Gut-Heaving Weekend

So Saturday morning, instead of settling down to work all day, I gutted out a run and came home to promptly lose everything I’d eaten in the last twelve hours.

Since I run in the mornings, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be, but bad enough. Still not sure if it was stomach flu or food poisoning. I’m tender in the middle right now but feeling ever so much better, especially since I had Sunday to recover as well.

The only bad thing is that I needed those days for work, not for time-sharing on the loo. I managed to get all my housework chores done, even the mopping, but dear gods in heaven, I would have rather been writing than heaving out my guts. Though the two often feel somewhat similar.

I’m fine now, as long as I eat as little as possible and don’t move too quickly. I don’t mind the non-eating; I’m busy enough that cutting down on meals or just eating a handful of bland stuff is a relief. But the moving slowly? I’ve got running to do, dammit, and it won’t get done if my body keeps being weird about it.

So it’s back to the epic fantasy, I guess, without a weekend’s worth of work on anything I want to write. At least I’m back in love with The Poison Prince, I made a decision last week that freed up a lot of mental and emotional energy. I’ve a death scene to write and the barbarian hordes to get moving for the border, so I’d best get started.

But first, a run. A nice gentle one with Sir Boxnoggin, since Miss B spent the entire weekend trotting after me and attempting, in her own inimitable fashion, to “help.” There isn’t much a dog can do when one is heaving, but she tried, and each time I got up in the middle of the night she was right there to herd me the few steps to the loo.

I suppose I’m lucky to have such aid. I would have hated to get lost.

Anyway, I am tender in a number of places but I have not yet begun to fight. Plus, Boxnoggin is all but vibrating in place. Time to get out the door.

See you around, chickadees.

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Burden, Borne

It’s that day! The Complete Roadtrip Z is now available in ebook directly, or from the distributor of your choice. That’s all four seasons of the serial in one handy (and very large) chunk. (The paperback edition is here.)

The genesis of the Roadtrip books is a long ongoing conversation with my writing partner about just who would survive the zombie apocalypse, and how such an apocalypse would be likely to spread, assuming it was viral. There are other considerations–a bacterial or occult zombie-making plague was ruled out early in the game, since Mel loved biology in school. (She and I have another ongoing conversation about mass conversion in shifters, but that’s neither here nor there.)

We talk sometimes about survival, and about how it’s going to be the people who are already used to scraping by that are going to make it during the initial catastrophe and the secondary wave of bad-luck deaths afterward. I’m sad to say that without Lee’s help, Ginny probably wouldn’t have–and without Ginny, Lee might never have made it out without the survivor part of him deciding to do some dreadful and perhaps unnecessary things. They needed each other badly.

There’s also Juju, who’s had the deck stacked against him all his life, and who’s pretty sure any new world from the toxic ashes from the old is going to be just as bad for him. I’m not sure he’s wrong, either, but at least he’s got people watching out for him now.

I didn’t know who would survive when I started writing. I knew where the survivors would end up, but not what that group would look like when it got there. Some people I badly wanted to survive made it; some people I really wanted to see make it didn’t. The kids could probably tell you about me staggering down the hall after a long day of writing, tears on my face as I begin making dinner.1

There was plenty of poring over atlases, checking tactical layouts, researching average meteorological conditions, and more than one emails to Mel saying “Ask the Boy Scout2 how he’d solve the problem of xyz, please?”

Lee, however, was based mostly on my maternal grandfather. He was an honorable man, and Lee is all the best of him rolled into one quiet package. Not that Papa was a silent fellow, unless he got serious. Most of the time he wanted to laugh through life, and he could make anyone laugh with him. He liked hunting, percolator coffee on Sunday mornings, and Wile E. Coyote. Even now, if I hear the meep-meep, I can hear him laughing. He had a stuffed Wile E. atop his gun cabinet, and he was the one family member I deeply regretted not being able to speak to.

I got to see him once before he passed, but he didn’t ask why I wouldn’t talk to them. Instead, he took me through a calendar of old military planes and told me about each one, especially those he worked on in Korea.

It was his way of telling me he still loved me, even though he didn’t understand.

Now that he’s gone, I hope he understands why I couldn’t answer what he wanted most to know, and forgives me. And I hope he gets a kick out of me putting a man he’d like into a book.

