Boulders in Finery

A green velvet robe.

A week ago these rocks were covered in shaggy, drought-crackling grey. Now, they’re lush with soft growth. You can see traces of the dry time in brown patches, but the balance has tipped and now they are wearing their winter coats.

My soul has been expanding with the regular autumnal rains. (Finally, my gods.) All the smoke is washed out of the air, though I’m still coughing a bit. Boxnoggin is annoyed with the damp upon his delicate paws, but he’s all in favor of the longer rambles since I can finally breathe while we’re outside.

All in all, it’s beautiful–and my favorite holiday of all is coming up. There are a lot of less-than-ideal things going on right now, certainly. But at least there is moss on the boulders, rain in the air, spooky decorations everywhere, and the peace of knowing the season’s finally turned.

The witch’s year is almost done; we’ve survived another turning. We all deserve a pat on the back–and maybe a bit of our favorite candy.

Happy Halloween weekend, my beloveds. I hope you have a grand one.

Fuss Minimum

The first coffee molecules have hit my epithelial cells, so I’m just waiting for the rest of me to get the sweet life-giving caffeine memo. Boxnoggin is a little perturbed that we’re up while it’s still dark outside, but he’ll adjust. Especially if there’s toast involved, which there will be as soon as my stomach settles and the morning mug is drained.

Yesterday was unsatisfying, but then again, what did I expect of a Monday? I did get some work done, but multiple rounds of updates for the desktop meant plenty of perfectly good working time was spent doing things that weren’t writing. Sure, some administrivia and cleaning got handled, but what I wanted was to be creating. Just settling in my office chair, stretching my fingers, and slipping into other worlds is my preferred way to spend a rainy day. The more I work now, the easier November will be.

At least it is raining, the air is nice and clean, and I got a bit of a run in. I think part of the problem is being unable to really hit the pavement; I miss the endorphins. In any case, I hit a horrid mood halfway through the afternoon, and even cinnamon rolls didn’t help. Fortunately, dinner put paid to most of my nasty temper, and I could spend a little time afterward fiddling with a new video opener. I meant to do a bit of narrating too, but the smoke rasp is still lingering in my throat.

Today I get to run again. Not for long, and not quickly, but it will have to be enough. And Boxnoggin will get a long ramble to wear himself out with. While I’m occupied with both I can build the next few scenes in both Hell’s Acre and Fall of Waterstone so when I settle at my desk both will flow with a minimum of fuss. If all goes well and I treat my throat with gallons of tea today, I might even get the narration done. Of course that last is a completely self-chosen task, but I’d still like to get it handled. I think you guys’ll like what I’m planning.

Boxnoggin is draped across his office bed, not-quite-snoring. Of course, we just rolled out of my bed a little while ago, and he grumble-groused all through the visit to his grand outdoor loo. I think he’s put out that his morning nap schedule has been altered somewhat, and also very annoyed at the damp. Each winter it’s the same thing; he believes that naturally I am in charge of the weather and for some incomprehensible reason have decided to personally inflict rain on his poor delicate paws. “THIS NEVER HAPPENED IN TEXAS,” he moans, despite the fact that we all know it does, indeed, rain in the Lone Star State. (Sometimes quite heavily, too.)

He’ll adjust, but it’ll take a week or two of constant bitching. I can’t throw stones, I react in much the same way to the advent of summer. Between the two of us, nobody’s happy. Enduring relationships have been built on far less, and though I am a cruel goddess whose methods and means are inscrutable to his poor canine brain, I’m also the benevolent matron who dabs bacon grease in his bowl, brushes him, and provides treats on a daily basis. So he puts up with the rain, figuring I must have my reasons, and I put up with his bratty self during walkies, figuring the joy of his presence more than makes up for it. (And, to be fair, plenty of people see him strapped to my waist and decide to give us a wide berth, which is all to the good.)

The world is quiet. The east is greying. The coffee is cooling, and today I have to get Miss Dove home, plan the Rook’s next assassination attempt, and get a Viking elementalist into the throne hall of a particularly stiff-necked elvish king. Oh, and narrate a half-hour or so of something marvelous. All told, it’s nice work if you can get it, and hopefully most of the day will go to plan. I’m sure there will be a few misbehaving moments, but at least it’s not a Monday anymore.

Small mercies, and all that.

