Broken Hook

Broken, yes. Still good?

We have a set of large red cappuccino cups the kids have used as cereal bowls for decades. They’re huge, chipped, and incredibly useful. They’re also showing their age, like any beloved long-term item.

The handle broke off one of them while the kids were doing dishes. The Prince made an amazing catch, trapping the bowl between his hip and the counter with enough force to arrest its fall, but not enough to dent or chip it.

Bowl’s still in use, and I think I’m going to hot-glue magnets to either end of the handle. I can use it to hang things on the fridge, or it might go on the space above the cupboards where I daubed magnetic primer and then chalkboard paint. We’ll see.

I keep making new things out of broken bits. Some of them work, some…well, at least I gave it a try.

Have a good weekend, beloveds.

Not That Broken

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Today we have both the plumbers and the appliance repair people scheduled to come by–one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. It would have been just the appliance repair people to look at the dishwasher, but apparently fixing the leak under the sink last week created a new leak under the sink.

2022 continues to keep giving.

Everyone will be masking and I’ll sanitize what I can between the visits. The dogs will be Very Upset at being placed in Durance Vile–i.e., one in my office and the other in a bedroom, both with highly cushioned resting places they will not use because they will be busy screaming, “MOTHER! HOW DARE!” through the door.

It will be very Man in the Iron Mask around here. Or like the scenes in Ruyi’s Royal Love when a schemer is dragged to the Bureau of Punishment.

Last night the kids were washing dishes and the handle of one of our red cappuccino mugs decided to separate from its bowl. The Prince rolled a critical dex save and caught the bowl on its way down between his hip and the counter, gauging the force perfectly so nothing else broke. From the expostulations I thought something else had gone wrong with the plumbing, so I hurried into the kitchen and found both children (I should call them something else, they’re both of age to vote and smoke by now, and fifty percent of them can legally drink) laughing like loons.

“It’s broken, yeah,” the Prince gasped through his merriment, “but not that broken.”

Which is sort of the running theme around here. Broken, yeah, but not that broken. We’ll make do, route around the damage until we can’t anymore. Perhaps things will be better before it reaches the “can’t anymore” point.

I also have the ball in Hell’s Acre to write, as well as figuring out whether or not the ambulance in the beginning of the second Sons of Ymre book is staffed by regular people or…otherwise. I think it’s the former but I can’t be sure until I actually get there, so it will be exploratory writing, feeling my way in the dark until I reach a flash that illuminates the room. I’m glad to be head-down in stories again; I am having very little luck with the world outside.

The inner ones are always better.

Of course, Avery’s being cagey about what precisely his plan is other than burning down a few buildings. He has to have a deeper gambit; it’s not like him to stop at a wee bit of arson. He has to be hoping to find something elsewhere (since he got all dolled up like a gentleman for the evening) and may or may not be expecting…

…but that would be telling. I’m sure he suspects there’s a spy or two even among his Rooks, so I’ve got to go very carefully and see what on earth he has planned. It’s not yet time for me to gently remind him who’s in charge of this entire rollercoaster; I figure I’ll let him run a bit before I apply the leash.

So to speak. The imaginary people inside my head are a real carnival of fun, kind of like ordinary outside ones.

I will be glad to see the back of today, no matter what happens. I can’t believe it’s only a week and change into January, it already feels like this year has been a century long. Pandemic time is as weird as publishing time, and that’s saying something.

Let’s all get through today however we can. And keep our baseball bats handy.

Over and out.

Little Kindness

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A tiny bravery.

If all goes well, this will be a silk tree. Of course, a lot depends on if I’ve provided the right growing conditions, and if the seed was truly viable and not damaged by recent weather. If it doesn’t work out, the tree one block over will produce a new crop of seedpods next year, and I’ll try again.

Assuming we’re still here next year, that is.

There’s just a hint of green, and it’s by no means certain. A hundred things could go wrong. I have another seed in a similar pot, and will try to coax both along. Over and over I plant, and whisper encouragement, and wait.

If everything goes as I hope, there might be a sapling in our yard next year, but that’s no guarantee either. Insects, rot, drought could all strike–we had a tiny oak that didn’t survive last summer’s 115F heat dome. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) But who knows? Maybe we’ll have a silk tree eventually, with its marvelous powdery scent for a few weeks in summer and its pretty pink and yellow blossoms.

