Pre-Clean Phase

We had a bit of a breeze last night and a giant limb fell across the lower half of the deck stairs, shattering the trellis for the hop vine. On the bright side, the trellis’s sacrifice means the stairs are fine, so at least there’s that. And the coffee tastes particularly good this morning since I don’t have to do any jackleg carpentry.

One repair per weekend is enough. I know, I know–a house means repairs. But I already did plumbing this weekend, for godsake. Okay, I have to be honest, it was simply replacing a lever on the downstairs loo, but I swore five or six times so it still counts.

I’m contemplating doing a complete Kon-Mari on the kitchen. There are plenty of things we don’t use, and freeing them to fly into the world and find those who need them might mean my daughter can finally fit an air fryer into the cabinets somewhere. We aren’t getting any more appliances until we have room for them, and she’s been eyeing air fryers and griddles with hungry, hungry eyes. I wouldn’t mind a stovetop griddle myself, but we’re positively choked with other kitchen things and besides, the All-Clad lids are very inefficiently organized.

So I’m in the pre-clean phase, where I’m poking around cabinets and making decisions. Eventually I’ll decide what I actually want to do, and then a burst of activity will unnerve the dogs and make the children wish they’d never put the bug in my ear about griddles, of all things. I already have a list of things that need to move on to new homes; I just need to think about how I want to stack things in the freed-up space.

I can’t tell if my mood is a result of pre-coffee branch-wrestling, the attempt I made to slow down and not-work this weekend, or any of a hundred other unpleasant things like taking care of everyone else’s emotional needs and neglecting my own. A run will probably set me right, but in order to get there I have to grab brekkie and walk the dogs. For once, though, I’d like to just do the things that please me.

Wouldn’t we all.

It’s all Monday, I suppose. I have two questions for today’s Tea with Lili and there’s work to be done if I can just get everything else out of the way. I suspect I’m cranky because I haven’t written more than a bare 200 words per day for the weekend, and the itch to simply crawl back into a fictional world is mounting. At least inside a book I know what I’m doing.

I suppose I’d best get started since nothing at all will get done with me sitting around and moaning. I’ve a list, I’ve the dogs, and I’m in my running togs.

See you around, my dears.

Magnolia Path

Bruised petals.

Local magnolias, having burst into luxurious bloom, are scattering their waxy petals everywhere. Cherries are shedding petals too, but they float on the wind and don’t settle so snowdrift-heavy. They and the plums fill the air with tiny drifting things–along with the pollen from the evergreens, a fine yellow dust-grit–and the kids and I joke, There’s crap in the air, it must be elves.

The dogs aren’t as interested in the petals as I thought they’d be. It’s corners that interest them, not the carpet. I suppose relatively sharp edges catch and collect scents better. I feel a little bad treading on the petals, though avoiding them is difficult with both dogs so set on taking our usual path. Ritual and habit are their guide rails, their comfort.

The tipping point of spring passed in the middle of a night, unnoticed, an invisible balance shifting. Winter’s fingers are no longer brushing the skin; they’ve fled to wherever the cold goes when it isn’t here. As usual, I thought I’d never see this again–this time because of plague and coup instead of personal disasters. Renewal is always a surprise.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. Kindness, like spring, is never wasted.

Catkin Cycle

Shed skins.

The magnolias are shedding catkins because the waxy white, sometimes blushing, blossoms below are bursting free. The flowers are lovely, yes. But I love more the spent skins, the tough furry guards, scattered on sidewalk and lawn. Their time is done; they stood watch and now may rest. Even if the bed is stony, they take sleep gratefully. My heart hurts at their bravery, at their discard, at their service ending so ignominiously–but they don’t seem to mind.

I think they’re so tired they don’t care where they’re dropped.

To create means to understand that everything is already and always alive, and also that everything will perish and transform. The great wheel spins on, flickering through bright waking and dark sleep–the catkins will provide nourishment as they rot, the tree will blossom again next spring, and when trunk and branches fail their decay will fuel some kind of new growth no matter how humans poison the atmosphere.

They’re still fuzzy, the catkins, but it’s the wiry brush of an old animal’s fur. They’re survivors, grizzled and experienced, shielding the tender beneath them. Now they are leathery grey peels, Spring’s first windfall, and the cycle moves on.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. Remember to protect yourself so you, too, can rest.

