Stop, Whoops


This happened a while ago, but the picture’s too good to leave languishing. I call it “Whoops.” Looks like someone had an awful night.

I’m still in recovery. Having a book slide out so easily does not, unfortunately, mean the recovery process is shorter. If anything, it’s longer, because the flywheel takes more time to spin down. Or so it seems.

Be careful this weekend, my beloveds. There’s a heat wave on, and tempers are short this time of year. I’ll be hiding in the dark cave of my office, sucking on ice cubes or limeade, trying desperately not to develop heat prostration or a rash.

Ugh.

Another Zero Bites Some Dust

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Late on Tuesday–I think it was Tuesday, yes?–I finished the zero draft of Black Land’s Bane, first in the Cold North trilogy. That’s the Tolkien Viking werewolves, for those keeping score.

I thought it would sell before now. But oh well, at least it’s another zero in the bag. It will need a significant amount of working-in and embroidery; right now it’s very lean even at 103k words. There’s some serious epic chonk that needs to go into this bad boy, including expanding the Giant Spiders section.

If there’s anything this book needs, it’s more giant spiders. The Valkyrie shieldmaid Arneior steals most of, if not all, the scenes she’s in, and the emotional heart of the book is the relationship between the elementalist and said shieldmaid. Men come and go, after all, but a childhood friend with a spear and a temper is forever.

The cicadas are already starting in the treetops, which means it’s going to be very hot indeed. We don’t get the seventeen-year kind out here, but I can well imagine the din in other places. Regardless, the insects know about the coming heat ridge, and even the dogs are subdued.

Black Land’s Bane finished easily; I wasn’t even aware I was pushing for the end. I thought, huh, in two more scenes we’ll get to the natural terminus, then before I knew it I was there. It’s by far the easiest a zero’s ever finished itself, which makes me nervous.

I keep waiting for a shoe to drop, so to speak. And since I didn’t reach the end with screeching tires, all the energy of pushing through the book is ricocheting inside my entire body. It’s unpleasant, but I just have to let it settle. Next up comes revising Sons of Ymre, sending off the line edits on book three (the final volume!) of Hostage to Empire, and then turning my engines to writing two more romances and the zero of Hell’s Acre. I’ve even put some throwaway text on the beginning of Book 2 of Cold North, which opens with Solveig and Arneior imprisoned in an elvish citadel because of course it does, as Arneior would mutter, how could we have expected anything different?

I can’t decide whether it’s good or bad the elves didn’t decide to put them in an oubliette, but Labyrinth references might make the book even more of a hot mess.

*is thoughtful* Not that it’s a bad thing, mind. Maybe I should add more giant spiders and an oubliette, or even a Pit of Despair. After the extended Turin Turambar references and the Glorfindel anagram I’m sticking in, I’m not sure there’s really a good place to stop. MORE IS MORE, AFTER ALL.

Still, that’s for revision. Today is for preparation, bracing ourselves for the coming bad weather. All we can hope for is some part of the predicted heat ridge cracking earlier than expected. At least we’ve the downstairs, which stays cool even in the most torrid weather.

I’m devoutly hoping for no gender reveal parties kicking off border-jumping wildfires this year, too. It’s a small dream, but it’s cherished. I might be recovered enough from this zero draft to risk heat prostration; if I set my alarm early enough I can get out while it’s still relatively cool.

Not today, though. Today I try to get the flywheel inside my head to spin down. As easy as finishing the zero was, recovery is correspondingly harder. I knew there was a catch to a stroll over the finish line instead of a desperate scramble.

The dogs need walking, and I think I glimpsed Carl in the backyard. Maybe I should take the Sekrit Weapon (i.e., the Golf Club) along.

Further bulletins as events warrant…

Pleasant Waiting

I woke up from a barrage of weird Silmarillion dreams (I’m doing a reread) to find Looney Tunes playing inside my head at full volume–orchestral stingers, Bugs and Daffy singing tunes, a whole Coyote-and-Roadrunner cartoon’s background music playing on loop.

