AGENT ZERO Release

It’s here! Viral super-spies and secret government programs! That’s right, my dears, Agent Zero is now available!

Agent Zero

An agent risks everything for a love he shouldn’t feel…

After barely surviving an IED while serving his country, Reese was whisked away by a shadowy government agency and somehow…enhanced. Now he’s an agent—smarter, faster, stronger, deadlier—and he executes his missions with cold precision. But when he’s inexplicably drawn to a down-on-her-luck waitress, Reese learns he’s not the emotionless man he thought the agency had made him.

One minute, Holly Candless is getting fifty-buck tips from that strange, but seemingly harmless customer. The next, she’s kidnapped, injected with something and rescued by Reese. Suddenly, they’re on the run from the very government that wants Reese reprogrammed—and Holly dead. Now keeping Holly alive is not only Reese’s primary mission, it’s his sole chance at love…

And their only shot at survival.

Now available at B&N and Amazon!

This is one of those books I wrote for my writing partner and bestie. I would send her a chapter at a time, partly to distract her from certain events and partly because I was having so much fun. She persuaded me to send it to my agent, and, well, here it is. I hope you enjoy it–I like Holly and Reese very much, though I do think Holly’s braver.

So does Reese. Which is why I like him. And for those interested in Trinity, I can only say, stay tuned…

Underwear Painting Gnomes

Three walls in the living room used to be an awful goldenrod colour. It wasn’t precisely bad, but the more I saw it, the more irritated I got. The goldenrod was repeated in my room, the loos, and the kitchen/dining room. Other than the accent walls (dark green in the living room, a matte red in the dining room) it was all close-to-babyshit-yellow, all the time.

This, my dears, simply would not do, especially since we had the Great Loo and Hall PaintAThon, and I painted my bedroom, and the Princess painted hers. This last weekend before school started, I finally took the plunge.

new colour

The Princess is a taper extraordinaire, and the Prince ran and fetched things and was an extra pair of hands. We did the living room Saturday, and the kitchen/dining room on Sunday. You can see the living room above, it’s Behr Marquee’s Recycled Glass. Which means it turns from greenish to bluish depending on the light, and tones very well with the forest-green accent wall. The kitchen/dining room is Translucent Silk.

even more colours

It picks up the red nicely, but doesn’t overpower my green dinnerware. (Please ignore the mess on the counters.) The penguin is Shirley. She quite approved of the change.

All this painting served a secondary purpose as well. (No, that purpose was NOT “making sure I never pick up a brush again”, thank you, though that DID happen.) It meant I was physically and mentally exhausted enough not to pull any mental muscles by plunging headfirst into another book and courting burnout.

Small mercies.

Now I have to do all the Sunday chores I didn’t do yesterday. But it’s all good. That’s step one and two finished. Next?

step three

The Underwear Gnomes are very proud of me.

Singular Shenanigan

You rang?

You rang?

It is now apparent that I am not coming down with a post-zero-draft cold, I am simply producing mucus because there’s a change in the weather. It’s about to start raining again–at least, the weekend is supposed to be very damp, and I can’t wait. Hopefully that will make the wildfires easier to manage, and revive that drooping pampas grass at the bottom of the driveway.

I figured out I wasn’t getting sick while running this morning, smelling incipient autumn and dodging fallen plums with wasps busily sampling the sweet, fermenting flesh. School is just around the corner, so one or two of my running routes will have to change. In summer I can circle a campus or two, but fall to spring they’re reserved for other uses. Autumn also means more rain, which means less dogs offleash during their morning walkies for Miss B to yearn after. (I am a cruel alpha, for not letting her offleash to PLAY and CAVORT and CHASE RANDOM CARS AND BICYCLISTS.)

Just after the plums, there was a long straightaway, and something blurred across the path. I marked it–squirrel, and a big one too–and almost tripped.

Because the little rodent’s tail was crooked, at exactly the angle Neo’s used to be. Is it a common thing? I don’t know. I almost, almost stopped to check if I was wearing shoes, but then B lunged for a wasp who had decided to keep pace with us and when I looked back, the squirrel had vanished.

How is it that I can feel…well, a little sad? It made me think of all the crazy escapades in the former Kingdom of Backyard. I don’t miss the old house–there were definitely things that needed fixing, and for the last six-seven years of my life there I was incredibly miserable–but…I do sometimes miss the jays in the morning, and sometimes I even miss Neo’s crazed chatter.

There’s Napoleon and Josephine, of course, though Napoleon is old and cranky and Josephine is now the Queen of Backyard Rodentia, thankyouverymuch. Beauregarde the Chivalrous has shown up every once in a while. There’s Horatio the Jay, who screams in sonnets, and a number of small sparrows and chickadees who Greek chorus out back all day long. There are the cats from next door, who the Mad Tortie sometimes allow to saunter through our front yard, and visits from the Amazing Hummingbird Daredevils. Even Young Horus the Hawk gets into the action, though he hasn’t hunted in the yard. I think he just roosts. There’s Willard and Phil and Miranda and Fred and George and Emphysema Joe and Norbert. So there’s no shortage of company or shenanigans in my “new” backyard.