Ink Cedars and Work

Rain! Cold, glorious, beautiful, life-giving, drenching, forest-fire quenching, tapping, slithering, chilly on the nape RAIN! Can you tell I’m pleased? I’m able to go running today too, after long walkies in the wet with Boxnoggin, and that will bring me back to zen in a hot hurry.

I won’t be able to run very far or fast, since injury and weather conditions mean I haven’t hit the pavement in a while. Slow and steady is the name of the game; I’m just fine with that. And the sidewalks will be deserted–there’ll be a distinct dearth of men wanting to stop me and chat about whatever-the-hell when it’s perfectly clear I’m exercising and have no ding-dang time to service strangers’ emotional needs.

Ahem. Anyway.

Last week’s Reading with Lili was about Frankenstein and the UTTERLY BONKERS life Mary Shelley led; it’s now up on YouTube. Also, I did a bonus stream on (of all things) Twilight, and that’s up too. There are a small proportion of people who dislike the commentary and backstory (though most of my Readers, and now dear Viewers, are enthusiastic about both), so I’m considering doing just-straight-readings and putting them up, too. We’ll see if I can squeeze time into the schedule. The erotica readings hit a snag (not gonna talk about that) but I got a lot of useful experience turning text readings into videos, so we’ll see.

But that can only happen in whatever spare time I’ve got lying about. It’s back to work for Yours Truly, and with a vengeance since the revision on Cold North is (finally) firmly in the past and I have other things to focus on now. Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention before I lunge for the finish of Book 2, the second Tolkien Viking Werewolves is my NaNoWriMo book, and the second Sons of Ymre needs a massive revise before I can turn it in to my long-suffering editor. So I’ve got my marching orders, and now I can settle to an autumn’s worth of work. (There’s a lot of sales going on this month, too.)

It’s lovely. The cedars are inky shadows outside my office window; it’s damp and cold and the sun cannot manage to struggle past the cloud cover. I am positively chuffed. Best of all, there’s no more smoke in the air. Despite some lingering rasp in the throat, I’m feeling ever so much better. Practically fidgeting with impatience to get out the door, as a matter of fact.

Boxnoggin, while he is thrilled at the prospect of walkies, is still in his usual two-week adjustment period. Every fall he acts like he’s outright forgotten what rain is, and expects me to fix whatever’s leaking on his dainty paws, not to mention the rest of him. Poor fellow. He’ll get used to it, and even begin to like some aspects of winter–like attempting to drink from muddy, parasite-laden puddles, for example.

This dog, you guys. I don’t even know.

I’m just so thrilled we finally have decent, reasonable weather. The smoke wasn’t as bad as last year (or the year before, my gods, 2020 was awful), but it was bad enough. Now it’s washed away, the evacuation orders have been rescinded, and I’m not coughing like Doc Holliday in a Dodge City saloon. Small mercies, yes–but I’ll take ’em.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. It’s time to get to work.

Exercise in Direction

The air quality is still awful (169, it says, and higher is NOT better), though there is very little fog. Stepping outside for Boxnoggin’s matutinal unloading-slash-constitutional made me cough, and my eyes are still streaming. I look like a drama heroine who just found out the male lead’s been injured; if I was wearing eyeliner it would be raccoon-smears. Still, near noon the wind should shift to the west and all this nastiness start to break up, and of course the weather folk say tomorrow will bring long-anticipated rain. The air will be cleaned and the forest fires hopefully damped a bit; perhaps we can even relax a little and not be ready for evacuation.

To be absolutely precise, the Chez won’t need to be evacuated but we’re standing by in case friends are forced to. Everything is prepped and ready, and I’ve even baked extra bread. That’s one (perhaps the only) good thing about the weather, I have been able to perform some kitchen witchery. It’s a saving grace.

I’ve hit the part of revision recovery where I want to work on something just for me, so yesterday about 5k of an epic fantasy nobody will ever read fell out of my head. It was lovely to scratch the itch until it bled. Hopefully I’m on track to get back to other work now, too. My ability to shift and recover has been hammered relentlessly over the past few years; I’m not feeling quite my usual elastic self.

And tomorrow’s a release day. Sticking my head in a (filtered) bucket while hiding in a cave seems a glorious idea indeed.

