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.

Driven Me To

Yes, my darlings, this is what lockdown and fascist coup have driven me to: sobbing into Keep Calm and Carry On tissues while drinking my emergency can of wine. (This was last Friday, if I’m being strictly honest.)

This week, we do have a D&D game. I have a murder himbo to hire, a date between our ranger and a dwarf named Gracie to cheer on, and a party to attend. My cleric has a new dress, the rogue’s gnoll toddler has a babysitter, our half-orc barbarian has a new zoot suit, and our paladin has no idea what she’s gotten herself into.

So instead of sobbing I’ll be laughing maniacally, chewing on a burrito, and maybe downing an edible or two while being the in-game equivalent of a chaos generator. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you have a nice Friday evening planned too, my beloveds. But first I’ve got to get through the work day. Dogs need walking, there’s a run in the pouring rain to get done, and if I work myself to the bone today I will feel absolutely no guilt about knocking off early to play with my friends.

Take what joy you can. We’ve survived another week. I think we all deserve a pat on the back and something fun.

Dungeon, Dragon, Lockdown

The wind is pouring through the Columbia Gorge; yesterday afternoon it bore smoke on its back, darkening the sky in the space of an hour and turning the sunset into a lake of blood. This morning most of the burning is gone, though I can still taste a tang or two as the wind shifts. It sounds like the sea, and the trees are flinging bits of themselves away with abandon.

It’s a nice day to be back at work, a nice day to walk the dogs, and a particularly nice day to write fanfic of our D&D campaign. I can’t do the last until I finish actual work, but I can long for it all I want.

Our weekly game was started during lockdown; our DM takes morale during uncertain times very seriously and, after a small starter campaign that almost broke us (it wasn’t designed for our play style, but we muddled through anyhow) we are now embarking on a homebrew. I haven’t played since high school, and am surprised by how much fun it is with adults.

We have the half-orc barbarian whose sartorial sense is only rivaled by his backhand and his cooking skill, a sylvan half-elf ranger obsessed with weapons and linguistics, a rogue with several past marriages and a gnoll toddler (both things unrelated to each other), an elvish vengeance paladin who keeps muttering oh my goddess, not again, and my own character–sort of my id let loose–a very young elf cleric whose last major act was biting some jerk’s nose off in a tavern.

We are a lot of fun, if you haven’t guessed. The entire session is a cacophony of laughter, in-jokes, moaning or cheering at dice rolls, lunatic roleplaying, and the DM throwing up her hands and sighing “Y’all need Jesus,” at least twice a session.

The first “Y’all need Jesus” is always celebrated with much glee.

Honestly, if I’d known it was this fun, I would have started doing this ages ago. But my initial experiences with the game were… well, it was a bunch of teenage boys who didn’t like a girl playing, so that was unpleasant. And I’m told we’re not the usual group–seducing the catfish is our preferred method, although when the murder starts we’re frighteningly good at it. The homebrew campaign is going to be a sort of mafia-wars thing in a Waterdeep-based city, and our first night in town we made a gigantic enemy who will probably kill us all.

And we regret nothing. Even the whole “steal from the banshee and almost die” affair.

Amusingly enough, with three paying projects on the burners and the alien romance tapping its foot and waiting impatiently, I’ve started doing quasi-writeups of our sessions as well–suitably altered for fiction, of course–because it’s hilarious, and it gives me a version of the fun feeling the game does. It will probably remain unfinished forever, or its finished version will eventually bear absolutely no relation to the game, but for the moment it’s therapeutic as fuck.

The biggest thing for me is a few hours each week where I don’t have to be myself, and further don’t have to perform emotional labor for everyone in range. There are consequences to actions in-game, of course, but very few outside, and that is utterly liberating. The feeling of pressure slipping away when Friday afternoon rolls around is luxurious. It’s been one thing keeping me sane through lockdown, and the story is just a bonus.

I suppose it wouldn’t work quite as well if DM, rogue, cleric, and ranger hadn’t been friends for almost a decade. The communication strategies evolved during long-term friendship have stood us in good stead, and there’s a deep comfort to doing outlandish things with people who understand your weirdness.

Not only that, but the DM created an NPC for my cleric that tickles all my narrative kinks. If that’s not saying I love you, I don’t know what is.

Happy Tuesday, my beloveds. I’m beginning to think I might get through, you know, all this. (Imagine me waving my hands wildly, indicating the entire world on fire.) At least I’ll go down laughing, if I must fall at all.

Over and out.

Tea, Falafel, Strategy

Made chana masala last night, so that’s what we’ll be eating for a few days. And yet, my hunger for chickpeas has not abated, and I want falafel. I want falafel with the burning desire of a thousand suns, probably because I’m super hungry after the morning’s run and I haven’t had a chance to get anything but toast down, helped along with a prodigious amount of tea.

There is even more tea cooling next to the keyboard as I type this. I thought the run would sand off my smooth edges, but I am sharp in every direction today. My temper is so jagged I have retreated (of course with a tankard of English Breakfast) to the office, and I’m casting around for a scene to write that won’t suffer from my mood.

Fortunately, there’s more than one combat scene upcoming, so I can focus on those today. Despite getting up early I’ve been grousing about and now I feel like there’s not enough time left in the day. (And it’s barely bloody noon, fa cry-eye.)

The thing about operating under these conditions is that when a good day comes along hope starts to bloom again, but then a bad one arrives and since all your resilience has gone towards the cognitive load of dealing with ongoing disaster, there’s nothing left to dull the edges or insulate the nerves.

So it’s muttering into my tea and writing nasty things happening to characters I rather like. At least I can still work–creating, despite its cost, is the only thing that gives me any sense of agency anymore.

And humans do very poorly when robbed of a sense of agency.

What’s keeping you going, dearly beloveds? I confess I am asking on the off chance that someone might have a tactic I haven’t tried yet, but I figure the more we share of our various ideas and strategies, the better off we all are. So… is there anything giving you a sense of power or agency lately? What’s holding you afloat?

Percy Rolls For Me

We’ll return to the tale of Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable on Monday. For right now, meet Percy, my liver-shaped D&D mascot.

My current D&D character (I’m playing online with a few friends; we’re using Roll20 and Discord to handle communications and other minutiae) is a baby high elf cleric with an… interesting… upbringing. Somehow, she’s gotten in the habit of collecting organs from those NPCs silly enough to choose combat over discussion with our group1, so her best in-game friend (the rogue with several false identities who just had to steal from the banshee during that one session, don’t ask, we survived, it’s good enough) sent her this beautiful plush liver from IHeartGuts.

His name is Percy, and during our next D&D sessions he’s going to roll for me. Maybe he’ll have better luck with the strength checks than I do. I can hope, right? (Of course, who needs strength when your charisma’s insanely high?)

The world is on fire, but I’m looking forward to having some fun with my group tonight. I hope you have something pleasant to take refuge in as well, dear Reader. If anything can save us, it’s human connections–and it doesn’t get much more human than playing games.

Have a lovely weekend.