Birthday Month Snowpocalypse

Of course yesterday–the day I had to spend mostly outside the house–was the day it decided to snow. It didn’t accumulate, thank goodness, but the roads got super sloppy and everyone piloting a car was stressed out and consequently a bit wavering. On the bright side, I got through the grocer’s between waves of “OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO SNOWPOCALYPSE DIIIIIIE” people, and noticed only that the bottled water had been pillaged. There was still plenty of dairy.

Today I can rest a bit. But only a bit, since I have to perform yet more Birthday Month-related things. I also have a run to get in; the dogs need their fidgets worked hard. They get stressed during any excitement; Mum leaving a houseful of guests in their care for hours at a time (well, the Princess was home and entertaining, so the dogs weren’t entirely on their own while performing supervisory duties) has made them Nervous.

I should get out the door if that’s what I’m planning. I was allowed a bit of a lie-in this morning, thankfully dog-free since the Princess came in, set a cup of coffee on my nightstand, and dragged both canines out. For no reason at all, she said, except she thought I’d like it.

I have good kids.

If I can just get through next week, the birthday month craziness should die down and I’ll get a chance to breathe. That will be a lovely change, and I’ll relish it.

The enforced rest has done some good–I’ve been getting research reading in, and that always deepens the worlds I play with. I’m only getting bare wordcount, 200-400 words a day, since most of my energy’s going elsewhere. I get itchy and tetchy when I don’t write, but at least 200 words is a prophylactic measure. I’m only slightly annoyed with the world as a result.

So today is for running, listening to kulning (a new obsession) and being grateful to my Past Self for scheduling subscription stuff so I don’t get home today and have to engage in a scramble to get that done. Hallelujah and thanks, Past Self! I’ve almost forgiven you for that “[[put sex scene here]]” you pulled last week.

Almost

Spark, Work, Spark Again

2.5K on HOOD’s Season One yesterday. All in revision, which would bother me–except I’m getting ready for the huge push to get the zero out. Then I can switch to The Poison Prince and get that skeleton all arranged and padded. It lingers in my reveries like to a step-dame or a dowager, long withering out a young man’s revenue.

Not that it’s a bad thing, I’m just dreading it because by the time it’s over it’ll be another 200K that I have to trudge through CEs for, probably at short notice since it’s always a case of festina lente. If a publisher paid me enough to be my only client I wouldn’t mind so much, but none of them do anymore and as a result, I do mind and I will not be harried into working weekends when salaried employees don’t.

Well, I will work weekends, but only for me, myself, and I. That’s the only client paying me enough, frankly.

In any case, I am in that twitching, raw space where I want to get this done and move on to the next project. The instant I finish The Bloody Thone–number three in the epic fantasy trilogy–I am going to feel so. damn. liberated. The only problem is that there’s proofs on Book 1, then the whole process on Books 2 & 3, to get through.

I shouldn’t complain. I wanted to stretch my wings and write something different. And I love several parts of this series. There are just…behind the scenes issues dragging at my fingers while I type, which is my very least favorite way of writing. You’d think, after a decade and a half in the business, that some people would assume I know what I’m doing.

Anyway, I am sparking with low-level irritation and the desire to get things done. If I can manage to get to the end of revisions today I’ll be set up for the run for the finish, which will include Marah’s Race and some domestic terrorism for spice, as well as a giant arms heist and the ending stinger–because upping the stakes with King Richard’s return is good narrative fuel. Friar Tuck needs more screen time, he’s the moving part I care least about but that doesn’t mean I’ll spend less time polishing and crafting him or his story.

Well, that’s the work before me. It’s a sunny Tuesday with snow clinging in the corners, bright, inexorable, and dangerous. The dogs wish for a run, but taking their tender paws out onto ice (not to mention the risk of falling myself) isn’t cricket at all.

So it’s upward and inward, and all those things I’d fiddle with to procrastinate have been folded away and put to bed. Nothing before me but the task I must accomplish…

…and there’s some shortbread dough in the fridge, of course, but that’s neither here nor there. One needs something to look forward to in order to work most effectively, right?

Right?

On Formality

I am a somewhat formal creature. My emails start with “Dear Sir/Madam” most of the time, and I will never call someone by their first name until specifically asked to do so, and even then it will be Ms/Mr Firstname for a while.

This meshes somewhat uneasily with my chosen career. Generally the people I write to are glad of the formality–politeness, after all, is a plus when dealing with editors, publishers, or other writers.

But it also means that the modern slide into informality irritates the living daylights out of me. Strangers who start their missives with “Hey Lili” or “Hey Lilith” get an automatic strike, and guess what? If I haven’t deliberately told you to address me informally at least once, you’re a stranger.

I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the Saintcrow Law of Informal Address1: the informality of address by a stranger is precisely proportional to the “favor” they wish to extract from you, and their concomitant fury when denied is multiplied by each factor and then squared.

