Attacking Story

Woke up to a heavy marine layer and a reasonable temperature, which is a blessing in August. It won’t last–they’re saying 100F on Sunday–but I’m going to enjoy while it’s here. If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that. Along with, “Use the good china, because life is short and we like pretty things.”

The wind rose as evening fell yesterday, a push from the west bringing in this lovely cooler weather. It smelled fantastic, and I had dinner alone–both children were sacked out early, they’ve been busy lately–with a book, Daisuke Igarashi’s Witches. Slowly consuming garlicky pasta while turning pages is a joy I’ve not had much of for a while, and I used it to the hilt. I was also attacked by a short story, which I should have fended off with my fork but I was too hungry.

So right after dinner I hurried to the desktop, opened a new Scrivener file, and dumped in a few hundred words of skeleton for said short story. Shorts aren’t my favorites; I find them much more difficult to write than novels but sometimes it’s the only structure possible for a certain tale. A novel is a protracted, endurance-based duel; a short story (for me, at least) is an iaido strike. The former engages with changing conditions over a long period of time, the latter must be whole, complete, and stainless before it’s initiated.

Of course, you can make the case that a novel is also whole before it’s even attempted, and for some writers I’m sure it is. Not for me, though. I’d rather endure the battering of a novel than agonize over a short story, and I know some writers feel the exact opposite. Normally I only write shorts to spec, when I’m tapped for an anthology.

But sometimes, a “keyhole” story–a single glimpse, seen through a chink in wall or door–attacks. They feel different. Novels come from a seed, sprout, and struggle for the sky. Novellas (again, for me) are short, dreamlike interludes, usually created in a few days of furious work. A short story is a lightning flash which paradoxically may require several attempts (draws) to get the branching and evanescent strike correct.

So I’ve added the short story to the round-robin of projects on the docket right now. I don’t think it’ll find a home, but maybe this is an invitation from the universe to finally collect all the shorts I’ve written and put them in a single book. The only thing stopping me is the required time and energy, which could be said of anything. But…maybe soon, since apparently I’m going to be attacked by the bastards over pasta now.

Still, it’s going to have to wait its turn, which will probably be after I finish both the Rook’s Rose and Sons of Ymre 2 zeroes. I have the bones of the short story down, so it’ll keep in stasis until I can give it the attention deserved. I complain, sure, but it’s really nice to have stories bubbling up through the subconscious layers of their own accord again. The stress of recent years (since 2016, really) has had a rather deleterious effect on my productivity, though you wouldn’t know it to look at my bibliography, and I am glad to feel even fractionally more like myself.

Boxnoggin would very much like for me to get moving, and I suppose I should grab some toast. Luxuriating in the weather doesn’t change the amount of work waiting for me today, and there’s a run to get in as well. I’ve been feeling like it’s Monday all week; maybe today will feel like the Thursday it is.

Worth a shot, at least. See you around.

Jumprope Tuesday

My body is taking vengeance for atmospheric conditions neither it nor I control. The heat’s broken–at least, the really terrible stuff has, there’s still the garden-variety summer terrible to deal with. But that’s fine, it cools off at night, and in a couple days I’ll have fully bounced back.

At least, that’s the hope. I’m keeping coffee down, which is a blessing and a half. Attempting to deal with all this sans caffeine is an unpleasant prospect at best.

Today’s the official day for That Damn Werelion Book‘s paperback release. Amazon’s still listing it as “preorder” even though the release date is August 2. Ah well, it wouldn’t be a book release without some giant headache. In my more charitable moments I ascribe it to a lot of moving parts having to be just right. In the less-charitable, well…the less said about that, the better.

I managed a reasonable amount of work yesterday, and have high hopes for today as well. It’s akin to watching a jumprope as it rises and descends, catching the rhythm, and jumping in. The next scene in Hell’s Acre wanted to be written dialogue-first, so now it’s a matter of stitching around what the characters say, adding action and description tags to make clear how they said it. In certain cases I want the emphasis clear, in others the reader must supply their own. With that done I can also start building on the groundwork for the heroine in the second Sons of Ymre to figure out things in the temple aren’t what they appear to be (and now Prince’s Thieves in the Temple is playing inside my head) and the “hero” needs a bit more grinding into the dirt before I’ve forgiven him.

