A Dead Book

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Mist hangs between the trees today. Our morning run will no doubt turn Miss B into a crinkle-puffy floof–her fur acquires zigzags when wet. Today’s run will be very gentle, very easy, recovery instead of pushing. It will frustrate us both, but pushing myself today will only lead to an injury, I can just tell.

I had to make a very difficult decision this past weekend. A book is dead in the water, with no hope of revival. Part of the murder was a series of unfortunate events at the publisher, a perfect storm I’ve never encountered in my professional life and will likely never encounter again. Nobody was a douche, nobody was ultimately responsible, it was just a collection of bad luck. The bad luck was fatal to the book, and admitting as much to myself and others was…difficult, to say the least.

But that’s why I have a writing partner, and friends, and an agent–so that when a series of complete disasters hits a book, I have outside measures by which to measure the scale of the disaster and my response. Often, my response is emotionally disproportionate, and the triad of objective feedback sources tells me so in no uncertain terms so I don’t go off the rails. (Or, at least, I don’t go very far off the rails.) This time, while my decision is not precisely optimal–I could phone in a spiritual corpse of a book, I suppose, if forced to; I could cause myself lasting damage by beating this dead book, if I forced myself to–it’s the only one I can take, and the triad agrees. While I am the kind of writer who will rip out her own entrails in bloody handfuls for a book because that’s the way it has to be, I am not the kind of writer capable of just phoning it in.

And tearing out my own entrails is only acceptable if there’s a recovery path afterward. Mixed metaphor, I know, but accounting for the emotional toll a book takes on you is good self-care.

It’s never easy when a book dies. I’ve had two die on me, and one was only resuscitated after years of patient care and a few unpopular decisions. This one…will not be resuscitated. I just can’t. Maybe I’m too old to keep throwing effort down a well, maybe I’m too tired and the world is too aflame for me to perform a necromancer’s trick when I could be writing other stories.

Either way, I have mourned, and now I’m moving on.

‘Nuff said.

Out is Through

Single
© Twds2 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yesterday was spent hip-deep in proofing Afterwar. I’m pretty sure this book is some of my best work, but the emotional cost of its difficult birth has drained me almost to transparency. Not that anyone’s been anything less than enthusiastic, there’s just been a confluence of factors and bad-fucking-luck attending this book-birth. The constellations were probably all out of whack.

Anyway, today should see the last of the proofing, if I can just get underway early enough.

Oh, also–several people asked if I’d written anything about the shift from Patreon to Gumroad after Patreon’s recent shenanigans. I did, and it’s now live on Gumroad’s blog. So enjoy, if that’s your jam.

I have a short run scheduled today, too. Miss B will be happy about that; she is full of fidgets that need working out. Odd Trundles had one of his spinal episodes last night. Bulldogs are so corkscrewed, spinal issues are incredibly common among them. Half a muscle relaxer and a good night’s sleep fixed him right up, but carrying him up and down the stairs to the yard, then coaxing him out into the grass to relieve himself, was an experience. There was nothing else for it, he had to pee and he couldn’t manage the stairs. At least he knows not to wriggle while I’m carrying all sixty-plus pounds of him down a steep incline. Also, it’s been at least a year since his last episode, so that’s a good thing. He hasn’t had a seizure in a good long while either; his life is arranged very comfortably to avoid triggers and excess excitement.

Given that he can get excited over tuna juice, a strange sound, or when his own unwieldy body produces a bit of flatulence, keeping him calm is a little more difficult than you’d think.

Anyway, it’s back to the grindstone so I can get a few more pages proofed before the itch mounts under my skin and I have to run. I love this book, I really do, but by the time proofs hit on any project I’m so, so tired all I want is to get it over with so I can rest a bit. Not to mention I’m sure this book, like Cormorant Run, will garner a bit of baffled hatred which I will do my level best to be oblivious to. I’m dreading quite a few things about 2018, and that’s one of them.

Oh well. The only way out is through, the only cure is to run and to work and to rub behind Odd’s ears. And Miss B’s. And the Mad Tortie’s for good measure, since she wants to be inside and in my business while it’s chilly-damp out.

Which isn’t so bad, you know? Maybe there’s some hope after all.

Over and out.

Into the New Year

Today’s the last day before the Princess and Little Prince go back to work and school, respectively. Which means that whoever rang my doorbell at 8:30 might have needed something, but I was not getting up. Despite Miss B’s insistence that she had to herd whoever rang that bell–properly Pavlovian, my beloved hound.

But no. I did not get up. I rolled back over and stole another twenty minutes of delicious sleep before finally sighing and resurrecting myself after a feverish dream of blood-colored rain that turned to red flowers starring concrete walks, hard-cracking roots digging in with blind persistence. I’m pretty sure the visual aesthetic was from a War of the Worlds movie. I’ve been thinking a lot about the common cold killing invaders of our watery home this season.

What? Oh, no reason. It’s just one of those things I think about. No, no reason at all. Nothing to see here, move along.

