Morning Melange

Cow mouth 1
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I’ve been obsessively playing Hay Day lately. It’s a very gentle game, full of feeding animals and making things. It’s a nice change from the outside world’s screaming. Of course it’s one of those freemium games, which is annoying, but since I tend to play for a few months then leave a game fallow (pun intended) for longer, I can’t complain. Much.

There’s another round of bigots and sexist crapheads trying to pull the old “but art should be apolitical” canard. *sigh* Art is made by people and is the product of choices. People and their choices are political, because politics affects what choices people have. I cannot believe this simple and elementary truth is invisible; those who want “apolitical” art just want art that agrees with the benefit they believe they get from a status quo they see as under threat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Odd Trundles has taken to dragging every toy he can find to the office dog bed, piling them, then settling atop them like Smaug on his treasure. This would be fine (although it looks damn uncomfortable) if the pile didn’t tend to settle and move just when he has reached maximum nap, startling him awake. And when Odd is startled awake, he gets loud. The frantic “oh my GOD something MOVED” borking is then echoed by Miss B, who answers from whatever part of the house she is investigating or herding, and she scrabbles into the office at full speed, baying “I’LL GET IT, I’LL HEEEEEERD IT!”

This would be mildly amusing if not for the sheer volume sending my blood pressure skyrocketing and adrenaline pouring through me. Never a dull moment around here, folks. Never, ever.

I’ve also been reading Lovecraft lately. He was racist as fuck and in many cases not a very good writer. Plenty of his work has been referenced elsewhere, so it’s like reading the Bible despite all the rape and murder and nastiness, or Shakespeare despite all the misogyny, in order to better follow the references and threads through other works. I won’t deny that every once in a while I get the urge to read something, and it won’t pass until I’ve scratched the itch bloody, like a mosquito bite. (I’m terrible with those.) Cycling through obsessions feeds the mill inside my head, and what comes out is story-powder, or something.

What Lovecraft was very good at was giving just enough information to let the reader scare themselves most effectively. Kind of like how Pennywise was terrifying until the kids found out IT was just a giant spider, or Black Phillip/the Devil in Witch manages to terrify and entice with a spur, a heel, a whisper, and the flip of a cloak. I tend to err on the side of letting the reader’s imagination fill things in, and to doubly err on the side of trusting the reader to connect dots and infer from context.

This sometimes drives my editors up the wall. One of the major struggles in edit letters is where they think I’m relying too much on the reader’s ability to connect things in context. Since the story and connections are so clear inside my head, what’s blindingly obvious to me needs a little help to become obvious for readers. This is one of the many ways a good editor saves one’s bacon.

*looks over this post* Goodness, this is a melange, isn’t it. I contain multitudes this morning. Time for more tea, or maybe a bit of yoga to get the blood flowing. I am cold and sluggish, and even the adrenaline from Odd’s treasure-mound shifts and concomitant noise isn’t keeping me at a high enough pitch.

Over and out.

I Get Mail

Man Reading his Mail
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yeah, I get mail.

Yesterday I sent out my monthly newsletter; this particular edition was titled Not Spring Yet. Since I’ve received quite a few emails asking if Steelflower at Sea will be released in ebook, I decided to answer the question directly. Here’s what I said:

I’m also getting a lot of questions about more Strange Angels books–which there are no plans for–and about an ebook edition of Steelflower 2. There is a third Steelflower book in my production schedule this year, and hopefully I’ll be able to work on it between other projects. I would at least like to get through the Highlands War; after that, I think I can let the further tale of Kaia and D’ri’s eventual journey back to G’maihallan remain unwritten.

A lot will depend on if Steelflower 2 & 3 sell in paper, frankly. But I love Kaia, and eventually, the Highlands War will have its tale told.

In addition, I captioned a pic of the Steelflower at Sea cover with this:

A lot of you have asked me about an ebook edition of Steelflower at Sea.

There will NOT be one for the foreseeable future.