Of course, by then we might not be in this house, or something. No guarantees there, either.

But still, it’s important to whisper a little love into any seedling one can. I’m feeling low and drained these days, my beloveds, and doing my best to hold on. A little kindness, a tiny murmur, a small corner where the growing conditions can be tweaked and helped along…it’s all I can do. I don’t know if it’s enough, but it’s what I’ve got.

Be kind to yourselves this weekend, dear ones. These are terrible, extraordinary times, and we’re all on our last frayed nerve.

See you Monday.

Year Three Begins

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The sound of shatter.

It’s a brand new year!

The dishwasher has stopped working, there’s a leak under the kitchen sink, and the tire pressure sensor light is on, but it’s a new year. Amazon has decided to start penalizing authors because e-thieves are pirating their books, but it’s a new year. The CDC has decided to sacrifice lives for the economy as if they’re Republicans, losing what little moral and scientific authority they had left, but it’s a new year.

December 25th rolled around with a new item here at the Chez. The Princess picked up some cheap crockery at the dollar store, and we began the day by shattering a plate apiece, by either deceleration or hammer, on the back walk. The kids are enchanted with this, and can’t wait to do it again next year.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, holidays are…problematic, for me. Every single “holiday” I endured growing up was a nightmare of mounting pressure until the inevitable raging explosion from one of my adult caretakers. At that point, the worst had happened and all I could do was endure.

There’s a certain relaxation in, “it’s happened, all I have to do now is hunker down.” So this year, as the pressure and tension of anticipating the worst on a “holiday” mounted, I decided to do something about it. And lo, it worked.

The sound of breakage triggered the release valve, and the rest of the day was actually pretty nice. It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed Christmas in decades, frankly, and the kids were absolutely thrilled. Everyone got a plate to break, we all pitched in with the cleanup, and then there were good things to eat and a cosy blaze in the fireplace all day. The kids are bound and determined to do the same thing next year, if the pandemic doesn’t end up getting us after all.

…yeah, you can tell even my agathism is taking a beating. We’re in Year 3 of the Pandemic, after all. If one goes historically, this is the year things will get sorted (the Spanish Flu basically took three, I’m going to cover my ears and scream if anyone says, “but the Black Plague…”), at least on the epidemiological front.

I also received some…let’s call it “news”, on Boxing Day. Not unexpected, and I was prepared and braced, but it was still deeply uncomfortable and called up a lot of complex feelings. I’m not surprised things started to go haywire just afterward.

So here we are in 2022. May this year be better than the last, however incrementally. I’ve got a load of work this morning, including making bloody phone calls to get the leak under the kitchen sink sorted and the car’s tires checked. Of course everyone will be doing everything they put off last week because of the holiday, so nothing will get done in a timely manner, but that’s to be expected under current conditions.

There’s nothing to do but keep going. I sent off yet another book–the second Ghost Squad novel, Klemp’s book–last week too, very early but that’s better than late. Now I can turn my entire engines to Hell’s Acre, and also spend some time on the second Sons of Ymre book. I intend to work until it becomes an impossibility; it seems the only way through.

Welcome to the New Year, my beloveds. If all else fails, try breaking a cheap plate or two. It worked wonders for us, I’ve gotta admit.

Excelsior, and all that.

Before the (Holiday) Plunge

Blogging will be kind of spotty between now and the New Year, my friends. I’m…tired.

In any case, it’s Christmas Adam (we call it that because it comes before Christmas Eve, har de har har, old joke, STILL FUNNY) and I’m taking a deep breath before one of the most stressful events of the year–and that’s saying something, given how 2020 and 2021 have both turned out.

There’s a lot to be grateful for, but I just want some rest. If I could sleep until January 1, I would not mind a single bit; for one thing, it seems like a great way to make a dent in ever-mounting pandemic exhaustion.

Alas, it’s not an option, either biologically (having to get up to wee rather destroys the plan, no matter how tight-knit said plan is otherwise) or practically (the kids, not to mention the dogs, would be Quite Unnerved). So we struggle on, boats against the current and all that.

I hope you have a lovely holiday, beloveds. I hope it is full of good things to eat, low to no stress, and all the things you want but nothing you don’t. I may be about before the year turns over, or I might not. I suppose I’m saying “don’t expect much”, and if that isn’t a bumper sticker for the past couple years, I don’t know what is.

See you around.

Consumable Affection

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Oh, fudge.

