Flakes, Time, and (French) Toast

A lot of you are on the cake train, and I’ve got to say, if that’s my contribution to the rising relief, I’m happy with it. (Bonus for all the “cake wasn’t a lie!” jokes. I knew you were My People.)

However, I have definitely had enough cake, and though the enjoyment of cake is a renewable resource, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make another one for a while.

The weather feathers are saying snow today. It won’t last–it never does in this temperate part of the world–but it’ll be nice to drink some hot cocoa and watch it come down, even if nobody told me we were out of sandwich bread.

Bloody hell.

I’m not heading out to the grocer’s under these conditions. Everyone will be out panicking through their French toast shopping–eggs, milk, bread. I suppose I could whip up some bread dough and have that be the day’s project along with getting the end of HOOD‘s Season Three arranged. I need this zero draft done, boy howdy.

I had a hot knitting date last night, so I didn’t get in any work on the Viking Elementalist. It’s all right, I still have to figure out what happens on her first night sleeping away from home. I think the werewolves are going to make an appearance, though not in the way the protagonist might expect.

I originally had a huge set-piece chase and stuff planned for the end of HOOD but it just doesn’t make sense. The story wants a different route. I just wish it would have told me before now, but honestly, it was a bad year for both of us and I’m holding no grudges. I have to have faith that the story knows what it’s doing and will bring us all home safely.

Faith in anything else, however, is in somewhat short supply around here lately. (Need I restate, it was a bad year and the January following was a real dilly too, even though it hasn’t even ended yet?) It hasn’t been a full week since the inauguration, but the time feels endless. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to the pre-pandemic experience of time. I’m reserving judgment on whether that’s a good or bad thing, just like I’m waiting to see if there will be any consequences leveled at violent racist insurrectionists.

I had a whole rant flash through my mind about how we’re all shaky-legged in the first recovery stage after major ongoing abusive trauma, trying to breathe and flinching every time the madness looks like it’s about to start up again. But Boxnoggin is alerting every time a stray gust of wind goes down the street, and I can’t keep a sentence in my head long enough to type while he’s interrupting every other word.

He wants his damn ramble, even though he’s going to pick up his dainty paws and give me many a reproachful glance as soon as he realizes it’s near freezing and yes, we’re bloody well walking even though he’s changed his mind.

You know, I bet I can still have the big chase at the end of Season Three if…

*time passes*

…aaaaaand I managed to get the idea onto a Post-it before Boxnoggin lost his shit again, since a nice lady with a stroller and two well-trained dogs was passing in front of our house, and apparently that Cannot Be Borne. There’s sixty-plus pounds of dopey black boxer-terrier who needs to frickin’ chill, and he won’t until after a ramble.

Wish me luck. It’s cold out there, and maybe I’ll see a flake or two. Atmospheric, though. Not human. (Though our neighborhood has no shortage of the latter…)

Over and out.

Nervousness and Fanfic

We’re at less than 48 hours until adults are in charge again, and I can’t settle. I can barely breathe for the anxiety. I’m braced for more terrible fascist violence. I expect a good hard run today will help shake some of that out, but the nervousness is going to mount until the actual event.

Quite possibly beyond, too. Already I can’t even sit still.

The dogs don’t know why I’m so nervy, of course, and I’m content to have it so. The last thing they need is politics swamping their tiny doggy brains. Still, they’re both very concerned and sticking to me like velcro, attempting to soothe whatever invisible thing is tormenting their human.

Tormenting me is their job, and they don’t like being superseded.

I was supposed to take the weekend off, and am also not allowed to work today. Burnout is awful. I want to work, not least because it’s how I escape *waves hands* All That. I might–might–be allowed to write some fanfic; the only question there is what kind.

There was a bit of a dustup on social media over the weekend about fanfic. Someone just had to get shitty over it, which is about par for the course and happens with depressing regularity. I was heartened to see everyone whose opinion I respect weighing in on the side of “Fanfic is glorious, stfu”; it let me know I’m following the right people.

You can’t get better as a writer without, well, actually writing. (And reading, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Fanfic is great practice; it can be training wheels, fuel, and bowling bumpers all at once. It’s also a deep compliment to the original writer–I love your characters/world so much, I can’t let go of either.

I have strong and very definite feelings about writing–I believe in writing every day. (Burnout, of course, means only about 200 words a day on something that won’t ever be published, but it’s keeping the habit that matters.) But as for what that daily writing can be? It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfic, drabbles, original, dialogue sparks, or what-have-you.

A writer isn’t a writer without a lot of reading; it doesn’t matter what you read. It matters that you read, and likewise, it doesn’t matter what you write. It matters that you write.