Apparently, the newsletter reached someone with…well, I’m not gonna say a guilty conscience, but it’s interesting.

from: *redacted*
to: Lilith Saintcrow
date: 15 January 2018 at 21:19
subject: Re: Not Spring Yet

I have cancelled my subscription, because your actions imply all the ebook owners; and yes that means the people who have bought your books; out there are crooks. I wanted to catch you up on the internet news. In the past 18 months, all of the major pirate sites have been shut down, all the equipment impounded, and charges brought to the operators. So, your exposure to pirating is virtually nil now. In addition, all the largest internet providers police their customers, and act on the reports of copyright holders who tell them any website dealing with illegal materials, and anyone who has been involved in downloading copyright materials is dealt with. I suggest you have whoever handles your business operations check out what I said above thoroughly. And lastly, it only takes five minutes with Google search to find the sites who have your books. Just search by your name, and or book title, and all the little shit’s web pages pop up. Then report them. This is much easier than mistreating your fans, and is as easy as locking your door at night. Good luck with the paperback sales, but don’t be disappointed if they are dismal. God Bless.

Well. *sips tea* I could tell this person that there is an antipiracy service that does Google searches and reporting, and there are literally HUNDREDS of sites out there breeding with a facility rabbits might envy, and that if I spent my time reporting all of them I’d have none left over to write, feed myself, shower, or sleep, but why bother? Facts, I suspect, will be of little use here when someone’s convenience has been momentarily impinged upon.

I’m sure opting out of my totally free and voluntary newsletter was satisfying in the extreme to this person. I am also left with the nagging notion that perhaps, just perhaps, this person has torrented a few of my works, and is upset because one of my *counts on fingers* MANY series will not be released in e-format for…oh, reasons completely unrelated to entitlement and the ability to easily steal said e-formats. Completely. *nods sagely* Yes, definitely.

Yeah. I get mail.

*sigh*

Past High School

It’s just not a proper holiday until a group of the Princess’s friends stays overnight, giggling in the kitchen and baking sugar-laden treats. Girls who made it through high school together, now young women–if course, the only ones who still come by are the ones who have left high school firmly behind. So few people actually make that decision, it’s good to see a high proportion of the Princess’s chosen companions have.

Speaking of people who never evolved past high school…well, a particular hatemonger is suing the publisher who (unwisely) paid him a very large advance for his screed, then decided they couldn’t publish it after a (politically) conservative editor–I mention the politics for obvious reasons–had to go through and actually read the damn thing. The best thing about this is the editor’s comments in Track Changes.

And people wonder why editors drink. *shakes head*

Anyway, the idiot hatemonger is now suing the unwise publisher, and a consequence of this is the entire manuscript plus comments is a public court exhibit now. Publishing Twitter is munching popcorn and watching the flames. The only thing marring this delicious serving of cold karma is the fact that for what the unwise publisher paid (and forfeited) in advance, they could have given advances for ten real books. (At LEAST ten.) I know better than to think a giant corporation has learned its lesson, and am sad for the books we won’t get to read because an entitled, hate-filled jackass hovered up resources that could have gotten them published.

And now I’m out the door for a run. I’m almost at the point where I don’t want 2017 to end, because last time I was looking forward to the ending of a year (2016) the one following it turned out to be an even worse shitshow.

Over and out.

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…

Egg-Carton Treatment

The thing I find most interesting about this is the amount of resources allotted to shepherding a relatively small number of white supremacists to “safety”.

The main group was escorted several blocks to the Farragut West Metro station, which was then temporarily closed to allow the neo-Nazis and white supremacists time to escape. Spencer, meanwhile, was hustled into a waiting SUV. (ThinkProgress)

Can you imagine the same egg-carton treatment given to, say, a small number of BLM protestors? Or a tiny group of Planned Parenthood supporters? I mean, I can imagine the police allowing, say, an SUV driven by a racist misogynist to plow into a group of either and inflict a casualty. But the white glove treatment for either? Clearing a whole Metro station? Something other than pepper spray, truncheons, and zip ties?

I can’t see that at all.

On Little Men

I’ve been reading Victor Serge’s From Lenin to Stalin the past couple days. The hagiography of Lenin is desperate–Serge really wanted to believe the revolution had been betrayed instead of Stalin being its natural consequence–but his portrait of Stalin is one of the better ones. It’s interesting to read as a historical document, especially his assertion that Lenin’s would-be assassin Fanny Kaplan was still alive at the time of publication. (Note: She wasn’t, she’d been shot almost immediately in 1918.) Lenin was a masterful liar and manipulator, dedicated to Marxism no less than to the myth of his own inerrancy, and the only thing that saved him from becoming Stalin was his relatively early death.