He was a total jackass in the first book, after all.

Boxnoggin is very happy this morning. In the first place, the windows are open and he can trot from place to place, getting a good snootful of a dawn breeze. In the second, it wasn’t gasping-hot last night, so I wasn’t as restless as I’ve been and he got more than the briefest of snuggles this morning. His walkies won’t be a misery, either, which is all to the good.

I have the strangest feeling today is Monday since yesterday was so physically miserable as to blur into a smear. I don’t quite dislike Mondays–they get a bit of an unfair reputation, being the first day back after weekends and all that–but I really don’t want to suffer them twice a week. Once is plenty. I have to keep glancing at the top of my screen to verify that yes, it’s Tuesday. Perhaps it’s my brain cooking from the weather.

The sun has reached a gap in the cedars, filling my office with summer gold. The particular quality of light in different seasons has always fascinated me, as well as the difference between, say, a hazy light-blue summer sky (you can tell it’s going to be hot and there’s no rain in sight) to the aching, piercing deeper blue of autumn-on-the-knife-edge-of-winter. A pale thin gold of sunshine in winter is distinct from the heavier, richer light of certain fall afternoons, and the rain-washed blue of spring sky seen between heavy clouds is in a class all its own. There are things to love about each and every shade.

In fact, I’ve been gazing out the window so much, enjoying a cool morning breeze, that this has taken a bit longer to write than usual. My coffee is tepid now, and Boxnoggin is waiting patiently for me to make some toast since that’s the next step before walkies. I might even keep said toast down, as it’s not still sticky-hot and humid. The only way to find out is to finish this, bolt the last of said coffee, and get started on the day.

I just had to check again to make sure it’s Tuesday. I can’t decide if this bodes ill or means I have an extra day’s productivity stored up in my fingers, waiting to be unleashed.

Suppose I’d best go find out. Wish me luck, my friends, and I wish you a pleasant (and hopefully temperate) day in return.

Relatively Unfiltered

The heat is awful, but there are signs of it breaking. We might even have a temperature crest below 90F today, which will be a distinct relief. None of us are sleeping well except Boxnoggin, who is from Texas so this must feel homelike to him. This morning, however, he is pacing the house whining because I won’t let him chase the neighbor’s cat, and he can hear squirrels in the cedars because all the windows are open to catch some morning breeze.

Poor Lord van der Sploot; his is a life of woe.

Tomorrow the paperback for That Damn Werelion Book releases. The ebook will be out in September, and the soundtrack for writing it is here. I’m nervous, naturally, even if it’s under a different name; I didn’t intend to publish it. But why the hell not–it might sink like a stone anyway and in any case after 2020 I’ve decided life is short, why not in a number of areas. Maybe it’s only a function of hitting my forties and I can’t blame it on a specific (albeit historic) year. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I meant to spend the weekend doing rereads so I can jump back into new text on the two projects which absolutely must be finished soon. Unfortunately, heat sensitivity meant I could barely drag myself through the usual weekend housework, and that had to take priority. I spent the remainder of the time flat on my back, cursing the weather and my unreliable meatsack while wishing I could bloody well work. Ah well, today is another chance.

Last week’s Tea with Lili is also up on YouTube. It was about the current crop of reboots, reader expectations, and (of all things) Cinderella. I’m not sure if I’m getting this streaming thing down; it’s full of weirdness and I’d much rather not be on camera. But people seem to respond to the conversational format, and to it being relatively unfiltered. And frankly it’s the internet, so if someone doesn’t like it they can hit the back button or close the tab and be done with it. I’m sure there will be those who want to troll instead, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for that bullshit.

At least it hasn’t been too hot for coffee–I don’t know what I’d do without the morning jolt, and I dislike iced caffeine. Cooling to tepid is fine, but sticking ice in it and downing it cold is just not for me. Someone else can have my share of that.

And at least I recognized a plot problem in the last 4k or so I wrote of Sons of Ymre 2; I can fix it on the read-through I’m going to give all my attention to today. It’s best to not make an error at all, of course, but it’s also good to realize one’s in the process of committing it and immediately stop to tear out and fix it. I might even get the zero of this book done this month. Might.