It’s interesting inside my skull. Especially right after I finish a book.

I’d thought that taking a day completely off–no work, no chores, nothing even resembling proper nutrition, even–would cut down on the recovery time from finishing what is, in essence, one very large book broken into a diptych. It doesn’t appear to have; I’m still nerve-scoured and twitching.

I did get some gardening done yesterday, though. Many of the seeds are old, so we might not have a good yield. But if even one sprouts, it’ll be more than we had before. I’m not even going to try tomatoes this year; they only bring grief and pain.

Instead it’s pumpkins, beans, and peas, blue hyssop, nasturtiums everywhere (I love the peppery little darlings) and sunflowers (we’ll see if the squirrels leave any of those to sprout), rudbeckia and a bag of seeds I’m not quite sure of. They may be California poppies; that’ll be nice.

We’re supposed to get some rain soon. I know better than to turn on the sprinklers in April. Another thing that only causes grief and pain.

It takes a while, but yes, I can be taught.

I probably was inspired to actually get outside by a couple documentaries on the Emerald Triangle. I watched Netflix’s Murder Mountain, then went straight into Hulu’s Sasquatch, which was surprisingly good. I suppose my inner hippie perked up; go figure, I watch stuff about weed harvesting while knitting and am tempted to braid my hair up and plant beans.

Growing into the hippie I always knew I was has some benefits. Even the rosebush I was pretty sure wouldn’t make it is showing signs of resurrecting. The roses have all summer to recover, and–drumroll please–both grapevines as well as all three blueberry bushes are alive and well too. The grape I moved to along the north fence is showing fresh leaves; I’ll have to trim it once the season’s over because otherwise it’ll try to take over the dogwood. But that’s fine.

Even the tiny oak seedling I replanted, pretty sure it wouldn’t make it, has fresh, hard red little buds on the branch-tips. Considering it’s from a stray squirrel-hidden acorn, it’s doing really well. I put a couple peas near its roots to maybe get some nitrogen into the soil.

All told, the garden’s doing better than I thought it would. It was therapeutic to get my hands in the dirt. Now all I do, as mentioned, is wait for rain and try to get out to do some weeding every once in a while. The kids are excited at the chance to help, since they’re both old enough and the Prince will have his last totally free summer on his hands in a month and a half.

He won’t want to spend it weeding, but we’ll have downed branches and stuff to burn, and that’s right up his alley. The ash makes a good addition to the compost pile, too.

I would go out and do more today, but the Looney Tunes music inside my head is sort of disconcerting. I mean, the last thing I want to do is step on a rake, and I feel like my brain is warning me there’s a stratospheric chance of hijinks if I test the patience of the gods. So maybe I’ll just try to get some work arranged. Not done, mind you–just arranged.

After all, there’s Hell’s Acre to get situated and Cold North to fully schedule, not to mention getting the master to-do list and the hoovering I didn’t get done this past weekend sorted. But every once in a while I’ll look out the window, waiting for rain.

It’s a pleasant kind of waiting when you know the forecast says “soon.”

Over and out.

The Diptych, Done

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I’m gonna need a few days to recover from the weekend. I spent said weekend in a fever of typing, and the zero draft of The Black God’s Heart Book 2 is now…done.

Whew.

It’s a difficult project, because it’s not really two books. It’s one monstrous book split into two parts, a diptych. I’m used to working in book-sized chunks, but I feel the way a fresco painter must have felt when finishing a giant cathedral piece. I mean, there will be revision, especially on Part II, but the main corpus is out of my head and lies, steaming gently, on a zinc table ready for slicing, arranging, padding, and painting.

To mix a metaphor.

So for the next few days I’m going to be all but useless. I did manage some Sunday chores yesterday, but the hoovering is going to have to bloody well wait. I’ll probably get it done tomorrow as an antidote to thinking; a big spate of physical cleaning is normal after I finish a zero draft.

