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.

Finish and Insurance

The radio inside my head was tuned to Culture Club this morning. I stood in front of Horace de Brassiere humming and wondering if Boy George ever introduced himself as, “George, Boy George,” when ordering a martini.

My brain is a wonderland. An exceedingly weird one.

I’m six chapters away from uploading the end of the werelion book. I have to say, it’s absurdly freeing to know it’s semi-hidden, and not expecting anyone to find it. It’s an homage to VC Andrews and Cat People, and I expected there to be more erotica. But the book takes the shape it wants, not the shape I think I want, and apparently I was more interested in purple prose poetry and some of the underlying plot features of Andrews’s work. It annoys me to a certain degree, I longed to test my smut-writing.

Ah well. I still have the pseudonym, and once the book rests a bit I might do a “director’s edition” with all the stuff I didn’t put into this iteration. That’s the freedom of choosing another name. One pays for it by having to start all over with building an audience, but sometimes that price is acceptable. And I can view this as just one more lesson in letting the work take the contours it, in its infinite wisdom, desires. The story knows what it needs better than I do in some cases, and part of this career is knowing when those times are.

We’re in the last days of the April sale; Damage is no longer on sale but Rose & Thunder still is until the 30th. I should decide what I want next month’s sale to be, or even if I want to run one. I’m tired right now, from the end of a zero draft as well as the revision to get it into serial format, so I probably shouldn’t be making any decisions until the damn thing is done and I have a few minutes to breathe.

And we have an insurance adjustor coming today to view the storm damage. I am unhappy about this, since the insurance company has never done right by us, but I’m waiting to see if this will be the moment that bucks the trend. I know adjustors are just people trying to do their job and the real problem is the institutionalized nastiness of giant corporations, especially those which profit off human misery and fear (what else is insurance, really?) so it’s no trouble to be polite…and at the same time, I am nervous and so stressed the dogs can sense it, and are tetchy as well.

So today will be a great deal of fun, for a certain value of the word. At least there’s the prospect of one giant project finishing today, so as soon as the adjustor is gone upon their merry way and I upload the last chapter I can heave a sigh of relief and wander out of my office like the shell-shocked survivor of some great disaster. I might even be able to go to bed early, or at least collapse on the couch and groan with feeling while the dogs lobby hard to clamber up and use me as a cushion.

It will be a relief to get back to paying projects, especially if the insurance company tries to weasel out of their contractually obligated replacing and repairing. And I’m taking a week off the other serial before it starts Season Two, so at least there’s that. Maybe I’ll even get some real rest in.

It’s doubtful, but the hope keeps one going. I can feel the coffee soaking in and the dogs are eager for their toast-crust, so I should be about my business. I’ll be calmer, not to mention far more gracious, after we finish with walkies and I get my weary corpse prodded through a run. Exercise works wonders, and while I’m running I won’t have to chew over Great Life Problems, being entirely occupied with dragging in enough oxygen to fuel my shamble and untangling plot snarls in whatever story decides to torment me while I’m out of the house.

…I did have more to say, especially about that silly oligarch attempting to buy Twitter just so he can ban people who mock his silly oligarch self and invite an orange shitgibbon back in to stink up the joint, but I’m not in the mood for that. I do think it’s interesting there was a giant purge of bots along with a mass exodus from hellsite as the news began to filter out, and I have some (probably inaccurate, but I don’t think so since I’ve learned never to underestimate the greed of rich white men) thoughts on what that means. But why ruin my day (and yours) further by unpacking that?

Honestly, I’d rather finish my coffee and get started. Those final six chapters aren’t gonna revise themselves, more’s the pity.

See you around, my beloveds.

Sixth Time Friday

Snow? Ha. I scoff at such inclemency!

How is it Friday? Wait. Is it Friday?

…I checked, for the sixth time this morning. It is indeed and irrevocably Friday, and I’m pretty sure the recent freak snowstorm was winter’s very last gasp. Sometimes seasons like a long drawn-out death, like certain movie villains. Remember Alan Rickman’s death scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Everything about that movie was fantastic, except for Kevin Costner.

Christ, I’m old.