Yesterday was full of challah, black-eyed peas, coffee, and ham stock. The first blush of the stock went for cooking the black-eyed peas, and I left the hambone in the crock pot overnight. This morning I am rewarded with a lovely dark stock full of minerals and intense flavor. It will make a fine soup, probably for tomorrow’s dinner. Something nice and hearty for the kids after they come home from their first day back at the grindstone.

Other than that, there’s proof pages to do. I may try to do them in PDF form this time, despite my preference for hardcopy. I feel like I just don’t see enough if it’s not on paper, but we’re under a time crunch and this book has already been the most difficult in my career. So…maybe the PDF has something to recommend it. Maybe I’ll do fifty pages or so and see how it works. Christ knows I just want to get this book off my plate by now, it’s been a few years of sheer hell. I mean, I love all my books, and I think this one is very good, it’s just had a very…difficult…birth. I shouldn’t have been surprised, it was a more complex and terrible (in the old sense) undertaking than I’d ever attempted before, one of those projects that takes one’s craft a quantum leap forward. (Or at least, one hopes.) No growth without the pain of stretching.

At least I only have a short run today, and no shortage of coffee. Since the kids are home, they can deal with cleaning the kitchen. There are occasional advantages to spawning, I will say that much.

Into the New Year we go, then. Over and out.

Good Wallow

So. We survived 2017. Idiots in the neighborhood busted out (now-illegal-within-city-limits) fireworks, so Miss B was huddled near me until we went to bed, where she promptly passed out and only twitched at the booms and bangs. I guess once she’s on The Hoomin’s Bed, nothing can harm her. I do wish she wouldn’t have needed her snout thrust firmly in my hair before she did the said passing-out, though.

’17 was awful. The world is on fire, there seems no way to stop the flames, and I’m tired. I took a good wallow in the last week, playing video games, letting myself eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, only producing 200 words or so a day–just enough to scratch the itch–and just generally rolling around in a pile of “waaaaaaaaaaah”.

I know time is subjective, I know today is technically just the same as yesterday and the change in year only has power because we all agree on it. The Witch’s Year started on Samhain, and one of the things I enjoy is the lying-fallow period from the winter solstice to the other New Year. Often I try to scramble, to get work done during that time, but I’m forced to accept that I need, well, not to.

It doesn’t help that salaried publishing people tend to clear their desks right before major holidays, which means work lands on freelancers–including the writers producing the content the salaried people are selling. Just one more way the industry is kind of benighted; eventually our culture will appreciate the creatives it’s built on and needs so desperately.

And while I’m dreaming, I’d also love a war unicorn to gore my enemies.

ANYWAY. We made it. I’m here, you’re here too, and there’s exciting stuff coming down the pike. Check out my new Subscriptions page–if you’re in the mood for a monthly or weekly hit of fiction, or access to the ongoing Roadtrip Z serial, or if you just want to throw a little in the tip jar, there are plenty of options.

After my run, while the laundry is chugging away and Miss B is exhausted into happiness again, I’ll be cleaning off my desk a bit at a time and redoing my master to-do list. It’s nice to see what I crossed off over the past month. The lying-fallow period has one great advantage: when it ends, I am more than ready to get back to work.

*puts on helmet, and goggles* Let us go forth together, my dear Readers, and kick some ass.

photo by: Miia Ranta

Zero Drafts

I finished the zero draft of the first Combine’s Shadow book last night. So today is kind of an off-day, though I still have to get out the door for a run. God knows I’m feeling the pressure to get a whole chunk of Beast of Wonder out of my head today, too.

Every once in a while I get a rash of people asking “what’s a zero draft?” so I thought I might as well do a whole post on it, since I just finished one and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have another soon. (Beast of Wonder really, really wants to be written now, and I need it out of my head.)

It’s been said that all good writing is rewriting, and like all old chestnuts, it contains a grain of truth. Certainly there are occasions when a chunk of text falls out of my head and needs only minimal polishing before it’s ready for primetime, when I fall into a fugue state and churn out something beautiful. (The Muse does have to give me random rewards in order to keep me addicted, after all.) Those gifts are Easter-egg sprinkled through every draft, hidden hinges and visible ones for the story to hang on.

Zero draft means the work is done. It has the beginning, middle, end, there aren’t any places saying [[shit happens here]] or [[why isn’t this working, figure out the muppet here]] or [[jesus christ I have to kill this character soon]] or, one of my favorites, [[sex scene here?]]. It’s in recognizable book/short story/novella form; the corpse is whole and laid on the table. Celebrate, get a beverage of your choice, soak up the congrats of all your writer friends. You’ve given birth!

Now comes the hard part. Nobody else sees this draft. Oh, no. Are you kidding? It’s not even ready for mew writing partner or beta readers yet.

The zero draft is the raw steaming lump of creativity. I set it aside, for at least a week. More difficult works sometimes have to marinate for longer. This serves two purposes: it helps ease the snapback, and it gives some slight but critical emotional distance from the big, messy word-baby you’ve just laid. You need that distance in order to make the word-baby better, prettier, more appealing, truer to its shape and intention.

