A Whole Free Mood

It’s been a busy morning, my coffee has gone cold, and the diffuser in my office is burbling away with a little sandalwood and jasmine, mixing with petrichor coming in through my half-open window. The neighborhood is quiet, except for crow-calls and some squirrel chitterings. This morning I saw a giant black-feathered beast sitting next to an equally robust figure of an arboreal rat; they hurriedly separated when they discerned my surveillance.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I’ve also received a rash of “I have this idea, you take half a year to write it while living on air and then we’ll split the profits! Or I’ll–this is an even better deal–TAKE ALL THE PROFITS! Isn’t that great? Don’t you want to do that? Why don’t you want to do that? Where are you going? I HATE YOUR WORK ANYWAY.”

Yeah, it’s a whole mood, and it plays out the same way every. damn. time.

On a brighter note, the creative well demanded filling yesterday, so I spent some time watching the second Magic Mike movie, wrote 4k, then ended up missing bedtime because I watched Netflix’s Russian Doll start to finish in one gulp. The former was enjoyable, and I have Thoughts about the male gaze of the director focusing on male entertainers. The latter was…thought-provoking. I did not like the protagonist but I was rooting for her and for Alan, the character the story really belonged to.

That’s something I wish more narrative artists–writers in particular, but also directors–would take to heart more frequently. The protagonist is the watcher/reader’s main point of entry into the story. The story belongs, however, to the character who changes the most, and failing to recognize that is a large source of reader/viewer frustration and disappointment.

Deciding who your protagonist is and who the story actually belongs to will make the structure of the work much clearer, and will allow the storyteller–in whatever format–to push and pull said structure to get the effect they want. Along with a list of what every character in the thing desires–even the walk-ons–it’s a tool that often arrives after a great deal of trial and error, not to mention hard work. Lucky you, therefore, getting it for free!

…yeah, I’m a little salty this morning. Time to drag both dogs out for a run before the rains come in, though I never mind running under precipitation. It keeps the assholes with unleashed dogs inside, at least.

All right, Thursday. Let’s not hurt each other, okay? I’ll play gently if you will.

*puts on hockey mask*

Soup Is Not Soup

The other day I wanted potato-leek soup. You can do it quickly, of course, but I like roasted potatoes in mine, and I have very definite needs for the leeks. The bottoms must be soft and the tops still a little crunchy-stringy, which means a multi-stage cooking process.

My ex used to make his own particular soup, one the kids adored. They like mine, but it’s not the same–and we don’t have it often, because the smell can remind them of the time of the divorce. It wasn’t contentious, they just don’t like that part of the reminder. There were good things about that process, too.

It isn’t just soup. It’s memory and survival, hope and endurance, bitter laughter and amazed tears, all in one pot. Food is rarely just fuel.

May you reclaim dishes you love, my friends; and may you look around the table and think, we made it, we survived. And may that thought fill you with peace instead of despair.

Over and out.

Old Shapes, New Sizes

The dogs are nervous. It could be that my own unease this morning is communicating itself, or it could be that they sense a looming disaster. Either way the warning has been heeded. It does no harm to be cautious, to cross one’s fingers, to inhale deeply and look an extra time before crossing the street.

Especially since I’m going to be out running with their fuzzy asses.

Today is the day the mass-market paperback of Atlanta Bound goes live. I was thrilled when Vellum decided to start doing different trim sizes and went on a binge of reformatting interiors and getting wrap covers redone. There are more mass-market editions coming:

A trade edition of The Marked is on its way, too. The new editions are not revised, they’re simply offered for reader convenience. I tend to prefer mass-market size for a lot of books, but I am by no means in the majority.

Speaking of which, I’ve been told that the mass-market editions of the Valentine and Kismet series (serieses? Serii?) will be going out of print soon, leaving only the omnibuses. (Omnibi? Heh.) While I’m saddened–I love the mass market covers–I am also resigned.

“Resigned” covers a lot of my feelings lately.

Anyway, The Poison Prince and Season One of HOOD continue apace. Incorruptible and Harmony are still out on submission, though Harmony will be coming home for self-publication very soon unless the publisher gets their act together. I could go off on a tangent about publishers expecting a writer to sit and patiently starve while they hem and haw about taking a book or not, but that would be ungraceful of me, wouldn’t it. The business is what it is; I’m just glad to have other options.