Anyway, it’s Friday. There’s an upcoming Tea with Lili today, where we’ll be talking about how to deal with snapback. (I will still be knitting on the same damn shawl.) I’m sure there will be other tangents and subjects, as per usual.

It is a hushed, dripping, misty morning, and the neighborhood is quiet. This is, I suspect, a mercy of short duration. Even the dogs are subdued (don’t worry, this won’t last) and I am only a third of the way through my coffee. The week is bouncing around inside me, trying to find a place to settle, and I dislike the feeling intensely.

I’ll be working all weekend, but at least I can take a deep breath while the fog wraps the trees–blooming or simply leafing out–in cotton and the birds gather on the Yankee Squirrel Flinger. I do really have to tell you guys about Boxnoggin and the windchimes, you guys will enjoy that story even if it’s embarrassing–for him, mind you, though he’s forgotten all about it already.

I was wearing shoes and thus escaped shame. (Mostly.)

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. May your weather be fair, your pets hilarious, and your relaxation epic.

See you next week.

On Privacy, and Cleaning

The snow is mostly gone, which means (according to the dogs) that everything is back to normal and they have forgotten there were even snow days at all. Consequently, the trace of white lingering in the backyard represents a Change and thus something Boxnoggin has to bark at. The humans must be alerted to Change, because Change is Bad.

At least they got a long ramble yesterday, so as far as they’re concerned, everything is swell.

I am engaged upon two projects at the moment–a revise of the third book in an epic fantasy series, and some digital housekeeping. Pandemic lockdown’s been going on for over a year now; I’ve largely adapted to video calls and the like. The lockdown adjustment period was a marvel of people reaching out, pulling together, and caring for each other–which is, don’t get me wrong, still going on and is wonderful beyond measure.

It was also a helluva gift for predators of varying kinds, taking advantage of the open doors and grace. Which is fine–I’d rather help those who need it despite the risk. Yet now with things settling1 I have hit the wall, and am taking a good hard look at some of the things I’ve allowed into my space(s).

It used to be I would just let things go, smile and nod and Put Up With It until I reached a breaking point, grabbed my katana, and cut a problem right in half. Which solves a great many things but also baffles onlookers, because up until that point I am flexible as a contortionist and accommodating as all get-out. I’ve been attempting to alter that pattern, because the fallout takes up a lot of time I could otherwise spend on pleasant things.2

And sometimes it’s not even a predator. Sometimes–and this is something you’re never supposed to admit, as a woman–there are people one just doesn’t like. And that’s perfectly okay! Heaven knows there are people I just rub the wrong way.3 With nine billion of us on the planet, it’s ridiculous to expect to like or be liked by everyone. Deciding not to spend time with someone you dislike doesn’t make you a bad person–far from. It can, in fact, free you up to spend time with those you do like.

Now, there are people one dislikes that one has to be professional with for the sake of getting along, or even just having a reasonably calm time at one’s job. That’s not what I’m on about here. I’m talking purely personally, which gets a little strange since I’m partly a public personality, what with social media giving access to creators in unprecedented ways. I’m endlessly glad I’ve had only middling success and am not famous, which just douses this particular dynamic with jet fuel and lights a match.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get creeps, or stalkers, or people who want to be published and think feigning friendship is the way to get there, or even just the lonely. My natural inclination to be as kind as possible has been weaponized against me before, and that’s left a mark. Plus, I don’t take vacations or days off, really. The nature of the work–being basically a freelancer supporting an entire household–means no time for it, and very little time for keeping up with the telly or even streaming the New Hot HBO-or-Whatever Series. So the people who want access to me for, let’s say, non-friendly reasons tend to get sorted out pretty quickly, and I’m vigilant.

Sometimes they work their way in, though, especially when the digital “doors” open up because there’s a catastrophe and I’m actively seeking to be as kind as possible to as many as possible. I realized lately that I’d been avoiding certain places where I used to find a lot of solace and support because of this dynamic, and I don’t like it.