In other words, I see “Hey Lili” at the beginning of a stranger’s email and wince, knowing ahead of time that I will be asked for something and when I say “no” I’ll get a screed2 in return.

It never, ever fails. I can count the exceptions to this rule on one hand and have fingers left over, and that’s after being on the goddamn internet for decades now.

By contrast, the emails I get with formal address (including, hilariously, missives sent to an entirely nonexistent “Mr Saintcrowe”, because somehow if I’m a man the extra “e” needs to be added, don’t ask me, I just work here) are uniformly much better spelled, not to mention more reasonable in content, and when I send a gentle “I am sorry, I cannot,” the letter writer takes time to pen a short, very polite, forgiving missive to close out the interaction.

Consequently I am much more likely to use the extremely limited time allotted to correspondence to respond to a letter or email using formal address than the alternative.

I offer this insight not to complain3 but to advise. The joking informality currently in fashion might be working against you if you want people to go out of their way or read past your greeting. Especially if you’re asking a busy person for a favor.

I realize my habit of formal address is often seen as cold or standoffish, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for behaving in a decent fashion according to my own lights. I’ve never had a person call me rude for using proper address4. So, of course, your mileage may vary…

…but if you don’t get responses to your familiar, joking little emails, you might want to consider how you’re starting them out.

‘Nuff said.

On HOOD

I’m almost ready to submerge again. Almost ready to turn off all socializing1 and dive into finishing a zero draft. Season One of HOOD wants to be born, and quickly.

It’s not the usual point in a draft for me to submerge. Normally it’s the last quarter of a book that comes out in a white heat. This time, a full third of the book wants my complete and total attention, mostly, I suspect, because of the speeder race. I also suspect that HOOD, while partly a tongue-in-cheek Robin Hood in Space2, is also about grief, and trauma, and survivor guilt.

I mean, plenty of my work centers on those issues anyway. Write what you know, right?


One of the more fascinating things about Robin Hood is how the legend changes. Taking it solely from the 1800s, Robin Hood has changed from Ivanhoe‘s cheerful patriotic fellow through a tights-clad, smirking mustachioed Errol Flynn to a somewhat smoldering3 combat veteran, with a detour through Disney4 and ending up somewhere between Russell Crowe’s constipated expression and Jonas Armstrong’s cocky but utterly forgettable second-fiddle to Richard Armitage’s tormented Guy of Gisbourne.

It’s the latest that gave me the kernel of HOOD, really. I know, it’s obvious, but I didn’t realize it while the seed was sprouting below conscious level. Robbing the rich to feed the poor is particularly germane to our current times, and it’s a great and worthy cause. But…it’s never as simple in implementation. Resistance is a business all its own, with all a business’s pitfalls.

Consequently, Alan-a-dale and Marian have taken center stage. Both work at different ends of resistance, Marah by using her social position to shield who she can and Al by somewhat more direct action. No doubt many will find Al’s methods reprehensible but more worthy, seeing in Marah’s choices a certain abnegation of responsibility.

I’m not so sure. Both, to my mind, are equally brave.


Robin, Guy, Friar Tuck, Little John–in HOOD they’re all veterans, and they return to a changed world. Plenty of my friends have. “Undeclared” wars and “police actions” are brutal, unholy euphemisms and leave only shattered bodies and minds in their wake. Once you’ve survived such a thing, how can you ever return? How do you find the way back to those left at “home”? How do you find your way towards a peacetime self, once you’ve had to do terrible things to survive?

Sometimes I think I write about nothing else because I’m trying to find the way to do so myself. I’ve often thought, in the black bleakness of 3am, why bother surviving if it makes me feel like this?

I keep writing because I can’t stop, but it’s also largely (I suspect) to push that question away. Answering it seems beyond my faint powers, but that’s no reason not to attempt doing so. Anything less than utter dedication to the attempt is spitting in the face of the great good luck that allows me to still draw breath.


One of the best treatments of Robin Hood I ever read was Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood, which was the first time the actual logistics of a band of forest outlaws intruded upon my young consciousness in the form of Robin’s blisters from digging privy ditches. Retreating to the woods to harry the oppressor requires iron will, craftiness, and an undying commitment to sanitation so half (or more) of your small force doesn’t succumb to parasites and sickness. Along with Jennifer Roberson’s Lady of the Forest, which centers on Marian’s position as a Saxon noblewoman faced with Norman invaders and institutional misogyny, Outlaws showed me that the real story wasn’t with Robin’s derring-do or Errol Flynn exploits.

Of course, myths survive because they are protean; they change their shape to suit our needs and deep desires. Right now, at this particular point in history and time, Robin Hood is a complex story about trauma, responsibility, the misuse of power, revolution and its habit of eating its young, and more–at least to me.