It matters that you get in the habit of prioritizing your writing, that you reserve some of your daily energy for it, that you practice. It matters that you do. Writers write, it’s the nature of the beast.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people will be upset at the “write every day” thing, but you’re here on my site and I’m telling you what I think, so deal. The fact remains that fanfic is a gift, a great practice, plus it strengthens a writer’s grasp of characterization, structure, plot, timing, and craft. I suspect the “writer” of that silly thread touching all this off is just annoyed that nobody likes her characters enough to write ficlets about them.

I can’t, of course, read any fanfic of my own work, for fear of poisoning the well or possible legal ramifications. But you bet your bippy any time I’m told someone loved my stories enough to want to write in those universes, I get a deep warm feeling and can’t help but grin. I consider it a huge high compliment that the characters in my head have also made themselves at home inside someone else’s. It’s a beautiful, joyous, loving gift, even if the fanfic writer was mad at me for an ending or a character’s fate.

Love or hate of my work is fine. The job of a writer is to provoke an emotional reaction, and either is acceptable. The very worst reaction to one’s work is lukewarm boredom; I don’t even mind the hatemail or the how could you emails, because those mean I’ve done my damn job.

So. In case there was any confusion about where I stand on fanfic, let me reiterate: Fanfiction is GREAT. It’s awesome, I love it, and it makes writers better. Do it all you want. It doesn’t matter what you write, it matters only that you write.

And now I go walk the dogs, not to mention run myself ragged, and try to distract myself from dread and anxiety. And later today I’m probably going to write some Madalorian fanfic. Sure, only 200 words or so, but it’ll keep my hand in, and it’s my own personal fuck you to the idea that fanfic writers are somehow lesser creatures.

Over and out.

Swimming, Smile

The morning has started with Boxnoggin jostling Miss B into punching Yours Truly in the mouth with her paw. Of course when I let out a short blurt of surprise and recoiled, both dogs realized their human was hurt in some fashion and scrambled to attempt aid. Which meant stepping upon my recumbent self, nose-punching me in the eye, scraping my shoulder with doggie nails, and then getting into a shoving match with each other. I had a swollen lip before I even rolled out of bed, and my eye is still watering.

This doesn’t bode well for Thursday, but maybe the day’s just getting everything out of its system early?

At least I have coffee. Some days the java just tastes better, and this is one of them.

I only got 450 or so words on HOOD‘s Season Three before dark yesterday. Once the sun went down, though, things got better and I ended up with a solid 2k+. Of course I’ll have to look today to see if any of them are good words that can be retained.

No silver lining without a cloud, naturally.

Once I get the zero of Season Three out, it’ll be time to cross that off my big to-do list and figure out the next six months’ worth of writing. Normally I juggle one serial, two trad publisher books, and one project Just For Me at a time, with small breaks for revisions, copyedits, and the like. With the loss of productivity due to pandemic, fascist coup, and related stress, I’m not sure if that’s do-able.

But if I don’t write, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. Not to mention I can’t go a day without writing at least something, or I start to feel diamond-tipped insect-feet itches under my skin.1 It’s just easier to continue pushing myself than to allow any sort of break.

It’s very… sharklike. Keep swimming so I don’t suffocate, and wear a smile.

So. Thursday is antsy, but so am I. My coffee has cooled rapidly while typing this, and the dogs are very eager for walkies. I find myself eager to get out for a run; getting rid of cortisol and other stress chemicals through sweat has been a real sanity-saver. Of course, it doesn’t balance out the stress-eating, but then again nothing’s perfect.

Except for dogs, that is. Even when they punch me in the face first thing in the morning.

All right, Thursday. We’re not going to hurt each other (any more), are we? Because I’m in a mood to lay some napalm if you get dodgy.

Over and out.

Knitting Weekend

The weekend was almost as exhausting as the week it closed out, wasn’t it. Whew.

But it also held good things, and this morning I want to focus on the good things. On Saturday I decided to do something I’ve never done before, and livestreamed a bit on Twitch. It wasn’t much–just me sitting, knitting, bitching, and answering questions from the chat. There were a lot of questions about writing, and a lot of me staring blankly because I couldn’t think of anything to say. I am told I have a restful voice, though.

It was an interesting experience. I intend to have some regular Saturday sessions, only for as long as it’s fun. I’ve promised myself the power to can the whole experiment the moment it becomes un-fun. it was nerve-wracking and exhausting but also cool to get Reader questions in realtime, though I’m sure my frequent digressions are maddening.

Come Sunday, there was a full day of chores, and finally I could settle with more knitting and Secrets of Great British Castles, which was fun to binge and deeply interesting. (There was a lot of knitting this weekend.) Of course I did a lot of doomscrolling, too.

I can barely look away.