Third Spring, Avoidance

Daffodils and jonquils are blooming, the plum trees and magnolias are sporting a few blooms among their hard reddish buds, the cherry tree down the street is still flowering fitfully (it’s been doing this since early January), and the crocuses are going great guns. The earth is hitting the snooze button, as we all do, but waking up is a foregone conclusion.

Especially on a Monday.

It’s the third spring of plague. Everyone is weary, and the frustration–we could have been done with this by now, if not for the selfishness of a minority. The kids are exhausted by the constant uncertainty, and I’m not far behind. Every fresh WTFery just adds to the load, and the only mercy is that Papaya Pol Pot doesn’t have the nuke button anymore.

I find my silver linings where I can these days.

The time change1 went as well as could be expected. And of course now that we’re an hour earlier I have a thousand video meetings suddenly cropping up like mushrooms after a hard rain. Crawling under my desk with a spiral notebook and simply writing longhand is starting to seem like a good strategy–avoidance par excellence, like the Sekrit Projekt2. At least with said project I’ll have a chunk of text at the end, and I can use that text in various ways.

If I want to.

It was lovely to curl up on the couch with a book yesterday, watching bands of rain and sunshine move through. Trying not to look at the news is incredibly difficult, so I’ve my teeth sunk into a history book and am not letting go, even though it’s slow work. My concentration is shot unless I’m writing werewolves, apparently–or unless I’m trying to explain 80s cartoon openings to my kids.

Man, the animation landscape back then was wild.

…that’s pretty much all I’ve got today, my friends. I’ll be streaming later today, probably still talking about why writing is not like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and the various skills needed to build a story. Big fun, but I guess people are curious just how the sausage gets made, so to speak.

Happy beginning-of-the-week, my beloveds. I’ll have some fun news tomorrow, and don’t forget there’s a sale on HOOD’s Season One until the end of March. Space opera! Intrigue! Pretty dresses! Low-grav shenanigans!

Maybe I’m in a better mood than I thought. I’d better get the dogs walked before it fades.

Over and out.

Pre-Spring Cleaning

I spent the weekend cleaning and rearranging, not least digitally. You may notice the surroundings look a bit freshened; not only did I get a new theme going but also some graphics (that Depositphotos investment through AppSumo when I thought I was going to do a few book covers is paying off bigtime) and just…brushed everything up a little. I’m dismal at CSS, but fortunately WordPress has come a long way.

Block editors are lovely.

The dogs were unhappy that I spent a majority of time staring at a glowing box rather than moving around doing things they could stick their noses in, but soon they fell to taunting each other instead of poking at me, and were reasonably happy. It’s also nice that the inversion–or whatever was keeping everything stagnant–has broken up and we got a band of rain through last night. The air is a lot cleaner and the persistent weight in my lungs has mostly left.

Of course every time I cough I think “Is it the plague? It’s probably the plague.” Which isn’t a fun time.

I redid the contact form, offloaded the newsletter signup since formatting that embed was a pain, and spent the bulk of the time getting every book page neatened up and consolidated. I should probably go back and do the individual volumes in the Valentine and Kismet books instead of just listing the omnibus editions, but I’m tired, my wrists hurt, and I would really like to leave webmonkey work for another day.

On the other hand, I have the structure of every page fresh inside my head, so they’ll be all standardized with little trouble if I hold my nose and do it today. Choices, choices.

I’m also thinking of brushing off the ol’ Twitch channel. Fifteen-minute “Tea With Lili” streams might not be up to their standards, but it’s what I’m comfortable with. My agent wants me to do TikToks but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. It seems a great deal of work for very little return, and I do enough of that already. On the other hand, putting on a fedora and performing as The Masked Writer seems like a hoot. Or getting a tiara and channeling my Muse for a few seconds. It would require a great deal more performance anxiety, and I already have enough of that. But we’ll see; the point of having an agent is to listen to their advice.

It’s the last day of the Selene sale, and I should put together a sale for next month if I’m gonna do one. It would be nice to have something around to celebrate Imbolc with. Plus the HOOD omnibus came out this month–January has been very busy, despite me attempting to take a vacay from all social obligations. I needed the rest, but life had other plans.

As usual.

