Finding a Way


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.

Little Things, Right

blank

Much depends on a single magnolia petal, sprinkler-starred, lying in thick grass.

I’m struggling lately, my beloveds–as you can probably tell. Every time I think there’s a little hope, some-damn-thing else happens.1 I suspect my resilience is reaching a limit, and that is an Unhelpful Thought.

I’m trying to find little things to focus on–cuddling a happy dog, a tiny victory for one of my (grown, when did that happen, my gods) children, a sip of good coffee, a small break in the gasping, terrible heat of summer. If I pay attention to those, maybe I can get through all the rest of it.

At least there’s some rain today. Not much–a bare drizzle, tops–but it smells lovely and cleans the air, and a little relief from the heat is better than none. And walking the dogs mean I have to stop often and look at the things which interest them.

Like a single magnolia petal from a tree fooled into blooming again by the release of the heat dome, and tiny jewels of sprinkler-water glittering in the sun. Sometimes, looking at the small things, I know everything’s going to be okay.

I just hope I’m right.

Exuberant Violet

blank

The African violets are doing rather well. I did have an LED growlight for them, but apparently it was Too Bright, so they’re back on the coffee table in their old spot. There’s another rack of seedlings and small starts under the growlight, though, so it isn’t going to waste.

The violets have expressed their relief by bursting into exuberant flower, egged on by the blood lily, which has returned from its dormancy with panache. Having one of those is an exercise in patience and trust–each time it dies back I’m certain it will never recover, though I know perfectly well it’s just doing its usual thing and will poke its green head back up after a rest.

Friday is ambling on its merry way, thankfully much less weird than Thursday. Even the sprinklers are back to their regular selves. Of course, at least three squirrels have taken headers out of the cedars today, each time after a scrabbling fury that brings me out of my office chair to look out the open window. I’m pretty sure it’s not just the same squirrel each time…

…but one can rarely tell, with these little arboreal menaces. They keep getting up and staggering away, so at least I don’t have to go out with a shovel and attempt some kind of rescue or burial.

Small mercies on a Friday, but I’ll take them. Have a wonderful weekend, my beloveds.

Weeds At Home

blank

I don’t know who these sunshine-y fellows are, but they’re all through the shadier upper garden beds. The roses and violets don’t seem to mind and they’re not near any vegetables, so I’m leaving them alone. I don’t do a terrible amount of weeding anyway–I pretty much figure dandelions need a home just like anyone else.

I do get rid of blackberry sprouts, though. Those bastards are wicked, and they’re everywhere. They have a home in the park up the hill, massive banks of green thornvines providing great quantities of berries and flowers for the fauna. I’m sure a few humans live in that stretch of “waste” land as well.

I’ve achieved very little of what I set out to do this week, but plenty in other areas. Some weeks are like that–the victories are not in the direction one would wish, but are joyous nonetheless.

Next week I’ll tell you about a new body for a gargoyle, and maybe about Einstein the Ring-Tailed Squirrel. But right now it’s time for a little coffee, perhaps a little brekkie, and looking over what’s been accomplished as well as planning the weekend.

I don’t think I’ll vacation anymore for a while. My heart can’t stand it.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. May it be full of things you like, and empty of things you do not.

Picking Battles, No Not Those Ones

blank

Coming back after a long, long weekend, looking at a particular thread in email, and deciding, “Welp, I can be done with this issue, it can be dead to me,” is particularly liberating. I’m not sure I would have arrived there without the past few days spent consciously and resentfully Not Working.

Maybe that’s why everyone likes vacation so much; it repeatedly massages one’s sense of the possible and acceptable with a giant stick.

It’s not a bad thing. I already have as much work as I can handle. I just wanted things arranged a particular way and if that’s not going to happen, fine. Moving on.

Today will be all about retrenchment and planning. Fortunately it’s a lovely cool morning and the marine layer is doing good things. This weather is far more to our liking–and by “our” I mean not only the humans and dogs, but the trees and shrubbery, not to mention smaller green things. If I could just suss out the problem with the sprinklers, we might be sitting easy–but as it is, I’m still watering by hand.

Not a bad price to pay for some tomatoes; the seedlings are past the most critical stage. Still not sure why the squirrels seem intent on grubbing up a few things, but I guess that’s arboreal rodents for you.

Speaking of squirrels, the Princess saw one with a ring-striped tail the other day. (Are you sure it wasn’t a baby raccoon, I asked, and she whipped out her phone with a long-suffering sigh. It was, indeed, a squirrel, and she had proof.) “It sashayed right across the deck. It stopped to LOOK at me when it was near the door, Mum. I had to check that I had shoes on even though I was inside.”

Which is, as we all know, the most reasonable thing to do when faced with one of those hyperactive little barstids.

I do have a Tale of the Backyard to tell you, but it has to wait. Today is for other things, like rearranging the ol’ publication schedule and divvying up the day between revisions on Sons of Ymre, an audio proofing (listening as the book is read), revising a combat scene to get it to acceptable zero-draft status, a run, and as much coffee as I can stuff down my word-pipe.

Coffee goes in, gory little stories come out. It’s the circle of life. It’s gonna take a much longer time to finish Cold North‘s trilogy now…but that’s okay. We can wait for good things, and besides, this means it can be told the way it wants to be, without well-meaning interference. So on the bright side, there’s that.

Anyway, as soon as I can, I’ll take a few pictures and tell you all about the Gargoyle’s Body. But that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Today’s full-up, no more can fit, that’s too many battles, put some battles back.

Over and out.

Rosy Victory

blank

I moved the roses out of the side yard in very early spring. There just wasn’t enough sun, and besides, well, the graves.1

On the bright side, since a certain neighbor was silly and took out half the cedars along the back fence, what used to be a shade garden now gets much more light, which made it perfect for said roses though it’s doing bad things to the patio put in with so much labor. Win some, lose some.

The ketchup-and-mustard showed its appreciation of the new quarters by blooming first this year. Its presence in our garden is in honor of the Princess’s best friend–they met in middle school, and these are her favorite type of roses. So each time it raises a vibrant flag, a flurry of pictures gets texted. I’m rather proud of this one.

I thought some of the roses would give up the ghost during the move, but amazingly, all of them survived. Either they’re far hardier than I thought or my sotto voce pleading “please, please don’t die, you’ll be happier here, I promise,” was effective. Either way, I’m counting it as an unqualified victory.

Happy Friday, dear Readers. I hope your weekend is everything you need it to be, whether quiet or busy, solo or (masked, vaccinated, and) gregarious.