Once it’s marinated for a little bit, you can go back and do the initial revision pass. You can fix typos, you can trim and craft better sentences, do continuity checks–basically, the initial pass is for arranging the corpse prettily on the table, embalming it, fixing structural problems, changing your dialogue tags to action or description tags, and the like. After that pass, it becomes a first draft.

Now other people–writing partner, beta readers, etc.–can see it. Now you can let it marinate for a little while longer before another revision pass if you can tell it needs more. A zero draft is the skeleton; a first draft is that skeleton with padding and clothing added. (Yes, I’m gleefully abusing metaphors here to make a point. You’d think I was a writer.) Work doesn’t stop at a first draft–I know writers who get to at least the third before they even consider letting an agent or editor near it. I tend to work hot and lean even in my first drafts, so I need agent/editor feedback on where the lacunae are, those things I can see so clearly in my head I forget the reader doesn’t have that image as well. It’s rare that I keep a book until the second or third draft.

Why don’t I call a zero a first draft? Because it’s finished, yes, but it’s not quite arranged, painted, or aesthetically where I want it. The brute work of typing is done, but it’s the cut and polish that makes it better. Still, the zero is a thing to celebrate. You’ve got to give yourself a break and a reward or two for finishing the damn story before you can gather the energy to make the corpse ready for the viewing.

It doesn’t mean the work is over, but you’ve got to take the good things where you find them.

Validation

I spent the weekend putting together alternatives to Patreon for my lovely subscribers. I could have been doing so many other things, but oh well. I also had the heaving frustration of my site basically choking every time I tried to upload an image, that was fun. Fortunately, this morning I got in the queue for a service chat with my hosting provider, and we figured out the problem. Ugh, double ugh, I could have been doing something else with THAT time, too, but now it’s solved (for the moment, we’ll see if the solution holds) and I can breathe a little easier.

I am also relieved that the problem was something I couldn’t have fixed on my own. It’s so nice when someone else says, “Oh yeah, it’s X, let’s see if this works.” I wasn’t just imagining things! I mean, I knew I wasn’t, but the validation is still pleasant indeed.

So I’m shivering in my chair, my coffee has grown tepid, and as hard as I tried this morning I could not get out the door for a run at a reasonable time. That means it will have to be unreasonable, and I’m already behind. There’s four scenes to get an acceptable zero draft of Combine Shadow, a weekend’s worth of wordcount to get back on top of, more Beast of Wonder to feel my way around, under, towards…oh, I’m sure there’s more on the list, including setting up workflows and choosing this week’s subscription offerings. And, and, and. I should just get over myself, slather on some sunscreen, and get going. Maybe the endorphins and some vitamin D will make me feel a little less frazzled and more, well, human.

Maybe once I finish my run I’ll turn the heat on and drink some tea. It’s a good thing I work ahead on so many projects, it means I have a cushion for just such weekends as the last one. The only trouble is, once that cushion starts to get thin I get anxious, thinking I’m behind when really I’m slightly ahead or just on time. If I’m not early, I feel late.

Anxiety is fun.

That’s my Monday, chickadees. The perennial feeling of needing a weekend to recover from the weekend is getting awful familiar…

Patreon’s Cash Grab

I sent this message to all my Patreon backers. On the off chance that some of them have already deleted their pledges, I’m also posting it here.

Hello Patrons!

By now, I’m sure, you’ve heard about Patreon’s fee changes. This is a cash grab by the company–for details, you can check out Natalie Luhrs’s excellent post–and it is a horrible idea.

It’s horrible because loading up $1-$5 subscribers with “transaction fees” EVEN THOUGH said subscribers’ cards etc are only charged ONCE no matter how many creators they support is unethical, dishonest, and wrong.

Patreon is currently the only game in town–Kickstarter Drip hasn’t opened to everyone yet, and even if it did, the company is owned by Amazon, which puts me off. I’m looking into other options, but it’s going to take a while.

If you need to delete your pledge because of this, I encourage you to do so. I would rather absorb the cost than have it placed on you, because that’s the ethical way of doing business.

Since this is Patreon using a unilateral shit move, however, I don’t want you guys to suffer. **If you delete your pledge because of this, PLEASE DROP ME AN EMAIL AT contact AT lilithsaintcrow DOT com so I can make sure you get the ebook of Season 3 for free when it’s finished.** I don’t want you guys missing out because of someone else’s shitty behavior.

I also have a post up where you can vote and tell me what changes to the reward structure should happen in light of this development.

I depend on patrons for a small but consistent monthly sum that keeps us in groceries, but I don’t want it if it’s a result of screwing over people who generously give because they believe in me and my work. It would be a shoddy way to repay you for your kindness and support.

Again, if you decide to delete your pledge, drop me an email so I can add you to the list of those who will get the Roadtrip Z Season 3 ebook for free. I want to make sure you get your money’s worth, no matter what Patreon does.

All my very best,

Lili Saintcrow