Which means it’s time for cleaning. It’s spring, might as well. I did a whole thread yesterday about the struggle of leaving behind people you care about in a space that no longer feels safe, and how it’s okay to protect yourself. It’s advice I wish I would have had when younger. This sort of cleaning is a difficult, painful process, not least because one naturally wants to accomplish it without hurting or harming the innocent, so to speak. For me, it’s best accomplished slowly, in patient stages, and well before I reach the katana phase.

Being a public person means one is going to get a certain amount of creep swirling around one’s mentions, comments, and the like. It’s a hazard of the job, but one doesn’t have to deal with it everywhere. It’s perfectly natural and reasonable to keep some spaces private; the world is not owed access to every single moment of your day, despite the inevitable pressure to open up for it. And if your decision to keep some parts private gets you yelled at by Certain People, that says more about them than it does about you.

By their works shall ye know them, and all that. Plus, if we’re dispensing homilies, those who mind that you’re keeping some spaces private don’t matter, and those who matter won’t mind.

Now it’s time to ramble the dogs, for the snow is gone and they are eager to be back to our regular schedule. I also get a run today, since the melt has been accomplished to the point where I’m fairly sure I won’t slip and break my fool neck while attempting warp speed on icy pavement. I’m nervy and anxious to get out the door, but before I go, I’d just like to reiterate: It’s okay to keep some things private, or to put up the walls and declare some parts of your self not-for-sharing. It’s also okay to leave a space where you no longer feel safe; like the airplane disaster videos say, you must first adjust your own mask before helping anyone else with theirs.

This is difficult as all get-out, and should you find it overwhelming you’re not alone. It’s a hard thing, and it takes time.

But you–yes, you reading this–are worth it. And (though I often forget as much) so am I.

Over and out.

Elastic Time, Successive Shocks

Well, it was a weekend, I suppose. That’s all that can be said for it.

In publishing news, Amazon continues its gutting of Goodreads. I left that platform a long while ago, though I retained my username to avoid impersonations; the writing on the wall was very clear. If you want a good alternative that doesn’t victimize readers or authors as part of Bezos’s profiteering, I’d suggest Candl.

2020 is wending to a close. I thought I was doing relatively well–a nervous breakdown that led to a portal fantasy, mostly hitting my deadlines (being late on the one for The Bloody Throne, but only by a month or so) and keeping the kids housed and the dogs fed and vice versa. But…

It’s hard to sleep, and hard to get out of bed. You’d think the insomnia would propel me forth like a jack in the box, and a few years ago before the mild antidepressants to deal with the anxiety it probably would have. I used to spend a lot of nights wandering the house, touching bookshelves and listening to Mahler’s Fourth or Back’s Goldberg Variations. Sometimes I wrote during insomniac nights, though I’d always need to clean up the text the next morning after coffee and it seemed a little more trouble than it was worth.

I tapered off all meds last year (I think? Time is increasingly elastic; I just know it was before 2020) and was somewhat amazed I haven’t gone back on them. They were intended to be a breather while I rewired my brain and anxiety circuits, and I remain grateful for the respite. It was, as far as I can tell, a complete success. But the cumulative shocks are beginning to tell, I think; I am hanging on by teeth and fingernails.

Anyway, I was going to watch Paranormal Activity last night, but I got sucked into Fellowship of the Ring instead. I vividly remember watching it in the theatre with my sisters and the Princess, and at the end heaving a giant relief and murmuring, “At least it didn’t suck,” in chorus with said sisters. I think it’s the Lucas Effect–Jackson still had collaborators who could rein him in during LOTR; with the Hobbit trilogy the collaborators lost that power and there was a significant change in quality.1

Still, if I’m going to be yelling about Tolkien the way I do, I suppose I can’t knock Jackson for playing in the legendarium in his own specific way.2 It does kind of suck I don’t have the multimillion dollar budget to fund my own fanfic, but ah well. I shall persevere, once I decide whether I want to write just straight Gondolin fanfic or Team MonsterFucker Goes to Gondolin as an epic.

Choices, choices. Porqué no los dos, right?3

Anyway, the dogs need walking and I just realized I put my jumper on backwards this morning. Monday is off to a roaring start, but at least the sleep deprivation means everything is funny instead of terrible. The Princess and I are narrating Boxnoggin’s morning every time he dances at the top of the stairs–he wants a cat, and the Mad Tortie is taunting him through the gate. She absolutely loves tormenting him, since Miss B has reached the advanced age where she isn’t even attempting to herd the Tortie anymore.