The “real world”–the world outside my head–looks strangely flat this morning. It’s not being filtered through the story throbbing in my head. Black God’s Heart is hypersaturated, its palette either greens and bright gold light (in Nat’s POVs) or sepia with crimson highlights (very movie-300, in Dmitri’s). Now that the zero is gone, both of them have moved on and I’m left with just the regular world. Not only that, but the scents are gone too–which is kind of a blessing, given how some of the scenes played out.

Fortunately, the real world is always beautiful and vivid enough. It’s just a huge change to go from four or five-plus streams of sensory input (regular world, what’s under the regular world, and stories’ POVs) to the regular two (regular world and what lies under it). There’s a sort of ringing echo, a sense of empty space, like after Faure’s Requiem ends and the silence containing beauty is brimming with the memory.

Anyway, I’ve plans to recover from this, involving getting through the daily run and a whirlwind of cleaning. The recovery phase is always difficult. The persistent feeling that this was the last leftover gauntlet of 2020 to run–because I wrote most of this project last year–has been a millstone around my neck, and being suddenly free of that weight is a decompression sickness all its own.

Usually, the morning after a zero, I’m already aching to get to the next project. This is one of the few times I’m simply grateful for a chance to breathe before diving again. And with that, I’m going to finish my coffee and get the dogs walked.

They don’t care what I’ve finished or when; they only know that it’s morning, and that means walkies. Simple joys and rituals are their bailiwick, and I am pleased to have it so.

Over and out.

Free (Sock) Elf

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Earlier this week a package arrived, bearing this wonderful thing. A single sock.

You read that right. One singular hand-knitted sock.

It’s part of a pair knitted by a dear friend, but she thought it would be hysterical to send me one at a time. I promptly, of course, took to Twitter to shout “MISTRESS HAS GIVEN LILI A SOCK; LILI IS NOW A FREE ELF!” Which is exactly what she wanted.

I am a free fuckin’ elf, mofos.

I also finished the zero draft of HOOD‘s final season yesterday. Which means this morning I am cross-eyed, absorbing coffee, and wearing a pair of beautifully hand-knitted slipper socks. They aren’t really socks, of course; they’re a friend saying “I love you.” Like little hugs for my feet.

The feeling is more than reciprocated, and very welcome. I hope you have a little (or a lot) of it in your life as well, my beloveds.

Have a good weekend.

Resentment, Body, Détente

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So. 6k+ on HOOD‘s Season Three yesterday. The crisis is written–the apex of the season and incidentally of the entire serial–and now all that remains is a few scenes’ worth of falling action. I could have pushed through an all-nighter and gotten at least the scaffolding of those in, but it would mean more work later fixing fatigue errors. So I did the Reasonable, Adult thing and went to bed, resenting every moment of it.

There’s a particular state where I do indeed actively resent anything that isn’t writing. I’m still there this morning. Even this blog post is only glancingly acceptable because it involves typing. What I really want to be doing is writing that falling action, getting the characters to the new equilibrium.

Which means Guy of Gisbourne, Alan-a-dale, and Robin Hood have a scene that needs to happen, Maid Marian and Little John need to have a conversation followed by Guy’s visit to the woman he’s loved since childhood, and Robin needs to stand in the ruins of his own childhood home. I think I can do it in three scenes, now that I’ve gotten some sleep and food in my reluctant corpse.

I shouldn’t be so mean to my body. It’s hauled me around, largely uncomplaining except with good goddamn reason, for a very long time now. We have somewhat of an armed détente; we’ve both done things we regret. Parents, men, and society have tried to make me hate my closest and oldest friend, the flesh that carries me. Working against that current is difficult, especially when I’m used to escaping into worlds of my own creation.

The fact remains that my body is my ally, and when I stopped lobbing shells at her, she was more than happy to relax into a peace without negotiation, pettiness, or ill feeling. I don’t deserve that grace, but she offered it without rue or anger. Better than I deserve, I suppose. We can’t live without each other, so I should stop being cruel to her and myself.

I suspect that particular trick will take a long, long while; I’ve been working on it for about a decade. It’s hard to shake the first thirty-odd years of training and the constant cultural (and advertising) yelling to lose weight, be fuckable, you’re too old, you’re too ugly, buy this product, starve yourself, who do you think you are?