It’s just…some days were so awful, so bleak, that a squirrel shenanigan (how does my spellcheck know the singular of “shenanigans”?) was the only thing to break the agony and make me forget the black hole for a few minutes. (A few minutes of screaming, terror, and shoelessness, but still.) And of course, sharing the stories with Readers helped me feel a little less of a useless sack of water and pain.

Maybe it’s Neo reincarnate. If that’s the case, the elementary school groundskeepers are in for a surprise or two.

Maybe I do miss the little punk, the One of Rodentia, He Who Knows Kung Fu. Maybe I just miss the brief moments when I felt like a human being again while anthropomorphizing him and his cohorts. Those moments shone all the more brightly because the darkness around them was so intense. Now that I’m not having a half-dozen panic attacks a day and struggling just to find reasons to survive, there are more bright spots.

Stories save our lives in many ways, over and over again, all the damn time.

At least if that crooked-tail rodent is a reincarnation, I’ll be wearing shoes every time I meet him. Of course, that’s no guarantee I won’t end up screaming, but one takes what one can get.

photo by: law_keven

Smoke

dream landscape 2 The smoke pall has lifted, which just makes the fires more dangerous. Acres and acres of burning. We’re not coughing and tearing up every time we step outside–one of the Princess’s friends, who just returned from China, remarked that it was only half as bad as Beijing–but everyone is still unsettled. The dogs can probably still smell smoke, and it makes them clingy.

Not that they need much help in the clingy department. They won’t even go down the stairs to pee unescorted, and that’s on a good day.

Two days of a vast cap of smoke meant rubescent dawns and blood-coloured sunsets, praying the ionizers wouldn’t get too filthy to work, and seriously looking into breathing masks. The wind, carrying the smoke, rasped against edges and made people even crazier than the heat. There was almost a fight in a grocery parking lot, normally sedate drivers wove drunkenly or peeled away from stop signs in a fury, and I’m sure there were a ton of domestic disturbances and alcohol-fueled parties veering out of control. It made me think of the Santa Anas, and I wonder how people in California bear it.

Anyway, we’re hoping for rain. Lots and lots of rain. Sometimes the clouds come with September, a thrown deadbolt locking summer out. Sometimes they wait to descend, teasing, until the end of the month. The trees are drooping, turgor pressure plummeting, and even the row of cedars in the backyard are looking dispirited.

It’s time to go back to Gallow 3. Either the book needs to die, or I do, and I’m not done yet. Lock and load, and let’s hope for rain.

Over and out.

photo by:

Thinking Tree

Where the thunks are thunk.

Where the thinks are thunk.

On our (sadly infrequent) woodland rambles, Miss B and I pretty much always pass the Thinking Tree. Like Jenny Anydot’s house, it’s just one of my little names. The tree in itself is not a huge thinker.

However, it’s a lovely facilitator. The trunk is at just the right angle for climbing, and one can perch in the branches–though I do not do so when B is with me, because 1. safety and 2. SHE WILL GO MAD TRYING TO CLIMB AFTER ME. You have not seen stubborn until an Aussie can see her person but is barred from actual contact.

More than that, though, the tree welcomes one to reflect. It exudes a quiet air of “just settle for a moment and let the thing inside your head work for a little bit.” Especially in winter, when it’s asleep but still gives off that wonderful sense of being safe, welcomed, and encouraged to have a moment alone with your thoughts.

Familiar Fear

jared is disappoint I mean to blog more. Really, I do. It’s near the end of summer and the scramble to get kids ready for school has reached a fever-pitch, and Gallow 3 is alternately eating my head and stubbornly refusing to move on alternate days.

Every book is different, every one takes a slightly different route through the process to the finish line. This one wants to sprint then rest, sprint then rest. It’s like fiction interval training. On the resting days, I’m attacked by that old familiar bugbear, the “Nobody will like this book, you suck, go back to office work or retail, everyone will hate this book AND you, then the sun will go out and we’ll all starve to death and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT.”

Yes, it’s irrational. I fully realize as much, and sometimes it’s that realization that gets me through. When it doesn’t, my natural (and well-exercised) stubbornness comes into play. There’s something to be said for finishing multiple books and feeling the same soul-crippling fear each time. The fear starts to become a friend, a sign that you’re heading in the right direction, a familiar presence. It doesn’t get any more comfortable, mind you, but familiarity blunts its teeth a bit.

So on days Gallow 3 wants to rest, I turn to the second Steelflower book, and bash at its beginning third, waiting for the long slog in the middle to hit so I know I’m getting somewhere. As soon as Gallow 3 makes up its mind and spikes for the finish, I’ll have room on my docket for the next project. Which is exciting.

