However Eventual

I heard the trains last night.

In summer, clear skies and prevailing winds mean we don’t hear them often; summer is mostly for distant airport-noises instead, on long breathless sunny afternoons. But when the autumn mists and cloud cover move in, late at night when the windows are closed, the cries of moving trains reappear with an eerie underwater quality.

Especially when one is up well past dark reading true crime, as I have been lately. The stories are horrible, yet the idea that somehow there’s a narrative structure–and an ending, however eventual, to every horror–is comforting in times of great distress and uncertainty.

And aren’t we having those now, my friends? You betcha.

Yesterday, curled up tightly on the couch with proof pages for The Bloody Throne, I took some time to watch the rain fall. Each drop was a welcome guest; the kids were home and the dogs quietly satisfied with the entire pack assembled. Miss B and Boxnoggin are most comfortable when all of us are within sight and smell–Boxnoggin, in particular, is excited when he senses a pack member is about to return. He has a positively unerring instinct for the moment just before a pedestrian who belongs to him (or a car bearing said human) will appear.

Today is for yet more proofs. Six hundred and fifty pages is a lot, and I have to consider each one separately, with a fine-tooth comb. It’s taken almost a week to get a hundred pages out of the way, probably due to massive burnout, but things should free up relatively soon now that I’ve found my groove.

Said groove is fragile. I’m still lying on the edge of the abyss, trying to breathe. The gasps aren’t quite as deep or close together, and my heart is beginning to come down from redline. Work helps, of course; retreating from social media helps even more. The tension between retracting for my own sanity and the necessity of some marketing (never my strong suit, though I’m trying like hell lately) is marked.

But at least I’m out. In a little bit I can get to hands and knees, and maybe even gain my feet with a particularly daring effort. Then comes walking away, probably to find another sinkhole. There’s never any shortage, especially with *waves hands* all this going on.

The season has turned. The windows are all closed, even at night. Switching to flannel sheets can’t be far behind, and Miss B is putting on her winter coat. Boxnoggin cuddles very close at bedtime, which is now a blessing instead of a sweating miserable curse, and the heated mattress pad is his new best friend. (Mine too, but that’s beside the point.)

It’s about damn time. I thought summer and its attendant discomforts would never end. The trees are shaking off heat stress, firs dropping damaged needles and rhododendrons damaged leaves as new growth emerges fresh and green; they’re scarred but vital.

Healing means they’ve survived.

Dogs need walkies, my corpus needs its (relatively) high-speed shamble, the proof pages need attention, subscription drops need to be prepped. Peace is tenuous, but deeply welcome. Renewal inherent in rain fills lovely cool grey days. My own survival seems a little more assured, a little more possible.

After all, I heard the trains last night.

The Value of Burrowing

blank

Morning fog is a welcome, soothing blanket. The damp chill means these fellows are making their yearly reappearance.

I have not slept for two nights. Insomnia is dreadful; I would wish it on no-one. I was doing quite well sleeping regularly before 2020 hit, but my body and brain have hit a limit and I am being warned, in the clearest possible terms, to get some real goddamn rest, willya?

I did watch Kurosawa Kuroshi’s Cure yesterday. It’s exactly the type of movie I like, a masterpiece with the exact right ending. The Criterion subscription is turning out to be a lifesaver, since I’ve decided I’m not allowed to work until I sleep, which could make for a very long weekend indeed.

Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. Mushrooms know the value of burrowing deep to ride out inimical conditions; so can we.

I’ll see you on Monday, my beloveds.

Tiny, Stripey Friend

blank
Ohai, little one!

This lovely stripey friend rode my shoulder all the way up the hill, while the dogs trotted alongside us, and then kindly posed for a snap. They didn’t speak much, being wholly occupied with their work, but I think they gave me a kind glance before diving into the heart of the flower.

Of such small things hope is made, I suppose. Neither of the kids are ill, I can still smell and taste, and nobody’s running a fever. So it’s probably not The Plague™. It’s becoming more and more likely, in fact, that my body has simply had enough of me working myself to exhaustion and is registering a protest the only way it can.

Said body does signal service carrying my silly self around, poor thing; I should be gentler with it. Of course it likes running–once the running’s done, of course, and I do try to give my corpus the nutrition it needs or wants with very little trouble or bitching.

But the constant fear and agony of hopelessness is wearing upon my poor physical self, I think. I don’t know how to make that go away, because it’s saturating the very air.

Yet my heart keeps on beating. My lungs keep on working. The stories still leap and gambol inside my head, demanding to be told. I keep trying to love without reserve. And a small piece of terrestrial life rode my shoulder this morning, basking in early-autumn sunshine, before hopping off to make a fine meal in the very depths of a flower.

Maybe it isn’t all just hopeless bullshit. Maybe.

Be gentle with yourselves this weekend, my beloveds. Above all, mask up, wash up, and get your jab(s). You’re important, and we need you.