And of course, I’ve tossed in lightsabers, land speeders, faster-than-light travel and communications, Will Scarlet as a synthetic a la Aliens, generation ships, dualistic religion, the fact that human nature destroys the best ideological edifice, and more. Every writer is a magpie.


In any case, the first season is about to take me in its jaws and gallop for the finish line. I’m sure my version of Robin Hood says more about me and my current historical moment than anything else…

…but any story told by any human being is the same. We are fixed in time and space for a few brief moments, and we do what we can to mark the occasion.

See you in a bit, chickadees.

Hurt, Beautiful

This is the empty container for the antibacterial soap we found worked best for Odd Trundles’s yeasty paws. I…couldn’t toss it just yet. So it sits in the windowsill, where I see it while I do dishes and I think about that little fellow and how much I love him still.

The cracks in my heart make it bigger, make it easier for that beast to expand. But oh, sometimes…they ache.

And this is Sir Boxnoggin, Lord van der Sploot, who has put on several pounds and a layer of gloss to his coat and is hoping very much that you are bringing pets or a treat for a Very Good Boy. He has lost his shyness and become the goofball I suspected he was under all the trembling uncertainty.

So many things hurt. So many things are beautiful, too. Some days I can’t tell the two apart. I would not trade the pain to make the beauty more, or trade the beauty to make the pain less. It’s not the ache I dread, but going numb.

It’s been a long week, chickadees. Let’s all have a bit of a reward for getting through it in still-breathing fashion. Be kind to yourselves this weekend, please.

Over and out.

Safety, Sudden Ice

The cherry tree down the street is still attempting to bloom, in dribs and drabs. I’ve noticed some volunteer nasturtiums, too. Plenty of crocuses have poked their heads up, their hoods swelling with color that will eventually be flowers.

I want to grab all of them and say, softly but with great force, “Don’t. You don’t know what could happen, it’s only January, please, keep yourself safe.”

They don’t listen to me, of course, their knowledge is deeper than my fear.

My children are sixteen and twenty now. They are beautiful, caring, empathetic human beings–and I worry about predators and sick systems who prey upon such. I hope I’ve given them enough tools to spot the douchewads and jerks, I hope I have loved them so deeply and flagrantly that they know, no matter what, that they are worthy of such love and the predators who would convince them otherwise won’t find a purchase.

I know I can’t protect them from everything, much less sudden frosts. Yet the desire to keep them safe turns my hands into fists and my eyes into lamps, searching the dark waves past the safe harbor I’ve painfully assembled during the course of living.

I don’t understand those who see the vulnerable, the beautiful, and only wish to mar. I don’t understand people who see an expanse of unbroken snow and can’t rest until there are footprints or stains. I know they exist–I saw them, even as children, stripping leaves from branches not even hanging in their way, kicking the helpless and breaking ice on puddles just to hear the shattering, growing up to maim all those in their orbit one way or another.

There is no understanding to be reached, I suppose, only defense.

I know the cherry tree will survive and the crocuses will rise triumphant even if the ice comes. My Princess and Little Prince will meet terrible things in their lifetimes despite all my best efforts to protect and insulate. I have to trust that the tree, the flower, the young ones I carried in my own body have at least a fighting chance.

Spring is coming. One year it will pass me by…but not this year. I’m still here, searching the waters, calling out when the storm edges close. I am still longing to wrap the cherry tree in enough love to keep the frost at bay, to whisper to the crocuses you’re doing so well, to hug my almost-grown-up children and repeat the truth under all truths.

I love you so much. Please be careful, please be safe.

Safety may be an illusion in a cold, uncaring universe. Still I maintain the harbor for my beloveds, as long as I endure.

If the cold comes, it will find me ready.

Break to Fight Again

I’m drained today, my friends. The news is so awful, the fight seems so hopeless, nothing seems worth it. Part of the problem is I’ve been on Twitter a lot, and the firehose of bad news takes a toll. And then I feel weak, because I am relatively privileged and so many people are dealing with so much worse than I could ever dream of–and I can dream of a lot, as we well know.

I don’t mind admitting I feel sad, vulnerable, and broken right now. I know there’s no choice but to keep going, if only to make the defeat less severe for those with less advantage than myself. I feel like the job of telling stories is an important one, but I’m not up to the task and just fooling myself thinking I can make any difference at all.

I’m going to keep fighting–accepting defeat is not an option–but I could really use a break.

There are dogs to pet and walk, there are children to raise, there is coffee, and there is work to be done. Today the work might be all about renewing my will to fight, to keep putting one word after another, one foot before another.

I hope you’re doing better, chickadees, and if you’re not, at least we’re in the boat together. I’m holding the line as best I can, and I won’t let go no matter how the rope cuts.

Over and out.