But for right now, I sit down with the familiar fear, brew us both a cuppa, and get back to work.

Critical Mass

Road Gallow 3 is spiking towards the finish. Which means all other projects are put on the back burner while I choke out the last third of the book all in a rush. After a book reaches critical mass, it starts demanding instead of having to be dragged.

So it’s double coffee in the mornings, the story eating my head all day, and nights of playing piano to wear out the rest of my brain, then falling exhausted and twitchy into bed. Where I will most likely sleep, hallelujah. Modern medicine has performed many wonders, but the best for me personally has been anti-anxiety meds so I can actually get some rest. Lack of sleep does awful things to one.

*blinks*

I had a whole post about how my book-production cycle has changed over the years, but it’s supposed to be near a hundred degrees today and dammit, I need to write a knife fight between two sidhe, so that’s going to have to wait. I also have to write a few more scenes so I know if a certain character lives or dies. He’s wounded pretty badly right now, and he may not make it.

What? No, I’m just as surprised as you are when a character dies. You should have seen me after I wrote Working for the Devil, I was in mourning for damn near a month. I suspected what would happen in the next book, but I wasn’t sure until the ending either…

Ugh. Gallow is prodding my brain with sharp teeth and red-hot irons. Time to get back to work.

photo by: Moyan_Brenn

Heavy Branches

Fermenting

Fermenting

Walks with Miss B often lead to rambling in tangled bushes, her nose busy among the roots and me keeping my arms well away from clinging thorn-branches. The blackberries are heavy with fruit, and no few of them have turned soft and semi-alcoholic. Backyard and streetside plums are both dropping their fruit, and wasps crawl over the larger ones, drunk and largely placid. Among the blackberries, though, it’s fat bumblebees singing tavern songs, and birds small and larger feasting before they veer away at my approach, hopping and stumbling, flapping their wings like welcoming, very tipsy socialites. Miss B eyes them dubiously, and snaps at zigzagging bees. Thank goodness she hasn’t caught one, yet.

Autumn is coming.

On Blurbing

Is this thing on?

Is this thing on?

I get mail. And sometimes it isn’t hatemail! Okay, okay, often it isn’t hatemail. I do get more positive and constructive letters than angry, nasty screeds.

Well, most weeks I do. All part of being a woman on the internet, right?

Ahem. Anyway, this landed in my contact form queue, and after I replied I thought hey, there are probably other people who have this question too.

From: *redacted*

Subject:
Question Regarding Manuscrit

Message:
Hello,

I’m in the process of trying to get a manuscript published and I noticed that you offer editing services. Editing isn’t quit what I’m looking for so I wanted to touch base and see if there was something we could work out.

What I am hoping is to have an established author in the (somewhat) same genre be able to offer a front cover blurb/ few words on the story.
Since you were the one who inspired me to become a writer I wanted to reach out to you first. So I guess I’m wondering if this would be of interest to you (blurb below) and if so, how much it would cost?

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your time,
*redacted*.

Blurb:
*redacted*

Again, thank you for your time.

This is very polite, and I can’t blame the person for thinking that’s how the whole thing works, given how movie quotes are farmed. Bonus points for being upfront and telling me editing isn’t what s/he’s looking for, extra bonus points for thanking me for my time. and triple-dog-dare-you bonus points for taking a very professional tone.

Here’s my reply:

Dear *redacted*,

Thank you for writing to me. I am honoured to be considered an inspiration.

Blurbing a book means the author who does so is putting their own reputation on the line for the work in question, and requires a significant time investment of reading the work in question. Standard industry practice is for an agent or publisher to reach out to the established author’s agent (or the author, if they have a personal/professional relationship with the established author) after the book has passed through editing, copyediting, and quite possibly the proof stage. Also, blurbs should never, ever be paid for. If an “established author” is offering to blurb your book for cash, it is a scam and definitely NOT in your best interests as a professional to pay them. Money, as Yog’s Law states, should always flow towards the writer.

I suggest you familiarise yourself with Writer Beware and other sites that can help you in your writing career, keep you from being taken advantage of, and familiarise you with best standards and professional practice.

Good luck,

Lili Saintcrow

I wish this fellow writer the best–the professionalism and politeness exhibited in the letter will carry them far. I also wish I could have helped them more, but charging for cover quotes/blurbs is NOT OKAY, is NOT PROFESSIONAL, and is a sign that some poor writer is being scammed. I’m not able to blurb half the books I want to, because my reading time is so saturated with research I can’t get them into the queue.

Got a question about publishing/writing? Hit up my contact form, and if enough people ask or it’s a really good question, I’ll answer with a blog post. (I can’t answer everyone, of course.) I’m also over on Ask.fm, but that’s more likely to get a very short answer.