Ginny came from a different place. I wanted someone who would be at a distinct disadvantage during an apocalypse, someone comfortable with civilization and thinking it was permanent or even particularly “civilized.” One or two readers said Ginny was too stupid to live, but in each situation, she’s trying to respond as normally as possible. It wasn’t the best coping mechanism…but it was hers, and while Lee and Juju got everyone through physically intact, it’s to Ginny’s credit that they got to the end mostly emotionally intact. Sure, everyone involved will need oodles of therapy, but that’s to be expected when the world falls apart.

I was experimenting with serial format all the way through, and I must thank my Readers for their patience with said experiments. Thanks to those who allowed me to Tuckerise them, too–your characters are as sharply and finely drawn as I could make them, and if a few meet gruesome deaths, well, that’s to be expected in any book of mine, right?

I think it’s good that it ends where it does. (Of course I do, or I wouldn’t have ended it there.) I’m pretty sure my grandfather wouldn’t have read it–his taste was more Zane Grey, though he had a soft spot for Louis L’Amour, especially Last of the Breed–but I’m also pretty sure he’d be tickled pink to know a character was based on him. I ain’t interesting, he’d say, but his blue eyes would hold a little pleased twinkle.

Some of my work is offerings to the dead. Not so they stay down, but so I remember them by doing what I love most, and what is sometimes the only gift I can give.

So thank you to you all. I’m writing HOOD as a serial now, but Roadtrip Z will always hold a special place in my heart. I was able to play, to expand, to practice both bringing each episode to a good end as well as keeping the much larger (good Lord, it’s easily 200K words in final form) story and its various arcs clearly in mind. It was a helluva ride, and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself now that it’s over.

I mean, I know what I’m going to do, of course. I’m going to write more.

But maybe, with the omnibus finally out in both paper and e-formats today, I’ll take a bit of a rest and think about how those I’ve lost are still with me. Not just because I write them, but because I carry them wherever I go. If it’s a burden, it’s one I bear proudly–and one I’ll keep writing underneath.

See you around, guys.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Cinnamon Roll Prospects

It’s one of those mornings. I’m barely vertical and even getting coffee down the hatch seems an impossible task. At least it smells like rain soon, and yesterday I had the great good fortune of getting my finger and toe claws into The Poison Prince. I even got my teeth into that fucking book, and shook it like Sir Boxnoggin with a squeaky toy.

Consequently, now I have a better scaffolding, and I feel like the book, while huge, is also manageable. If I keep biting, eventually I’ll bleed it into compliance. Most of the time, I settle into the story’s world with a thump, like the floor dropping a little during an earthquake. This time, the sensation is of my hands and feet aching and tense, my jaw clenched, while i see which direction the damn thing will veer in.

The Princess and her best friend are in the kitchen. I’m told there’s a prospect of cinnamon rolls soon, but I’d best get out to run before it happens. Maybe, now that I have all my spikes in Poison Prince, I can also juggle it with another work instead of letting it monopolize me. It would be great if I could just work on one book at a time, but the mortgage needs paying and the kids have this habit of eating.

Speaking of which, The Complete Roadtrip Z is available in ebook format through Gumroad now! It’s available for preorder but won’t be released on other distribution platforms until April 9, and Amazon might be later still because they won’t allow you to set an ebook for preorder unless you’re listing through KDP.

Of course, Amazon also lets plagiarists and scammers keep going, because they bring the ‘Zon cash. Which surprises exactly no-one. I’m still waiting for those assholes who came at me yelling when I pointed out “Amazon is not your friend” years ago to produce apologies. Something tells me I’ll wait forever.

I might as well write while I do, but not until I get this coffee finished. My stomach’s rolling like a heavy sea and I can’t wait to get out the door and shake all the fidgets away. I might even leave the last half of my coffee to do so.

Maybe. *eyes mug* Or maybe not. Over and out, dear ones.

Get It Early

The ebook version of the Roadtrip Z omnibus is almost out! You can get it early (tomorrow instead of the 9th) by buying direct on Gumroad if that’s your fancy, or preorder it through Barnes & Noble or Kobo. Amazon won’t let you list an ebook for preorder unless you use KDP, so sorry, Amazon folks–but if you need a .mobi, it comes with the .epub you purchase on Gumroad, so there’s that.