There’s a lovely cool breeze through the window, and my skin is positively bathing in it. Boxnoggin and I will enjoy his morning ramble, but we’d best get out there. I don’t quite trust the weather app saying it won’t be awful today, and should get anything outside done sooner rather than later. A good ten degrees (Fahrenheit, naturally) cooler will make a difference, right? I certainly hope so.

Welcome to Monday, my beloveds. Let’s hope the day behaves itself. If not I may have to reach for the machete–or even the Peace Prize. I’m not quite expecting the day to step out of line…but I’m ready.

See you around.

Ripening, Memory

At least someone’s doing well.

I am wilting, any plant not in a watered yard is turning crisp-yellow, and the trees are turning inward, driving their roots deep. But the blackberries are having a lovely time. I saw these fellows on one of Boxnoggin’s rambles; most of the berries are still green but there’s a significant minority ripening early.

The birds need feeding, after all, and I’m sure the blackberry taproots are finding whatever moisture remains in the soil for them. From a wet spring we’ve gone to gasping dust, and I hate it. Still…nature’s doing her best to look after her own. It seems a hopeful sign.

I wish you a peaceful weekend, my beloveds. I think I’m going to have to reread two projects from the beginning in order to catch the rhythm; I was lying in bed this morning and realized I’d created a rather significant plot hole. Better to fix that now that later, I suppose, and to do so I’ll need to refresh even my steel-trap (for books, anyway) memory.

See you around.

Preorders and Vexation

It’s too bloody hot. Even Boxnoggin thinks so, and he’s from Texas. Of course, he’s been with us for four years now–we just passed the official anniversary–so by now he’s an honorary Pacific Northwester except for the hating rain bit, but I’m sure a lot of people who otherwise love it here dislike the rain.

It’s odd, but there it is.

We’re lucky in that we can close up the house, shaded by the firs, and turn on the heat pump’s AC function. It manages to keep things on the edge of livable, especially with opening the house in the very early morning to let some cool air in. The mercury just isn’t dipping enough at night to provide the relief we need, though. We should be back to more-reasonable weather by Monday.

Which seems a long way away.

I’m simply hunkering down, trying to ignore the draining lassitude, and taking deep breaths. An edit letter just recently landed, and we all know how those go. I’m in my week-of-processing-feels, and it may extend past seven days proper. I could go on a rant about the things people are getting wrong about this book, but it would serve no purpose. I have the week-plus rule for a good reason; it’s just hard to keep my mouth shut sometimes. When I calm down things will look better, or at least different. And I can’t be sure the bloody weather isn’t part of my ire.

All of this means that instead of three projects I’m now focusing on two, since the third needs to wait for revisions to be done before it can move forward. The silver lining is that Sons of Ymre 2 is going along great guns, 4k written yesterday alone. The heroine is finally at the temple, the hero is figuring out what the hell, and everything’s about to go haywire in the best mounting-tension way. I’m particularly pleased by the damage done to the hero; he deserves every inch of it, and is well on his way to redeeming himself. And I shook loose the next scene in Hell’s Acre, which had been resisting me until I finally threw up my hands and went walking down the hall in frustration.

Sometimes it just takes physical movement to jolt things free. Today’s run, if I don’t expire of heatstroke, will probably provide even more.

At least That Damn Werelion Book has preorder links up for the paperback, finally. (Amazon link here if B&N isn’t your cuppa.) Amazon won’t let indie authors put up preorder links for Kindle if you’re not selling through KDP; it’s one of the ways they attempt to lock us in for better shearing. Gumroad has turned off their preorder function, which is a huge bother because dammit, I needed that, and Payhip is working on theirs but doesn’t have it yet. Although Payhip does say one can do preorders with a placeholder file, as long as one uploads the proper file on release day. I’m still thinking about whether or not I want to work it that way.

You’d think these distribution platforms wanting to profit off a writer’s work would make preorders easier, but unfortunately greed (in the case of Amazon) and whatever-the-hell (in the case of others) seems to win out every time. Eventually things will shake out, I’m sure. But it’s irritating as all get-out.

And again, I can’t be sure how much of my vexation is my body’s sensitivity to heat. Ever since that one horrid episode in San Diego (I should’ve been hospitalized, but who can afford that in America? Not I, my friends…) I’ve been peculiarly vulnerable to temperatures above 80F. This is a misery. Other parts of the country–let alone the world–have it worse, though, so I am counting my (slightly sweat-soaked) blessings.