Yesterday I finished a conversation between a general and an astrologer, and got a starship loaded. Today is for the Sheriff of Nottingham doing dastardly deeds in Much the Miller’s Son’s direction and a somewhat elliptical conversation between a prince and a lady-in-waiting.

It’s a good job, and I like it. I may even be able to put in a few more lightsaber battles in HOOD other than the sparring in Season One and the giant set-piece planned in Season Two.

But first, there’s a run to get in, and a few bits of correspondence to scribble on and fling out the digital window.

See you around.

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.

Cautionary Cranky

Yesterday I did All the Things. There was revision, there was fresh formatting to do for a paperback of Quill & Crow1, and revising on HOOD. Plus cleaning the kitchen, dinner to make, dogs to run, and a whole raft of things I had scheduled because it was a “holiday” and I had it in my head I wasn’t working.

Except I did. And now I feel like I need a weekend to recover from that one-day holiday. I spent a restless night toss-turning between two dogs who really just wanted the bed to themselves, and consequently am a bit cranky.

Check that. Majorly cranky.

There are things I should do: suit up and run, clean the kitchen again, bang my head some more on revisions, get a good chunk of text on The Poison Prince–I want the astrologer and the general to introduce a new layer of complexity and the lady-in-waiting needs her father’s signet and another marriage proposal–and figure out what to make for dinner as well as get some laundry in. There’s fifty million other things I should be doing.

I suspect, however, that what I will be doing is following the current plagiarism drama in Romancelandia (it’s a dilly) and poking at Lightning Bound since the witch and the storm god are working at cross-purposes while trying to save each other, and that’s a catnip dynamic for me. I love writing tension and scenes where two people who should be allies are actually working against each other.

I might even get to feeling enough like a lazy slug to accomplish a few things on the to-do list. Maybe it’ll even wear me out enough to sleep tonight, despite canines and their liquid sleeping habits. (As in, they turn into heavy liquid and spread, and spread, and spread…)

Don’t be like me, chickadees. Let your days off be days off, so you don’t arrive at the first day back at work exhausted. It’s too late for me, I suspect I shall be doing this until I die2, so learn from my cautionary tale.

*wanders away muttering about to-do lists and dogs, not necessarily in that order*

Going Gets Tough

I’ve been blogging for a long while now. There are dry periods, where I have nothing much to say except for the minutiae of daily life–how the book-sausage gets made, what the dogs have done now, how publishing is changing. Oh, and the weather. Of course the weather is a constant concern.

I partly blame reading military history; weather is always the third general upon the field, and one who can’t be ignored. Today the rain has washed away everything except a few sheltered snow holdouts. The streets are awash, the roof kissed over and over by falling drops. The dogs aren’t going to like our outing, at least not when the initial oh boy we’re outside WITH MUM wears off.

That takes about ninety seconds in a downpour. They must love me a lot.

This morning I woke up with Jack T. Colton from Romancing the Stone yelling “Oh, man, the Doobie Brothers broke up!” Which meant I had to go listen to What a Fool Believes and then onto a Twitter rant about how much I love that damn movie and how it’s probably responsible for my current career.1

Now you know who to blame, I guess? When the going gets tough

Copyedits continue apace. I spent some serious time yesterday looking into Ingram Spark and mass-market paperback trim sizes. If I get the whole PDF cover template thing done, the first experiment is Steelflower in mass-market size.

It’s a great time to be self-publishing, IF one knows what one’s doing. If one doesn’t, the options available might boggle one into inaction or worse, signing away one’s rights without proper compensation. Or one might think that because of a crying fit brought on by frustration (I fucking hate PDF cover templates, let me sing you a whole song about how I hate them) the entire thing isn’t worth doing, and toss it all out the door.

Yes, I was tempted yesterday. But today’s a whole new day, I’ve got my spark back and the heat set to the wick. Today is for more copyedits, and when I can’t do that anymore because my head will explode if I look at one more comma placement question, I might put together a soundtrack for HOOD and poke a bit more at cover templates.

But for right now, it’s raining and the dogs need a walk. See you around, chickadees.

Read ’em and weep. I always do.