The coffee is almost done, I need some version of breakfast, and the dogs are very eager to get their walkies in. Not to mention I have to run today, and whatever cleaning I didn’t get done while I was banging on the site’s innards and swearing should probably at least be eyed before I laugh and decide it can wait another week. Such are Mondays all year round; it will be a relief to write Veece’s return to the pub in Hell’s Acre and the fight with the tentacled thing in Sons of Ymre #2. (I do have a date for #1’s launch, but no preorder links yet. When I have the links, you’ll know, my dears.)

So here we are on the last Monday of January. I suspect the day is going to try for something special to make itself memorable, though I devoutly wish it wouldn’t. One last swallow of coffee, then we’re off to the races.

See you around.

Vivid, Chilly Fire

Crap drifting from the sky? Must be elves.

A particular maple on the daily dog-walkies route turns into flame every year. This time around she’s incredibly vivid, almost incandescent. Standing underneath on a crisp autumn day, I almost forget the leashes wrapped around my waist and the dogs sniffing or finished with their business and eager to keep going.

The maple lays a red carpet along the sidewalk, too, but lately I’ve been peering through the branches. I’ve spent a long while looking down, careful of my footing; I figure it’s time for a change.

The kids and I joke whenever there’s a windy day–especially during autumn–and tree-bits are floating far and wide, “The elves are about again.” You know how every time there’s elves in movies, the air’s full of feathers or falling leaves or sparkles or something? Maybe it’s all the Tolkien I’ve read and my kids have watched. Neither of them can get through the books, but the films are something else.

I think that’s great; the more, the merrier.

Of course soon the branches will be bare, making patterns against the sky. Still, each time we pause under that maple, whether in summer’s green, autumn’s chilly fire, or winter’s nakedness, I try to look up.

Even if only for a moment.

Music and Meatsack

Yesterday was a bit of a wild ride. A very dear friend put me on a dedications page1, another dear friend liked the short story I made for her2, I formally left the house for the first time in ages, and remember those proofs I turned around in 48hrs so a book could come out in November? Well, turns out there’s no room in the November schedule so it’ll be January after all.

Which isn’t bad, mind you! It just means that Future (December) Me will be extremely grateful to Past (October) Me for getting things squared away. It’ll be a little gift to December Me, and also to my editors’ and publishers’ December selves. Frankly, by that point in the holiday season, I’m sure we’ll need all the help we can get.

Today looks to be a little less of a rollercoaster. Oh, sure, the weather people say there’s going to be a “Rain Event” around dinnertime, and the dogs are attempting to make sure I don’t leave the house again today–they had both kids to supervise while I did yesterday, but apparently that wasn’t good enough–and I really have got to get a newsletter out.

In short, all my internal spaces are echoing and it might be time to dust off Beck’s Sea Change album, just to soothe my nerves. I can’t do Pink Floyd since it’s past the equinox, so I’m forced to other measures.

As for the day’s work–once I get the newsletter out of the way–the first third of Hell’s Acre needs a top to bottom reshuffle. Sometimes one has to go down a road a bit to see where it leads, and sometimes even if one knows a book’s general outline…well, things happen. Stories are organic things, and grow in their own way. You can have the skeleton, but the flesh gets distributed differently.3

Anyway, once I get the throughlines in Hell’s Acre arranged, I can move the costume ball (and the interrupted assassination) earlier in the book, which can trigger the prison heist, which will lead to the culmination of Season One. Everything is going along swimmingly, and with that taking one half of my working days I can shift to revising The Black God’s Heart in the other half. And once that’s done, the Tolkien Viking Werewolves can get a second book, and so on, so forth.

I absolutely have all the work I can handle, and it’s a glorious feeling. I also have Klemp’s book (Ghost Squad #2) to get off the ground. It’s been marinating in the back of my head, so I might even do it as my NaNoWriMo this year. We’ll see.

Before that, though, the dogs want their walkies. Yesterday disturbed their usual rhythm, and they’re eager to get back to it. I also have new running shoes to break in, which is a joy and should get rid of that nagging pain in my hip.

Meatsacks, man. Always something aching, always something bruised, always some weird discharge or something. Of course the benefit of piloting one are immense as well, and yet…well, no silver lining without a cloud, and vice versa.

And with that butchering of a proverb, I’m off to start Thursday’s merry-go-round. I’m hoping for more of a slow carousel than Wednesday’s death-defying rollercoaster.

We’ll see how it turns out.