What’s also interesting is the absolute predictability of abusive, fascist shitheels. They all operate off the same playbook. The revolution that survives long enough eats its young and becomes tomorrow’s dictatorship. Those who survive the revolution and profit from the exhaustion afterward aren’t the bravest, the brightest, or the best–they’re the most violent, the ones most capable of pulling levers in committees, the ones who can terrify a group into submission to their whims, the already-advantaged. All this led me to a realization.

I am struck, over and over again, by the type of the Little Man.

The Little Man is a bigot, soaked in toxic patriarchy and raised to believe he is superior but prey to a gnawing sense that his benefit on an uneven playing field means he is secretly weak. (It’s true, but telling him so carries a high risk of being brutalized or shot.) He is the absolute autocrat of his home–or tries to be, and any resistance to his rule is met with overwhelming violence, at first emotionally but then, inevitably, physically. On a larger scale, resistance to his primacy is met with discrimination and violence against women, different skin colors or cultures, or anyone not prepared to ritually lick his boots. If he is rich, his sense of grievance is doubled by the gnawing suspicion of weakness, and if he became rich by trumpeting that sense of grievance, it becomes the hill he will, if at all possible, force others to die upon.

I grew up under the heel of a Little Man. There is practically no difference between his regime and Stalin’s, it’s only a matter of degree. The domestic tyrant’s only variance from the nation’s dictator is scale.

Resistance to the Little Man’s rule is at once treated as trifling and overwhelmingly dangerous. Stalin’s regime at once believed that “Trotskyism” was weak, ineffective, stupid–and so overwhelmingly powerful that only mass arrests and shootings held any chance of eradicating it. The domestic tyrant belittles his victims, calling them weak and stupid, but at the same time malicious and crafty enough to bring down all order within the house. The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming–the victims are at once all-powerful and powerless, a threat to be met with overwhelming force and mere insects easily crushed. He must be at once infallible as a ruler and endangered by the machinations of the weak. For example, let’s not forget Lenin saw the NEP as merely a temporary stopgap, and planned to go back to shooting peasants and confiscating grain as soon as politically feasible; his sole concern was making his backtracking seem like something he’d endorsed all along and making sure the violence would be, too. Or that Stalin’s bugbear Trotsky was everywhere and nowhere at once, the original 1984 Goldstein. Or the current administration’s harping on “Muslim terrorists.”

The Little Man desires, wants, needs to be a god. He will have nothing around him but cringing servility, but when faced with an external authority he becomes the servile cringer. He abuses his spouse, his children, his mistress with seeming impunity, but also threatens them to keep their mouths shut. Sunshine on his private peccadilloes is feared above all else. A totalitarian state, seemingly all-powerful, menaces its citizens with divide-and-conquer and the threat of nine grams of lead–but sunshine on its inner workings lights the fuse of resistance. The Little Man craves legitimacy, and will beat, murder, rape, and rob until he has a facsimile of it.

Above all, the Little Man requires that his victims not only submit physically but emotionally, spiritually, invisibly. It wasn’t enough for the tyrant I grew up under that I was physically incapable of fleeing, that I stopped outward resistance after a protracted beating. He wished, he required, that I make my debasement complete by thanking him for his abuse, flattering his vanity, telling him he was right. The ritual–first physical abuse, then mental and emotional debasement–was set in stone, and refusing to submit to the latter half inevitably brought more physical abuse. The tyrant, domestic or national, wishes to be told he is the best, the biggest, the smartest, the bravest, the alpha and the omega. He wishes hosannas of praise to temporarily drown out consciousness of his final impotence, to temporarily salve the consciousness of playing a game rigged for his benefit and hence meaningless.

God, to the Little Man, is merely the Little Man in charge, made in his image, given lip service. Freedom, to the Little Man, is merely his own to force compliance on others. Justice, to the Little Man, is the deck stacked in his favor and the victims adoring and thanking him. The Little Man is a workplace harasser, a domestic batterer, a domestic terrorist, a fascist functionary, a totalitarian dictator. Again, the only difference between all those species is of degrees, the size of their victim pool. A group of Little Men will smile and scrape at their leader until the time seems right for knives in the dark, then the next Little Man will take his place.

Oh, I grew up with a Little Man. I dated several of them. I married one, and divorced him posthaste. I’ve worked for them, I’ve seen them in power, I’ve had to deal with them every moment of my life. I know their games, their inadequacies, their vanities. I was forced to learn all about them to survive. It’s faint comfort to be able to predict them.

