thing slip between the weight of grief, the line edits, and recovery from both. (Not to mention the bloody news cycle.)

Fireworks were outlawed within city limits a few years ago, and with the pandemic there were few places to buy them locally this year. As a result, our street was somewhat of an island of quiet surrounded by artillery last night. Boxnoggin huddled against me shaking for most of it; we fell asleep, both trembling with stress despite sedation. The Mad Tortie went into hiding at the first mid-afternoon boom, as is her usual practice on the Fourth and New Year’s.

I hate this time of year for pets; they get so scared. This morning’s ramble with Boxnoggin will be a matter of patiently coaxing him into the open, and probably being knocked down and dragged if some asshole lets off a morning M80. I don’t quite wish maiming on everyone who wants to blow up a piece of native soil to “prove” their “patriotism” or some bullshit…but it’s close.

In short, I am locked in a great glassy ball of calm that might simply be emotional exhaustion. Whatever it is, it’s a relief, and I would very much like it to stick around for a few days so I can get some work done. Line edits for Duty just landed, so I have to stick those on the schedule along with work on Hell’s Acre, the second Tolkien Viking Werewolves book, and Ymre #2, which has been languishing somewhere around 40k for a while. The heroine and her stray beast really do need to get to the Temple and start unraveling the big mystery.

Someone’s running a leaf blower; at least it’s not fireworks. I’ll take it. And I suppose I really should run my own weary corpse today as well. I’ll feel better after a few kilometers’ worth of sweat.

Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Survival is a gat-damn victory right now, so if you’re reading this, good job! Proud of you! Don’t let the barstids grind you down, and all that.

See you around.

Hollowbone Hope

A night of grim insomnia gave way to leaf blowers at 7am, and there’s this big yellow thing in the sky I’m hissing at and hiding from. I’ve been adulting hard lately, and with all the other stuff going on in the world, the cognitive load has me feeling a little loopy.

A little? No, a lot loopy, and last night’s staring into the darkness while brooding might not have helped.

On the other hand, it might have. Certainly I feel calmer now, though that could simply be exhaustion. Either way, I’ll take it.

This morning I’m thinking about little things. I read about someone finding a ladybug in their house during a cold spell, looking up on the internet to see if there was a way to keep it alive until it could be taken back outside. (There is!) The amazing thing is, there were pages of other people asking the same question, which is a hopeful sign for humanity.

I had forgotten what a revelation the internet is, and I’m on it every day. There are whole YouTube channels of therapists giving advice on how to deal with narcissists, breaking down the patterns of abuse and telling one how to protect oneself. Caveat emptor and all, yes, but it’s still a huge improvement over suffering daily abuse in my childhood and teen years, feeling so lonely and isolated self-harm seemed the only option for dealing with the pain. There are so many more choices today, so much more knowledge.

There is the usual caveat–the internet is not ubiquitous, it just feels like it when you’re on it. Accessing all the information presupposes that one has the hardware (and data plan) to do so. At the same time, a rising tide lifts many boats, and plenty of things are now much more common knowledge than they were when I was a teen, or even just a decade ago. Hope, like a weed, stubbornly takes advantage of every crack.

On some level I hate the last monster in Pandora’s box, since it seems merely an invitation to get kicked in the teeth again. (Especially for the past six years…) I know it’s necessary, and yet it hurts so badly I often wish I were immune to its blandishments.

And a certain character in Hell’s Acre is giving me trouble. He insisted on showing up and making cryptic pronouncements, now he’s hanging out on a rooftop and moping. The urge to chuck a story-boulder onto his head to solve the problem is overwhelming, but instead I have to patiently bother and tease until he tells me what his goddamn deal is.

Ah well. As long as I’m frustrated over the imaginary people inside my head, I suppose I’m doing all right.

Oh, and the cordless weed whacker (not euphemism, thank you) works like a charm. I got most of the patio mostly excavated yesterday evening. I can rake the dried stuff away this afternoon and take another pass. It’s much easier than the other trimmer, which had to have an extension cord I was deathly afraid of getting tangled or cut. Technology, my stars and garters. We could do such wonderful things, us humans, if a malignant minority of us wasn’t given so much power and petting.

I’m contemplating another quad shot of espresso with brekkie, just to get some of the cottonwool out of my poor benighted skull. No run today, since going out after a terrible insomniac night is simply asking for injury, but I can fire up the yoga app and have it take me through a few sun salutations. (Another marvelous innovation.) Boxnoggin is slowly settling into being the only dog in the house; he doesn’t seem to be grieving so hard he needs a companion. Some dogs don’t; we may be a single-canine house for a while.

And whoever was running the leaf blowers seems to have finished their project, so there’s that. I’m sure someone else will start up with blowers elsewhere in the neighborhood soon, and if they don’t the pressure-washer brigade will be out. (I’m amazed some people have any driveways left, the way they blast them.) But for the moment there is a bit of peace, and I can shuffle for the toaster at a slow but steady pace.

The little things. I stalk them, pounce, hold the few moments’ worth of good feeling to my chest, treasure its gilded hide and hollow bones before opening my claws, one by one, to let them flutter elsewhere.

Here’s to the chance that can get me (all of us, really) through the day.