See you next week.

Puzzled By Cruelty

blank

Yesterday was all about line edits; Sons of Ymre #1 is inching that much closer to publication. (Yes, as soon as there’s preorder information, I will absolutely let my beloved Readers know.) I was up what passes for relatively late last night–the dogs went to bed without me, and are bright-eyed and fresh this morning while I drag.

I am a night owl by temperament, but years of having to get the kids ready for and delivered to school have left a mark. Now that’s over, the dogs are still on a schedule and creatures of habit who view All Change as Very Very Bad do not take kindly to schedules shifting. Left to my druthers I’d be up around 1pm, work until 3-4am, and fall into bed around 4-5am, depending.

Alas, it is not possible, and my body’s protests must be listened to though they change not a whit of what must be. Ah well.

The news from Texas yesterday put a dent in me, as well. I know a certain proportion of people just plain enjoy cruelty; it is a fact of existence on this planet, like gravity or nitrogen. Still, it’s puzzling. Why spend all your time being a racist, misogynist asshat when there’s a literal infinity of other things to fill one’s earthly time with? These people could go touch grass, learn how to unicycle, write songs, watch some movies, or even just take a goddamn walk.

Instead, they apparently want to be nasty little fascist dipshits. Why spend that kind of effort? It’s absolutely and literally easier to just…not, to simply be kind or at the very least leave other people alone.

I suppose that’s part of why I write. Not deepest, most overarching reason–I am, quite frankly, unable to stop, and have been ever since second grade–but an important one nonetheless. The addiction of some people to cruelty has baffled me literally all my life, starting with childhood caregivers who hurt me apparently just for funsies. It made no sense to Child Me and makes even less to Adult Me. (For whatever value of “adult”, I suppose.)

I wish I knew why. Attempting to understand might be the writer’s curse or just a function of empathy, I haven’t decided. Yes, I’ve written villains; I’ve even written characters who enjoy cruelty for its own sake–Perry in the Kismet series, for example, or a few of the antagonists in Afterwar, not to mention Summer in Gallow & Ragged.

Now that I think about it, “comfortable with cruelty” is a hallmark of many of my villains or antagonists. Yet those characters, foul as they are, cannot hold a candle to the petty, nasty, apparently endless brutality and mendaciousness of real-life authoritarians. Even Perry, and he was dead set on killing the entire world if it got him what he wanted from Jill.

Fiction has to make sense on some level. Real life, alas, does not.

I wish I understood. It’s long been my fervent belief that understanding breeds compassion, and while I’m fully aware sociopaths and narcissists view compassion as weakness it’s still integral to me, I will keep it that way, and it doesn’t mean I’m unprepared to enforce my boundaries. I can even view the understanding as a way of anticipating the behavior of those who like cruelty for its own sake, so I can protect me and mine from their depredations.

I suppose the only hope is to keep writing. There’s finicky little changes to go over in Ymre now that the bulk of the line edits are done, I just approved a shiny hardback for Moon’s Knight, and today is subscription day. The next major project is revisions on The Black God’s Heart diptych, but there’s a fellow writer’s book to beta read and an article to copyedit for another friend in the queue, so those will be loaded to the cannon first.

Not to mention walkies with a pair of excited, bratty, furry toddlers and a run to get in. The latter, at least, will help me concentrate and get through the rest of the day. I will mull over the mystery of why some people are cruel goddamn dipshits during both, I’m sure, and arrive at no answer other than, “They like it, and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.”

It is not a satisfying explanation, but at least it grants some succor. It will, as I often say, have to be enough.

Over and out.

Monday Irritation

Well, trying a new print distribution service has not been going well, but that’s why we test things–to see if they will. I’m *thisclose* to yanking the book and sending it through another print distro, but I’m giving the company one final chance to make this right. If they choose not to take it, I yank the book, go with a previous print distributor, and chalk it up to a failed experiment.

Oh, and tell everyone I know not to use this particular print distro. There’s that, too.

In any case, I’m swinging wildly between “nobody will read the damn thing, chillax” and “it’s going to be the most hated book in the world FOR NO REASON so you’re going to feel bad, why not just feel bad now and avoid the rush?” I suppose plenty of that is normal; at least, it happens with every single blessed book release. I probably shouldn’t have told anyone about the book, just dropped it on the sly.

Of course, the cover is so good I couldn’t resist. It’s just so damn beautiful, and perfect for the story.

In any case, I’ve finished a morning’s worth of work, and now it’s time to finish absorbing coffee and walk the silly fur-covered toddlers as well. They are beside themselves, both because I did not share my brekkie (it was not toast, it was doughnuts, and they were mine) and because they know the next step in the routine is me tying my shoes (with their close supervision, of course) and brushing my teeth, preparatory to buckling them into harnesses and dragging them around the block.

They can’t wait.