I’m considering a paper omnibus version of the first three Steelflower books too. I will not be putting Steelflower in Snow in ebook format in the foreseeable future. Every time I start thinking about it, some damn ebook pirate rears their nasty pimple-head, and I’m reminded of the feeling of utter violation those thefts force upon me.

It doesn’t help that when I mention there will not be an ebook release, I am immediately deluged by people calling me some variety of uppity because I don’t want my work stolen and and another variety of ableist because again, I don’t want my work stolen. And that just kills any desire I have to continue writing The Highlands War, too, especially since that’s a complex book requiring a lot of emotional energy.

Victory has a cost. Kaia knows that better than most, but Redfist has to learn, and it’ll take a lot of losing before he does. I know what happens, but writing it is a losing game if people are going to be so shitty to me about it. So there’s that.

In any case, it’s a Monday, the world smells like spring, and the bees are out looking for flowers. Some few of them circled my head yesterday as I was doing yard work, but they didn’t try to nest in my sloppy ponytail, thank goodness. The real test will be today’s run with Sir Boxnoggin. I’ll probably end up with a bee or two in my ears, and a few trying to crawl into my mouth besides.

It’s not like I grudge them the ride, but I really worry about inadvertently injuring one of the poor little fellows.

But before I can become a Totoro Catbus for bees, I have piano practice and the ritual shoe-tightening to perform, so I’d best get on that. I hope your Monday is gracious and kind, dear Reader.

If it’s not, I’ll hold it down and you kick it until it becomes amenable, all right? Or vice versa…

Thursday Treachery

Yesterday I walked to Ye Local Auto Parts Shoppe to pick up a new battery for my ailing chariot. I was saved a bit of bother by the fact that I’d written down all particulars and taken a picture of the battery in question; the one they’d ordered for me was the wrong type but they had the right one on hand, thank goodness. I apologized for the trouble, but the Helpful Fellow laughed and said they’d sell the ordered one in a heartbeat, it was a kind that they should have had in stock anyway.

So that worked out. I got a rideshare home (Uber is nasty to their contractors, I much prefer Lyft) with a nice fellow who had a hybrid and offered to carry the battery up the stairs for me.

I told him it was good exercise and lugged the damn thing inside.

After dinner, the kids and I gathered around our mechanical patient. All told, since I’d prepared so thoroughly (including testing the ratchet on the connectors) it took about twenty minutes to wrestle the old one out and put the new one in. Most of that time was swearing under my breath trying to lift the old battery out while the kids held flashlights and wisely did not offer help until I paused to glare at the thing.

Anyway, I finally got my fingertips underneath it, and the kids both marveled at how heavy the damn things are. And now they know how to change out a battery, as well as where several life-giving fluids go into the engine.

Mercury retrograde, while finished, has not given up completely. This morning I got a frantic text from the Little Prince, who had forgotten a thank-you card for one of his teachers. (Long story, but it needed to go with him today.) I held my breath, turned the key, the starter coughed and spun…

…and hallelujah, it started.

I’m still not sure if there’s a problem with the starter or alternator. I think the problem was old battery and loose connectors. With a brand new electrical heart and all the connectors tightened, it should be fine.

We’ll see this afternoon, when I have to pick the Prince up from afterschool activities. It’s a nice day and he could walk home if all fails, or one of his fellow club-mates will give him a ride. If the car doesn’t start I’ll have to get creative, and make an appointment at a mechanic’s.

I did drive around a bit this morning so the battery should have recovered from its maiden voyage. The dogs are pretty pissed that I left suddenly, but some still-warm hash browns (they love the greasy, crunchy little things) effectively obliterated the memory of my treachery from their tiny little heads.

B is under my desk, ready to leap up and follow should I stir a step. Lord van der Sploot is pacing the house on his usual morning ramble, preparing for the walkies he hopes and longs for. I might even take them to the park and yell at asshats who have their dogs unleashed.

Fun for everyone.

Anyway, I even managed some work yesterday. A scene with an apothecary fell right out of my head, and now I have a handle on the other scene, the one that was bugging me and needed to marinate a while longer. Maybe I’ll get this damn book done on time after all.

But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll save that for every time I start the car for the next six months.

*rolls up sleeves* Okay, Thursday. You got the first punch in, but I’m no quitter. Only one of us will be alive come midnight.