Dawn is virulently pink in the east, almost a “sailors take warning” shade. Boxnoggin does not care about air quality, the entire concept being well above his pay grade. All he knows is that morning is for walkies, and Mum has almost finished her coffee so it’s nearly time. I might mask up to take him around the block, though that won’t help my eyes. The worst is not being able to run. Between this and the recent ankle injury, I haven’t been able to hit the pavement anywhere near enough, and it’s really telling on my mood. I’m heartily sick of summer’s claws still stuck in the hide of the year; I want this over with. At least if it’s raining I won’t choke to death on smoke.

…I probably shouldn’t say that, since it will no doubt force the universe to arrange such a treat for me. Ah well. I’m also trying to not even look at the news cycle, in self-defense. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Normally at this point in my day I’ve got a good idea of what I’m going to accomplish, whether it be planning or execution. This Thursday, however, I have no friggin’ clue. Maybe I’ll narrate a few more saucy stories; maybe I’ll get a wild hare about podcast structure. Certainly there’ll be a subscription drop, and there are arrangements to be made for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve pretty much decided that last bit will be devoted to book two of the Tolkien Viking Werewolves, so there’s that.

Maybe I’m more organized than I thought. (Yes, you can stop laughing now, that was said with tongue firmly in cheek.)

I’m on the last swallow of coffee and as soon as I shift in my chair Boxnoggin will be beside himself with gleeful anticipation. First coffee, then toast, then walkies–this is the Way, according to him, and woe betide the poor dumb human who interferes with that schedule. Mandalorians have nothing on the guilt induced by a pair of big, sad, brown doggy eyes. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a complete sucker for a beloved canine.

We all have our little weaknesses. Anyway, the sooner the subscription drop is queued and NaNo planning done, the sooner I can sneak back to that epic fantasy and get the main character into trouble at a banquet. Once that peters out I’ll be ready to embark on the next round of feverish work, and not a moment too soon. Apparently I need to be kept off the smoggy streets and out of trouble, assuming that’s possible.

Happy Thursday, my beloveds. The rain is almost, almost here. I often say I can put up with just about anything if I know when it’s going to end, and this summer has certainly been an exercise in that direction. But, ending or not, it still has a few more hits to get in. I suppose I’d better get braced to endure them.

See you around.

Smoke, Fog, Music

Dawn hasn’t quite begun yet, though the east is greying rapidly and an insomniac bluejay–probably Ed–gave a sleepy screech or two while Boxnoggin was out for his morning potty break. Heavy fog hangs between the trees, weighing down the dry dust of drought summer, and gasping earth is waiting for real water. There’s no petrichor, merely the smell of almost-damp leaves and wildfire smoke. Somewhere in the neighborhood sprinklers are running; Boxnoggin’s collar jingles as he patrols the house, making certain all is as it should be.

I have coffee. My eyes are dry and grainy; my entire body aches. There’s only a few more days to wait for rain. I’ve made endurance a centerpiece of my coping mechanisms, and this is the drawback; I’m not sure I’m gonna make it. I keep expecting a sudden shift in the wind, a tornado of fire sweeping up the street. I’ve been braced for the worst since mid-2015, and while the situation hasn’t met my very darkest imaginings (yet) it’s stayed at such a pitch of awfulness in so many ways. The fillips and refinements of agony in reality put paid to anything a poor benighted writer could come up with.

(Still mad I took the respiratory plague out of the first few drafts of Afterwar. That’ll teach me to trust my instincts.)

Now a pine flicker’s joined Ed the Gentleman Bluejay. I’m sure Stede is around somewhere–probably stuffing his face at the sunflower feeder, since that seems to be his overarching goal in life next to hanging out in the rhododendron under my office window and screaming at his boyfriend. The rest of the Bluejay Krewe seem to have gone elsewhere; ever since the smoke thickened we haven’t had an afternoon with seven-eight-plus jays in the yard. It’s a little quieter, though Ed and Stede try to make up for it by yelling their tiny dinosaur heads off with a passion.

I’m tired, though I just got out of bed. Going back in seems the best idea in the world, but there’s work to do–prepping for NaNoWriMo (funny, last year I was doing Klemp’s book for NaNo, and said book will be out on the 21st), getting Hell’s Acre situated, and various other things. My head is still ringing from the Cold North revision. Seems to be taking longer and longer to bounce back these days.

Fog. Smoke. Endurance. Such are the things today is made of, as summer’s last fingertip is pried from a throat. Shoes keep dropping, a mountain of them achieving tsunami height, and I keep waiting for more to thud down. The birds have quieted as the east continues to lighten, but there’s a rustling as squirrels begin the morning laps around the sea of branches.