Josephine Baker is finally being laid to rest at the Pantheon. It’s about damn time. I wish the news articles wouldn’t say “First [Minority] to X.” I wish they’d say, “First [Minority] Finally Allowed by Bigots to [Do the Thing]”. Because that’s what it is. It’s not the first person in a particular population to do extraordinary things, it’s just the first time existing power structures have deigned to be forced into noticing, and that needs to be highlighted. The back side of exceptionalism is just as damaging as front-facing racism.

It’s like not “noticing” women until they’re safely dead and can’t messily, personally agitate for their rights anymore. The sops thrown to memory are supposed to be mistaken for progress, and it irks me. Every time I see a “lifetime achievement” award for a woman, I know that she should have won twenty others decades earlier but wasn’t allowed to because some goddamn white man wanted a trophy instead–and, quite probably, stole her work to boot.

In any case the coffee cup is dry, which means now I have to push dog snoots out of the way as I tie my shoes, and the morning may proceed apace. I’m not looking forward to yanking and redoing print distro stuff, but that’s part of the cost of self-publishing. The print edition was supposed to be out a full week before the ebook, but the distributor put paid to that, and I suppose I am a wee bit justifiably irritated with the whole thing. Ah well, at least it happened on this book and not another.

Silver lining, that. And so we’re off for a walk. Happy Monday, my beloveds.

Finding a Way

blank

Every time we reach this particular slice of sidewalk during morning walkies, I think I really should get a picture of that. The cracking and litter remind me of the Westron Wastes in Hostage to Empire.

Most deserts are fine upstanding biomes with a surprising amount of life thrumming just under their surface. Even salt waste as cracked as this little section of sprinkler runoff provides food, shelter, and solace. Of course there’s a locust tree overhead, which you can somewhat see from the wrack and litter–as well as a maple seed.

Life finds a way, even in tiny inhospitable corners.

Have a lovely weekend, my beloveds.

Logistics, Fictional, Assumptions

blank

Earlier this week twenty-odd of my self-pub books disappeared off a distributor’s dashboard, and my multiple requests for information have met with silence. The books have returned, but they were still gone for a significant chunk of time and I have no idea why. Plus, I’m being ignored.

Always wonderful. *sips coffee*

I did manage to take about half of yesterday off. I watched no few amateur historians take apart a few weeks in WWII, always a fun time. Documentaries and deep dives on logistics always fascinate me. I look at battles and think How did everyone get there? How did the guns and the bullets get there? Who carried all that?

I suppose it’s a function of worldbuilding. Things I spend a lot of time thinking about when writing an epic fantasy are where the food comes from, how the shit gets carried away and treated, and who’s doing all the sewing. We don’t realize just how labor intensive cloth is to create (if you’d like to find out, I suggest Women’s Work by Barber) and how the spindles, needles, and looms women worked kept everyone from being naked and dead all through history.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how food and cloth get to the characters, not to mention weapons, but hardly any of that goes into the finished book. Rather, it lurks below the surface, giving the iceberg weight and heft.

Another thing I think about when writing epic fantasy (and since I just finished CEs on a whole trilogy it’s on my mind) is how slow news and travel is under certain conditions. Horse, ship, and foot power were the only things we had to distribute information and goods for a very long time, and all three take far longer than modern people suspect. Unless you’ve got some kind of magic communications network operating (and magic, like everything else, has to be paid for) characters are going to make decisions based on what they know at the time, and those decisions have unexpected consequences. (For want of a nail a shoe was lost, and all that.)

When you add intriguers lying to suit their purposes of the moment and making risk calculations based on the information they have and what they can extrapolate, things get even mistier. Which is great for story purposes, but I’ll never forget a certain copyeditor asking me, in a baffled aside, why a certain character (known to be an unrepentant liar for an entire previous book and a half) was saying something that had been contradicted in a previous chapter from a different point of view hundreds of miles away. “But don’t they know?” the copyeditor asked, and I had a vision of these preindustrial characters in court regalia whipping out smartphones to check the news headlines.

It made me laugh. One takes one’s amusements where one finds them.

Modern assumptions not only color our approach to history, but also distinctly deform our imagination in fiction. Thinking about who grows the food, who (and what) deals with sewage, and how cloth gets made are good ways to start considering aspects of one’s speculative-fictional society and worldbuilding one hasn’t before.

The pace of technological change just since the 1950s has been utterly stunning, and things in even my own living memory have been superseded with speed that leaves one breathless to contemplate. Rotary phones, phone booths, telegrams–when I was born, telegrams were still a thing. A fading thing, but still a thing, and they’re no doubt in use some places still. It’s interesting to see how the convenience of “instant” communication has pulled apart some standard fiction-writing assumptions and strengthened others.

An interesting time to be alive. And since I’ve all sorts of work looming today, I’d best stop nattering and get to it. The dogs won’t walk themselves (thankfully, can you imagine the hijinks?) and Carl the Crow is waiting.

See you ’round.