I suppose I should finish my coffee and get out the door for Boxnoggin’s walk while the temperature is still reasonable. The sooner Lord van der Sploot’s ramble is accomplished, the sooner I can hit the pavement for my own exercise and think about the conversation Lord Cassel is going to have with his pretty, vivacious, terrified, and treacherous (for good reason) wife. I had to cut away from a gangfight for this scene, and it will provide a good structural caesura before coming back. Then the book needs a deep breath before the plunge.

I have the next serial after Hell’s Acre decided upon, and I’m beginning to feel the itch to poke at it. It’s not time yet, but I can think about it, at least. Blocking out some of the combat scenes will help, though they’ll necessarily change when the actual writing happens. All in all, I’ve a lot of work to do.

Which is just the way I like it, no matter the weather. Stay frosty, my beloveds, and be gentle with yourselves.

See you around.

Shingle Games

Remember the giant freak snowstorm we had in April? Finally, finally we’re getting some repairs. Well, a new roof, at least. The fences and deck will never be the same–no insurance company is a good neighbor, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

It’s been plain awful. First there was the bloody insurance company–the adjustor was a gentleman, but he was hamstrung by “company policies”–and then there was the mortgage company insisting on inserting themselves in the process where literally nobody wanted them. Then there was getting several different estimates, and then scheduling the actual work. I figured we’d be lucky to get the roof done before autumn rains moved in.

And we’re lucky, yes. Yesterday morning was the stress of being awake at 3am plus the agony of getting everything set up, and the afternoon was full of thumping, banging, one of the roofers singing along with the radio (he has a fine voice), Boxnoggin beside himself at all the ruckus, a midday video appointment, and finally my nerves were so shot I decided cake for dinner was acceptable. I haven’t cooked for a couple days, between the heat wave and this; I should really do something with the tomatoes on the counter.

It will be nice when it’s finished, and what a first-world problem to have, really–I’m very aware of that. But it’s still stressful; I zonked out hard last night, facedown in a book on the Thirty Years’ War. I hadn’t realized all three fellows survived the Defenestration of Prague. It was a fifty-foot drop, after all, and one of them injured himself on his own sword after the landing. That was as far as I got before sleep claimed me, and I barely woke up at 2am with the bedside lamp still on and a drool spot on the corner of the hardback.

I wasn’t able to work a lick yesterday, and I suspect today will be the same except for making sure the subscription drop has no issues. Which is fine, it’s why I worked all the way through the weekend…but still, Hell’s Acre needs some uninterrupted time. The plague has been super hard on that story; it requires some love. At least with the roof done a major worry will be cleared and I can use all the energy freed up to catch up, so to speak.

This morning Boxnoggin has been showing his displeasure by treating me as if the chez is some sort of democracy instead of a benevolent dictatorship where he’s concerned. If he made better choices, he would be right. But he doesn’t, so he was gently scolded and driven up the stairs with a click of the tongue and some firm but emphatic pointing. He is refusing his breakfast in protest–at least until I drop a toast crust in–and will be upset when the roofers arrive to finish the job, but such is life.

The funny thing is, by the time they’re done he will be dead certain the footsteps and crashing overhead have always been happening, and the quiet will give him the wiggins. He needs a good long ramble this morning before the workers arrive, so I’d best get the coffee swilled and my toast dealt with beforehand.

At least we’ve had wonderful weather for it–not too hot, which I was worried about with the 95+ days earlier in the week, but not rainy either. So all in all it’s worked out really well, and we’ve kept the roofers supplied with snacks and lemonade. I suppose I should view it as all working out for the best, given how it could have gone. Looking on the bright side is a defense mechanism at this point, I might as well continue. I’m grateful no squirrels have ended up in the mix. I mean, can you imagine?

Happy Thursday, my beloveds. I wish us all luck getting through; I’m gonna keep repeating “could be worse, could be worse,” under my breath…

Masks, Dropped

Terrible heat; we who live in the PNW aren’t geared for this sort of thing. Physically drained, and if I even glance at the news I wonder why one should get out of bed at all. Of course, since I can’t really sleep I might as well get up and at least try to work. The plants need watering, too. Might as well–that’s what I keep repeating these days. Might as fucking well.