The Princess has made her first batch of fudge for the season. This year she’s experimenting with darker chocolate–the current batch is made with 70%, and I think we could stand to go a little further–and she will also, because she loves her mother, attempt part of a batch with walnuts.

Well, she knows she’s technically capable, but she’s a purist, and considers my yen for walnuts in fudge to be just short of unholy. Kind of like raisins in challah, which I am in total agreement with her about.

She does several challah loaves with raisins each year around the holidays for her bestie, though, who adores such things. We call it “the Loaf of Sin”, because it makes us all laugh like loons. Of such things are affections made and expressed.

Have a lovely weekend, dear ones.

Shock of Recognition

It’s been an odd week. Of course, the last couple years have been odd, with spikes of weirdness piercing individual months. Endurance is the name of the game, and mine is faltering more than a little lately.

I hit somewhat of a nadir, so I pulled out the big guns. I actually–gasp!–asked for help, and while I was waiting for the request to wend its way through the labyrinth of electrons every email must traverse, I pulled out the big guns.

That’s right, I returned to Nabokov.

Dear ol’ Vlad’s gotten me through a lot. This time I blazed through Lolita and my personal favorite, Invitation to a Beheading, and now I’m deep in the garden of my second favorite, Ada, and the words have worked their magic. I have been nourished, and I think I’m recovering. But I want to talk about something smaller today.

In 1956 Nabokov wrote an afterword to Lolita.1

And when I thus think of Lolita, I seem to always pick out for special delectation such images as Mr. Taxovich, or that class list of Ramsdale school, or Charlotte saying “waterproof,” or Lolita in slow motion advancing toward Humbert’s gifts, or the pictures decorating the stylized garret of Gaston Godin, or the Kasbeam barber (who cost me a month of work)…These are the nerves of the novel. These are the secret points, the subliminal co-ordinates by means of which the book is plotted…

Vladimir Nabokov, “On a Book Entitled Lolita

I often talk about the “hidden hooks”, the secret places where a book’s tapestry is fastened to something solid in order to make it hang right. I hadn’t realized, though I’d read that afterword at least ten times, that Nabokov was talking about the same thing, though in his own inimitable style. Of course, a Perfessor of Reel True Litrachur will no doubt sniff that my work bears as much relation to Mr Sirin’s as a spavined nag to a gleaming unicorn, but that doesn’t concern me.

I gave what might be termed a violent start of recognition. (As ol’ Vlad might have said, a reader “leapt up, ruffling their hair.”)

One of the things giving me much trouble lately is a certain revision. I had to throw out some2 demands masked as suggestions, and once I did the work stopped resisting, dropping into high gear. My writing partner and agent deserve most of the credit, but a significant part must go to long-dead Vladimir Vladimirovich, who for all his genius struggled much as the rest of us do with writing a goddamn book.

There’s been a certain amount of Twitter Discourse lately on the perception that writing is just typing.3 The invisible parts of the process are difficult, time-consuming, and brutal in several different ways–and that doesn’t even cover the various pitfalls of actual publication, mind you.

Yet there are rewards, not least of which is reading someone else’s book for the fiftieth (or fifty-first, or thousandth) time and finding not only the solace and sustenance one needs but also hidden encouragement from one word-drunk wright to another. Of course he didn’t mean it thus, of course dear Sirin is long gone and probably wouldn’t have been interested in anything I penned.4

The connection remains. The recognition, the spark, the joy of finding a few words in a tongue one can decipher amid a mass of hieroglyphs, still endures. I desperately needed that reminder this week.

I can see finishing these particular revisions now, which is a distinct relief. More than that, a bit of hope has been infused into my bones again, though I have tried to avoid it–2020 kicked me in the teeth every time I gained a little bit of Pandora’s last gift, and 2021 shouted “hold my beer” in that regard.

The cockroach of hope, like my silly stubborn grasp on life itself, just won’t go away. After all, there’s work to be done, and I can’t give up as long as I have deadlines and obligations. The net above the abyss, slipping a bit lately, has caught on a nail.

So here I hang, listening to the whistling of the wind, weaving my own stories. The most I can hope for is that one day, someone else will catch upon a hook I drove into the fabric of my own work, and their slide for the edge is likewise arrested.

It’s a grimly beautiful thought, and I will hold it close for as long as I need to, today and tomorrow and afterward, until the end.