After a while the pain becomes merely background noise. Boxnoggin still expects his walkies–though not quite yet, since the damp is mounting. The words still have to flow, the edits still have to be made, the proof pages still need to be eyeballed. The bills have to be paid and the children hugged. There’s so much more to give, though my barrel is scraped-dry empty.

Ah well. Only a few more days to wait for rain. I’ve made it through every other year, this one should prove no different. Onward, inward, upward, excelsior, and all that.

Welcome to Tuesday. Take a deep breath, finish the last gulp of coffee, and let’s endure another siege of sunlight. It’s painful, naturally…

…but the alternative is worse. We’re still here, still fighting. Grab a shoe, grab a bucket, any weapon will do. Let the noise rise and fall as it pleases, there’s music underneath.

Today, through the smoke and the noise, we dance.

Knife-Edge, Smoke

A smoky dawn–not nearly so red as other years’ haze, and we’re not having the ash fall in this part of the county. Eastward it’s a mess, naturally, and we’re all watching the evacuation orders carefully. There’s not much risk in the precise place our particular house is, but we’re preparing to offer shelter if necessary.

I like helping people, but I hate that it’s necessary because of greedy corporate bastards frying the planet. At least there are some competent folks in disaster response, and at least this is happening after some of the infrastructure repair money has been applied. So here I sit, trembling on the knife edge of “thank the gods this isn’t happening two years ago.” And they say there will be rain by the end of the week.

Gods willing and the creek don’t fail completely, to coin a phrase.

Having to just sit and wait is a particular type of hell. Sartre covered the most common type, naturally, but I think a case could be made that having to hold oneself ready and braced for the next punch is just as awful.

In any case, I sent off the revised Cold North. Revision brain still has me in its mushy, Swiss-cheese grip. I’ll probably do some narration today, since I can get that done in 20min chunks and reading aloud doesn’t use any creation or revision muscles. I do have to get a thorough top-to-bottom reread of Hell’s Acre in, since we’re on the last half of the last book. That duology might not ever be published; writing it all through pandemic has done the story a bit of disservice. Certain passages remind me of how upset I was while writing them.

I should also get the monthly newsletter planned. There’s all sorts of things to talk about, from That Damn Werelion Book to this month’s sale(s) to the upcoming release. I’m fighting the imposter syndrome which always arrives after I finish a draft or revision, letting the wave pass over and through me. I know it’s just the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion of finishing a large project, and snapback is natural.

It sucks each time.

If I’m very good today, I’ll allow myself another episode or two of Love Like the Galaxy. Leo Wu’s cape game is on point the entire way through, and I’m low-key obsessed with the entire story. I have to set myself some arbitrary goal to accomplish before I can watch more, though. That way the work will get done and I’ll get a double dopamine hit of watching a drama and knowing I made it to a benchmark. Gaming one’s own brain chemistry is the only way to survive, my friends.

If I can just get through until dusk I’ll call it a win. At least it won’t be 80F today. Summer keeps attempting to burn, but the harvest goddess has probably had about enough of All This. I roundly concur.

Let us embark upon Monday, my beloveds. At least by evening we should have some breathable air…

Arachnid Verisimilitude

Gossamer veils.

Tis the season for misty mornings, which means these spiderwebs stand out amid evergreen foliage. There’s some polyester knockoffs (Halloween decorations) in the neighborhood, but it’s easy to tell the real from the decorative. I often feel like I should remove twigs and leaf litter, but never do so because that’s probably verisimilitude for the poor spider, who’s just trying to get some lunch.

I’ve had well-meaning strangers interfere while I’m hungry too, after all.

I have revision brain–Cold North is just about ready to go back to the editor, squeaking right under the deadline wire–and a bad case of exhaustion. Despite that I am looking forward to this week’s Reading with Lili, which will be about Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, the ladies in Dracula’s castle, and Victorian misogyny. (It’ll be on Twitch first, YouTube later, as always.) I have an inbox full of stuff for The Dead God’s Heart and the preorder rodeo that is Duty as well, so that’s got to be dealt with before I can knock off and maybe take a day or so to breathe. (And watch more Love Like the Galaxy, which I am currently low-key obsessed with.)

Before that, there’s walkies and a slow, short, easy run to get my wounded ankle back into the game. No mist this morning, yet I’ll smile at every spider-house.

I wish you a wonderful weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other.

Over and out.