I’m working on Volume 7 of Anaïs Nin’s Diary, and rationing the poems in Jay Hulme’s Backwater Sermons. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Nin once the Diary finishes, but also relatively glad that I can turn my attention to other things. My only regret about Hulme is that I can’t go even more slowly; the poems are wonderful antidotes for the awful, killing bleakness I often find myself lost in.

The garden is doing splendidly. Some of the dahlias survived squirrel depredations and have come up, which is a blessing. The new hedge trimmer works like a dream and I’m considering taking it to the grape vine, just to keep the bloody thing under control. But that’s not a decision for today; I am not in the right frame of mind to be trimming tender green. Whacking at old growth requires a bit of bloody-mindedness, but the newer stuff needs care.

Does all that sound like I’m depressed and near-broken? I suppose that’s not far from the truth.

Still, I’m enduring. I want to be the weed these bastards can’t kill. I want to survive without being turned into what we’re fighting. The bitterness stands a very real chance of twisting me, just as it did when I was a child, and I am determined not to give them that victory.

I’ve been watching a lot of a particular YouTube channel that deals with explaining the behavior of narcissists. A certain amount of narcissism is present in a healthy personality, sure, but our culture and society prioritizes and rewards the nasty kind far more than anything reasonable. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about surviving narcissists, due to my upbringing, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised–there is just so much more information about how to deal with them, validation if one must suffer their depredations, and new research about why they do what they do than ever before. Learning that they rarely if ever change has been consoling; it means I don’t have to hold out hope or leave any part of myself open for their return. And hearing the reiteration that several of my coping mechanisms aren’t uncommon at all has been oddly helpful, too.

Therapy was wonderful for me, and this kind of knowledge being freely available (again, since I have the hardware and internet connection to access it, I do not forget that) is helping me build a bulwark against the current crop of fascist bullies. Because what are they but domestic abusers writ large? They all–fascists, bigots, cult leaders, intimate abusers, bullies–work off the same playbook, a thin stapled-together pamphlet of nasty tricks and brutalization. The different varieties may have a preference for a certain strategy, but they use the gamut, and are all cut out of the same cloth.

We know what these people do. We know who they are, and they have never been so overt and easily recognizable as right now. They’re practically shouting “I’M TOXIC! PROTECT YOURSELF FROM ME!” at the top of their lungs 24/7. The masks have dropped.

How odd, how strangely hilarious is it that wearing a scrap of cloth over one’s face marks one as a decent person who cares about others, and the lack shouts “I’m a huge selfish asshole”? It used to be toxic people wore camouflage to hunt with more ease. In my brighter moments I think that it’s actually a good thing they’ve been so emboldened–we have lifted the rock, and of course the mass of pale, sickening squirming underneath seems like an explosion. It seems endless, it seems too deadly and huge to fight.

But we can see how far the rot extends, now, and that’s the first step in treatment. We can protect ourselves–and each other–with greater ease. There’s no ambiguity, no “well, maybe X doesn’t mean it, maybe they’re just having a bad day.” It’s gone far beyond that; they have literally removed all cover, camouflage, and the pretty lies they used to operate under.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and what we can see we can treat. Or fight.

So I’m going to water the plants, take Boxnoggin on his ramble, do some stretching since I can’t run in this weather and my body is in full-fledged, miserable revolt. I will pull way back on social media to protect myself for a while, and continue the work. I will try to remind myself not to be bitter, that maybe one or two people heeded my warning(s) and that if I reached even one person it was time and effort well spent. Try to remind myself that even my silly little stories have value, and even if I’m too exhausted to come out swinging I can still build a refuge and offer others some solace, some relief.

I thought reaching adulthood meant I could be free of nasty, toxic, abusive bullies. It seems they’re everywhere now, but I have to keep reminding myself that they’re just loud. In reality, we outnumber them, and their selfish, opportunistic fellow travelers as well. Plus the technology of today means validation for the rest of us, not to mention direct proof of outnumbering, can be had daily.

We’re not trapped on the planet with the toxic, bigoted, fascist bullies. They’re trapped here with us, and we outnumber them by more than two to one. They’re loud, vicious, brutal, and don’t care who they hurt. Yet we are the powerful ones.

Gods grant we don’t forget it.