Patriarchy’s biggest victory is getting women to hurt themselves. Wrestling that weapon away from the grasping invisible hand of the market is huge, uphill labor.

I’m sure my body will like a few days off with the relief of finishing this zero draft. Before that can happen, though, I’ve got to finish absorbing the coffee both of us like, walk the dogs, and give the ol’ corpse the running it craves to purge stress hormones and stretch the lungs. Then it’s back to writing, where each word echoes in the secret hollows of my bones, the threads of my capillaries.

Writing is hard on the delicate structures of the wrists, it’s hard on the back; I don’t know about other scribes, but every combat scene or narrow escape hikes my adrenaline and fills me with characters’ pain or uncertainty. Ironic that the thing I long to escape into relies upon my body; every word is intimately bound with my flesh.

Even when I’ve hated her, she’s given her help unstintingly. She throws herself, often to the limits of endurance, at every task I set her to. She does her best, despite the ill treatment I’ve made her endure. Her complaints are always founded in deep effort; she never wants to betray me. I’m going to spend the rest of my life undoing the damage inflicted during the first few decades while she winds down, doing her absolute best to carry me while time, ill chance, and mortality gnaw at us both.

I wish I’d learned to treat her better earlier, but at least I have this opportunity now. Gods grant I don’t squander it.

In any case, it’s time to care for the corpse before I can achieve the end of the story we’ve both been working on for a long while now. Plus, the dogs are patiently (but energetically) waiting for their morning ramble. All of them are kinder to me than perhaps they should be.

May they teach me to be better, each in their own way.

AFTERWAR Hangover

blank Last night I typed “finis” at the end of the Afterwar zero draft. It weighs in at 94K words and will only get longer because most of it is so, so lean. Some scenes are full of dialogue that needs trimming and plenty of physical and action tags put in so the reader can see an approximation of the movie in my head.

It may be a horrid, stupid, ungainly mess, but it is no longer a horrid, stupid, ungainly, unfinished mess. True to form, though, I woke up this morning knowing where at least two more scenes need to be shoehorned in. I’ll write those on a 3×5 card and set them aside, because if I have to look at that book ONE MORE TIME right now I will throw something at my desktop, and that’s not good for anyone.

So I have a massive book hangover today. I honestly thought I’d never finish the damn thing, it would be a millstone around my neck for the rest of my short-uncomfortable life. The fact that early March is full of social obligations (birthdays, family visits, and the like) meant I could feel the book itching to be born, swelling like a giant tumor under the surface of my brain, but I was physically unable to get to the bloody keyboard and get as much typing done as it needed. That required a deathgrip on my temper, too. I am downright cranky when prevented from finishing a story-birth.

But yesterday I coughed up a 5K+ chunk, around the daily round of (almost-adult-but-not-quite) child care and a ticklish, complex, mind-numbing project I wanted to get done at my weekly volunteering. It was kind of a relief to just put my earbuds in and concentrate on something that wasn’t the book begging to be born, but when I finished the glow of satisfied accomplishment was marred by the scratchy-itchy-bugs-under-the-skin of NEEEEEEDING to write.

So, I went home and got to work. Dinner was leftover pizza for the Prince (the Princess was at work) and toast for me. I dove back in…and god damn it, but the book would not die. I stabbed and I stabbed, and when it expired…well, I was surprised, to put it mildly.

I typed finis, centered it, and stared at the screen. And then I burst into tears. The sobbing was mostly relief but partly the rubber-band snap of frustrated rage.

So, long story short, I’m pretty useless today. Book hangover is in full swing. A long run in the sunshine might help; it will at least exhaust me enough to make sure I sleep tonight. My dreams will be full of inchoate anxiety, and I now have two projects hanging fire that I should catch up on since I shifted all my resources to finishing this one.

That’s a battle for another day. Today, I rest. I won’t quite call it good, but I’ll certainly call it done.

Over and out.