Narrating your pet’s day in weird voices is one of the many joys of cohabitating with furry quadrupeds. Between Miss B’s constant grousing and Boxnoggin’s dopey happy-go-lucky, it’s a barrel of fun. Sleep deprivation adds an edge of zaniness to the whole thing.

At least if we’re laughing we’re not screaming. And that’s about the best I can expect on a Monday, methinks. Go have some fun and amusement if you can, my beloveds. We’re on the last lap, in the final stretch, and even if next year is worse we can at least say with pride that we endured this one.

…that isn’t quite the ringing statement it sounded like in my head, is it. Nevertheless, we’ve persisted.

Over and out.

What Weekend?

I spent the weekend on line edits for an upcoming romance (you guys are gonna love this one) and crashed pretty hard Sunday afternoon. Every wound and swelling left over from Boxnoggin trying to murder me via pavement was speaking up, and I had a headache so bad I was thinking “brain bleed, Lili, you’re gonna die.”

So I made dinner and went to bed early, figuring if I was going to shuffle off the mortal coil I might as well be snuggled under comforters when it happens. There were confused dreams of the fall of Gondolin mixed with a bank-heist caper and a Shannara-style wishsong sequence through a city overgrown with giant sentient tentacles, too.

It was fun inside my skull last night.

In any case, the headache is gone as if it never existed, I feel a thousand percent better, and the swelling has gone down dramatically. Of course I just needed rest, and was unwilling to take it because there was work to be done, dammit.

I also learned a new word this past weekend: Irisu. Apparently it’s Japanese for “not answering the doorbell even though you’re home.” It pleases me there’s an actual term for it.

I don’t know if this is exactly accurate–if a native or educated speaker is reading this, feel free to correct in the comments–but it’s a concept I love. The doorbell, like the telephone, is a convenience, not an obligation, and in a world where we’re expected to be “on” all the time it feels delicious to carve out a little space for oneself. (Especially when it’s employers expecting us to cater to corporate whims 24/7.)

In any case the line edits are sent off–my editor is a bloody saint, I love her, and she is available for hire if that NaNo novel of yours wants a shot at rising to the top of the query or slush pile–and today I take a short easy run and a whirl through the portal fantasy one last time before it goes out the door and on submission. That should eat up half the day, and maybe if I play my cards just right I’ll be able to take half Monday off in recompense for working all damn weekend.

I don’t want to relax too much, though. For one thing, the sudden release of pressure might cause the bends.

Boxnoggin feels pretty bad about the murder-by-pavement thing; I might not take him on a run for a while just in case. His stomach seems a little nervous, probably because I was not my usual self this weekend, being mostly nonverbal and stare-y. He keeps trying to lick at my healing wounds, his big brown eyes full of pleading when I flinch and say “ow, kiddo, maybe not that.” Miss B, of course, has decided to show her concern by relentlessly bossing and herding both of us. Boxnoggin will break off playing with her to trot back to the office and check on me, his head cocked at an anxious and inquisitive angle; she will race down the hall and skid into said office to give a sharp, half-muffled bark (since I will snap “don’t take that tone in my office, woman” at her) and nips and herds him out to the living room to play some more.

It’s a good thing they have each other to keep occupied. Just thinking about amusing either of them for a stretch makes me tired.

And now it’s time to get out the door, since I’ve already crossed off a few things on the to-do list. Retreating to the couch with Unfinished Tales sounds like a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and might even give me more fuel for yelling about Tolkien™ at a later date. Which I’m sure you’re in breathless anticipation of, my dears. (I have a lot to say about Feanor, but who doesn’t?)

Anyway. Happy Monday, beloveds, we’re on the downward slope of 2020 and it looks like the coup might have failed this time (of course, they’ll just try again harder in 2024, I’m sure) but the damage is deep enough to satisfy even the worst sociopaths in office.

…yeah, I’m not very optimistic today. Maybe it’s the scabs and the residual swelling.

Over and out.