Still, it’s Monday, which means work. There are copyedits to get done, and the last thing on the master to-do list hanging over my desktop–finishing the zero of HOOD‘s Season Three–to strike off. I have been waffling about what serial to do next. It might be Division Seven, it might be the story spurred by my Sapphire & Steel binge… I am also thinking about whether or not I want to try The Highlands War as a serial, but the chance of someone being pissy and torrenting chapters, thereby killing the entire series all over again, is not really one I want to run.

Before I get started on that, though…

Last Thursday I blogged about cookies and the fascist rioters storming the US Capitol. I woke up this morning to find a commenter (who has apparently had comments approved here before, which is how this particular one got through the mod queue) taking issue with my loathing of fascists, and telling me I had LOST a READER because of it.

I shall repeat my response here, so there is absolutely no confusion, grey area, or lack of clarity: GOOD. If my loathing of racists and fascists means you won’t buy my books, GREAT. I do not want you or your money. Off is the direction in which you may fuck.

I am deeply and genuinely baffled that this commenter thought they’d get any other response. At least it gives me the chance to be absolutely clear about where I stand. And that, as they say, is that.

I’m doing my best to focus on the good things–the dogs thrilled to be embarking on another day of adventures and snuggles, the kids going about their own lives full of daily victories and setbacks to share, books to write, knitting to do, friends to cheer on and console, the cedars at the back fence to talk to, a run to accomplish, coffee to drink, the prospect of lunch, the fact that I’m still breathing. There are good things still, and things worth fighting for.

Gods grant I don’t forget it.

So, to end in a more pleasant place, what good/fun things are happening in your slice of the world? Tell me all about it, if you’ve a mind to–no matter how small. Tiny victories are still victories, indeed.

After all, we’re still here. And I think that’s grand.

Some Victories, Not All

The dogs are quite upset that I won’t go anywhere without finishing my coffee. I try to tell them it’s for the best, that dragging me anywhere uncaffeinated is a Very Bad Idea, but since they’ve never known1 the glory of tea or a latte they are unwilling to be convinced.

Yesterday was… not very productive. I should have known that two days of normal work would require a day of threadbare wandering the house, muttering to myself and being utterly unable to settle or produce anything like real text. I did roll around in a couple trunk novels and change a hair color in the portal fantasy–what on earth did we ever do without Ctrl-F, I ask you–and savaged myself internally for being so apparently lazy I can’t produce at my usual rate during a pandemic and attempted fascist coup.

I’ll take “Things you say to yourself that you would never dream of saying to a friend” for $400, Alex.2

I do know what we did without Ctrl-F; I wrote two novellas on a manual typewriter when I was a very young sprout. Both are resting safely in a landfill somewhere; I couldn’t go back to retrieve them like a gecko running back to eat a tail they left in a predator’s claws, even if I wanted to. Still, both burn in me, and sometimes I think of them and my old diaries, safe amid tons of rubbish.

When you have to throw away things that matter to you to survive, their ghosts can still comfort you. The important thing was that my adult caregivers–I don’t really want to call them parents–couldn’t grab and befoul them. Some victories, even though Pyrrhic, are still worth celebrating.

Not all. Just some.

Anyway, I’m vertical, if not technically awake, and sucking on some lovely espresso-ground caffeine sent by a dear friend. The dogs are patrolling up and down the hall, ready to nudge me for where the leashes hang near the sliding glass door to the deck upon the very instant I seem ready to take them for walkies. Yesterday held no thunderstorms–for which said dogs are grateful, even if I am slightly disappointed–despite the unsettled rain-sun-rain bands moving through. That’s probably the cause of the throbbing headache I barely even noticed all day, being occupied with kicking myself for being unable to work.

I even went so far as to think “it’s raining, I don’t deserve to be in this house because I’m not working, I should go out and stand in the rain and be miserable.” I know it doesn’t make sense, but apparently control over making myself feel bad is the only control I feel like I have left with the world spinning so violently.

Fortunately I did not go stand in the rain. For one thing, the dogs would insist on accompanying me, and I didn’t want them cold or wet. For another, I realized it was a ridiculous thought, though it recurred at jet-takeoff volume inside my head all throughout the day. Instead, I made myself hot chocolate, texted friends, snuggled the dogs, attempted to read, touched shelves of books, and tried to watch Richard Armitage smoldering in a cravat.

Finally, I settled in bed last night with old war documentaries. I don’t know why they’re so soothing–probably the fact that the situations in them are long done with, nothing I can affect either way, and the narrator’s voice stays at a steady droning pitch throughout, maybe. It does mean my dreams are mostly in sepia with weird flashes of hypersaturated color instead of all-color, which gave me a bit of startlement when I surfaced this morning. I thought holy shit, have I lost dreaming in color too?