I’ll leave further, obvious comparison to current events and regimes to your own imagination, dear Reader. I’m tired, and there’s a run to get in and work to do. Reading history makes me cynical, and leaves me with only one thought.

May all the gods save us from Little Men.

That Old Publishing Pendulum

All I want to do is knit and watch Antonioni movies today. I’ve been on an Italian kick lately, a bunch of Fellini crawling in through my eyeholes and scratching a deep dream-urge or two in my visual cortex. Antonioni is a natural next step, but I’ve got work to do. I managed to catch up on NaNo wordcount, and those copyedits aren’t getting any fresher.

*time passes*

I wandered away to do some website setup, was balked several times, and finally threw my hands up in despair. I’ve a run to get in this morning too, though as soon as I step out the door I’m sure a torrential downpour will appear. The only question is whether or not to take Miss B with me. On the one hand, it will tire her out. On the other hand, a soaked and enthusiastic dog climbing all over me all day.

Choices, choices. What I’m really doing is resisting finishing Reader’s Shadow.

Part of my foot-dragging is the fact that any book with a teenage girl as a protagonist is viewed as “girly YA” unless it’s written by a Franzenesque white dude. (Then it’s regarded as “Serious” and “Literary.”) Which drives me to a type of jaw-clenched irritation bordering on actual vexation. It’s not that I dislike YA as a genre, or that I don’t want to write those stories. The trouble lies with the marketing and packaging. I had to push back so, so hard against pressure from publishers to water and dumb down teenage characters, the entire experience left an awful lingering taste. Kids swear, kids think about adult subjects, kids are far smarter than our society can admit. The pathological worship of pliable female youth in our culture is a mess of malignancy, and like all cancers, it does its best to eat up anything around it. Getting sucked into that black hole, having to fight against its pull, is difficult and draining on a daily basis. When you add having to fight for your work, for characters you believe in, it can wear you down to threadbare right quickly.

That’s a big reason why I don’t want to “publish YA.” It’s not the fans or the stories, both of which I love. It’s the uphill battle against marketing committees who want me to dumb down, water down, filter, bullshit the story. Even a whiff of that bullshit will turn readers off; their noses are extremely sensitive. After tearing one’s heart and guts out to write a novel, having to go into battle daily against the drip-drip-drip of “couldn’t you just change this one little thing? then this other little thing? oh, and this tiny thing? oh, and this?” can drive one to a cyanide well.

“You can’t have them drink. You can’t have them swear. What will the Bible Belt mothers think? If even one of those biddies complains we get scared. You can’t have teenagers acting like teenagers! We’ll lose sales!”

There are dedicated, fantastic people working in YA. But the pressure from bean-counters and marketing–even if those bean-counters and marketing folks are dedicated and personally quite winning–wears away at the edges until, if you’re not careful, you end up with pablum reeking of aforesaid bullshit. It’s more of an institutional culture than an individual failing, and it dragged at my keel until I sank. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was writing YA under terrific pressure in my personal life as well. (It was painful, let’s just leave it at that.)

So, writing teenage protagonists right now reminds me of all that. My faithful agent, to her credit, keeps trying with the YAs I write just for her, but my unwillingness to blunt any of the sharp edges means it’s a matter of finding exactly the right editor at exactly the right house, and that takes time. She believes in the books; I’m endlessly grateful for that.

But I doubt I’ll ever do trad publishing with YAs again. Or even self-pub, with the current one I’m working on and Harmony, which is out on sub now. “The problem is,” I remarked to said faithful agent, “they’re not ‘young adult.’ They’re books that just happen to have teenage protagonists, that’s all. ‘Young adult’ has become a somewhat ossified designation.”

She insists they have a very teenage voice–either a testament to skill or a mark of how I manage to vanish so the characters’ broadcast comes through–and wants to see them out in the world. I can’t fault her for that. I’m the biggest obstacle to getting them out, because I’m so gun-shy. I’m also extremely conscious it’s a luxury, to be able to wait, to hold out, to have the time to do so. I’m grateful for it.

Nothing in publishing lasts forever. The pendulum will swing again, I’m sure.

But in the meantime, I wait, and write these things for my darling agent, and tear my heart out for characters who won’t see the light of day until the swinging starts.

It’s enough.