I have absorbed a bare minimum of caffeine now, so am probably safe to leave the house for dog-walking and the running of the Boxnoggin. Said Boxnoggin is prancing up and down the hall, attempting to drag me forth by sheer force of will; Miss B has settled on my feet as I type, on the principle that the instant I move she will be alerted and ready to supervise and heeeeerd me.

Suppose I’d best get going, then. This is the downside of priding oneself on sheer endurance; one can’t even mope in the rain like a silly romantic poet.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know it’s rough, but it’s survival, and that is a victory. A non-Pyrrhic one, even.

Over and out.

Week of Small Mercies

The Princess works at a grocer’s; the store requires all customers and staff to mask up or I would be asking her to quit. There’s no denying her paycheck contributes mightily to the household; she pushed very hard to take over a couple monthly bills–it makes her feel Grown Up, which she is; is also is much cheaper than having her own place by an order of magnitude. Like, ridiculously cheaper.

Those considerations are weighty, true. But when I swung by to pick her up from work yesterday, the place was jammed. Looming lockdown has everyone scrambling, and I have been tentatively broaching, “You know, we can cut some financial corners and make it okay if you quit and stay home.”

She’s having none of it yet; I can’t force her. But dear gods, how I worry.

Masks, temperature checks, and attempts to keep distancing are all de rigueur at the store for employees; there were one or two customers who grumbled about masking but swift action from a couple managers put paid to that. So far we’ve been lucky and I’m not sure if the bug we had months ago was actually the plague, or if my recent illness was a recurrence instead of me just working myself into the ground because stress. It would be nice to have testing capability or a federal government run by actual noncriminal adults, but we make do with a governor (who just won re-election, thank goodness) who is following the science and staying the course in the face of resistance from jackass racist death-worshippers.

Small mercies.

I can’t imagine how parents with toddlers, or with school-age kids too young to be left at home while they’re forced to work, are handling this. I can’t imagine how healthcare workers are coping. The guilt of survival, of having it easier, is immense.

Last weekend I felt some hope. This week seems determined to crush it out of me; I’m checking Is This A Coup? almost daily. I can’t tell if the weight in my lungs is leftover from illness or just plain stress.

At least I’m able to work at about half productivity, which means two projects at once instead of four. So we won’t starve just yet, and we’re extraordinarily lucky that my work is home-based.

Even smaller mercies, I suppose.

Also, since a few of you have asked: No, I am no longer on Instagram. I was going through the settings and found out the platform had been “liking” posts for me.

I never “like” or “heart” or whatever posts on any social media; it’s an anxiety thing. If I like or heart or star or whatever one thing, I start spiraling down a hole worrying that someone else will see it and be hurt because I didn’t see or like their thing, and my feeds move so quickly it’s just an invitation to despair. So I know damn well I didn’t do it, and that only leaves chicanery on Instagram’s part. This chicanery probably cost someone ad money, and I will not be party to this bullshit. So, no Insta for me, though I am still kind of squatting on my name there so no impersonators (long story, I would have thought the world was fed up with merely one of me) can do their bullshit. It’s sad, because I enjoyed doing picture posts, but the Friday photos here will have to suffice; I’m looking into Pixelfed as an alternative.

No mercy in that, small or otherwise. I’m just noting so you guys know what’s going on.

And now, having nattered on and on about nothing very interesting in particular, I shall finish the coffee I almost splattered down the hall on my way to the office this morning and prepare to take the dogs on their daily rambles. Boxnoggin is particularly interested in the prospect of another run today; I think he’s beginning to crave them. Necessary evils can be fun sometimes, I’m sure.

It’s only Tuesday. Time has become as elastic as it was during my sleep-deprived phase of new motherhood, though I haven’t mistaken diaper rash cream for toothpaste yet.

Tiny mercies, indeed.

Smoke Angel

This cherub hangs out in a local park; I took this shot the day before the smoke really rolled in. That evening there was only a faint tinge of burning and the wind was warm and nasty, tossing tree branches and kicking discarded paper along paved walks.

For some reason, this little wingéd one caught my eye particularly, mostly because the light was so strange. It wasn’t the directionless, somehow wrong glow of the days that followed, but an odd saturated yellow ambiance. And you can see how dry the grass was; there was a tightening at my nape every time the tinge of smoke intensified.

The animal in me knew something awful was coming, and wanted to run.

This morning, of course, it’s chilly and crisp, and preliminary rains have removed all burning. I should go back and visit the cherub; winter will probably bring moss in its crevices.

But for the moment it remains frozen in this photo for me, an eerie snapshot. I think I’m instinctively avoiding that patch of park for a while, until the too-tight strings inside me relax a fraction. Sometimes one doesn’t need to go back and poke at the scar, even when it’s healed.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves.