Refill Time

It started on Friday, a marvelous late-morning coffee session with Curtis Chen (read his Kangaroo books, they are AWESOME); then I went home and pushed to get the rest of Sparked finished and sent off to the agent. (That’s the YA she wanted me to write, the one I found out needed another character arc jammed into its structure.) Both good things, but together they turned me into a quivering mass of nerves. Then, Saturday rolled around, and while I was twitching a friend texted, “YOU HAVE THE DAY OFF. COME PLAY.”

So we went…out. There was even window-shopping clothes, which was oddly soothing. Socializing for hours kept my brain busy so the usual post-book eating-itself was relegated to a thin, exhausting background mutter. Then Sunday came around, full of household chores and turning the earth in the most southerly garden boxes. We may still get a cold snap, but I planted hardy things like Alaska peas and fava beans. Hopefully I got enough of them in the ground that the squirrels and their buffet habits won’t wipe out the entire crop before it can sprout.

All of that was good, but I ached all over by evening, and spent a restless night with blisters and a headache. Now it’s Monday…and all I want to do is sit and stare. The massive flywheel of Finishing A Book has wound down, but I’m hollowed out, scraped dry, and need a chance to refill.

I have a slightly longer run today, but still within Miss B’s range. She’ll enjoy the chance to get out and work–she spent yesterday’s gardening time chasing squirrels, digging in her approved spots–I’m glad I bought a house so I don’t have to worry when she digs–and attempting to help me plant favas and radishes. Her attempts to help are mostly “Mum, you dropped this and it got covered with dirt, but I found it for you! I are good dog!”

Meanwhile, Odd wanted to stay inside, since his nails got clipped and he got his long walk of the week, which meant he was exhausted by all the activity. Not too exhausted, though, to moan-mumble at me when I came back inside, piqued that I had dared to do things without his supervision. Had it been a wee bit warmer, he would have wished to sunbathe in one of his Particular Spots, but I’m kind of glad he was achieving a liquid state inside. There was enough squirrel action that Miss B threw clods of dirt everywhere. Thankfully, she didn’t run head-on into any trees, but it was a close call. I believe the furry arboreal menaces were enjoying the game. At least they didn’t bomb me with pinecones, though I’m sure they marked each spot I planted something with extreme interest.

…I had another post planned, about infrastructure, ubiquity, and privilege, but I’m far too snarky today. I have very little patience left, and my give-a-fuck-o-meter is pretty well busted. My forties are gonna be the decade of rolling my eyes and deciding not to sugar-coat, I guess. A couple times lately I’ve had spoons and time enough to call a few people in my mentions on bullshit instead of just muting and moving on, and visibly doing so feels like a Good Deed. It’s no substitute for direct action in other ways, but an addendum.

Anyway, I have crossed the Sparked revise off my master to-do list. Up next is prepping Roadtrip Z‘s Season Three for release when the serial reaches that point and working ahead on the fourth and final season, not to mention giving Harmony a hard revise. It’s about time for a new master list as well, since I’ve crossed off five of the eight things on the current one.

But first, a run–and I’m going ahead with my Lovecraft re-read. I might spend the entire day curled up on the couch reading about Cthulhu with gallons of hot tea. It’s not quite a vacation…but close enough for me.

Over and out.

Morning Melange

Cow mouth 1
© Lisavan | Dreamstime Stock Photos
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.

REVIEW: Stranger in the Woods

I was up late last night, despite exhaustion and Benadryl. (I blame my early-evening tea session.) I decided to use the time wisely by reading, and polished off The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. It’s the story of Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit. Or, in other words, a monograph about an extremely selfish man, by an extremely selfish man.

My writing partner loaned me the book for Roadtrip Z survivalist stuff, and it scratched that itch nicely, I suppose. But it raised in me the same feeling of disgust Into the Wild did. Knight wanted to opt out of society and its pressures while also feeding off its benefits. He didn’t hunt, or trap, or fish–he robbed cabins and park kitchens. The people I felt the most for were the victims, in particular one woman who went to her cabin to escape and yet was robbed of any feeling of safety by Knight’s repeated break-ins.

Finkel pays lip service to the victims, of course, being more interested in quoting from the books Knight read and propping up his own self-image as the Hermit Whisperer. I only actively began to dislike Finkel at the point where he starts pursuing the just-released-from-prison Knight despite his subject’s repeated “no”s. At one point, Finkel shows up with an apple pie for Knight’s mother (who hung up on him when he called) and a bunch of lilacs, and it was so stalkerrific I was actually a bit nauseous. (Men who won’t take no for an answer aren’t only horrid to women, go figure.)

Add to that an episode of Finkel reporting suicidal ideation in Knight and a mutual crying session–patently unbelievable, my story-sniffer whiffed bullshit all over that particular chapter–with his subject, and Finkel’s attempts to worm himself into contact with Knight’s case workers afterward under the guise of being worried about the man…well, Finkel, despite his efforts to portray himself as a reasonable journalist, misses by a mile and comes off as a creep. Knight’s behavior was massively selfish, but Finkel’s edges into complete entitled bullshit. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of either man while reading, but when the book closed, I pitied Christopher Knight.

TL;DR: One of those books that shows you more about the author than the subject, but there’s a couple of good survivalist things in it.

Struck Match

Robin Hood
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
So, the recent flu-and-fever had some weird effects. My dreams were even more highly color-saturated than ever, and a persistent smell of struck matches threaded all through my days. I could smell it even when my nose was partially blocked. The first few times, I went hunting for the source, alone in the house. Not finding any was…concerning, until I realized the smell didn’t have the burnt-yellow color of the physical aroma.

Now on the mend, I think I’ve also finally recovered from Afterwar. That book was the hardest on me of them all, and I want something else now. I was noodling around watching a movie with Jon Bernthal as a speechless converso in 13th-century Ireland and all of a sudden I wanted to write two things: Bone Wolves, a werewolf high fantasy I’ve been noodling on for a year or so, and a Robin Hood in Space story.

…I don’t know, I’m just wired weird. But it’s nice to have things to stuff into the cannon once I get this damn YA in reasonable draft form and start serious work on Roadtrip Z‘s fourth (and final) season. It’s nice to feel like I have the energy for a couple more projects, instead of being so completely drained by a bad-luck book (and whatever could go wrong, did, for no other reason than I suppose I was due for one of Those) that I could barely scrape together reasonable wordcount.

All the same, I launched a novella during that scraping, too, so I suppose my productivity didn’t suffer as much as it has under the current political bullshit or over the blasted holidays. Having enough energy to actually feel excited is flat-out great. There were a couple days when even eating seemed like too much trouble, and forget about washing or cleaning.

The true test, of course, will be if I get any damn laundry done today. I should wash my sheets, too, as I don’t want to sleep in sick-smell. Maybe I’ll sweat out the last of the struck-match stuff on my (very easy, don’t worry) run today. It’s not the first time I’ve been sick enough to have strange sensory issues–if the fever was worst, I might even expect it, since I tend to heat up at the drop of a hat. My body apparently decides it needs to cook every single bug that comes by.

Not that I’m complaining, really. It’s not optimal, but at least it makes my dreams interesting.

Off I go to get a YA in shape, do laundry, run, get Ginny and Lee and the gang to New York (finally), and decide just how soon I want to produce a workable zero of Robin Hood in Space. Never a dull moment, my dears.

Over and out.

Somewhat Cranky

Of course, the instant I step out the door to take both dogs for Odd Trundles’s constitutional, EVERYONE has to come down our street, from the rattling delivery trucks Miss B lunges at to schoolchildren she and Odd both desperately want to make acquaintance of, and bicyclists Miss B wishes to herd as well. And then there’s the guy walking his Rottweiler who sees me retreat into my driveway with both my dogs, OBVIOUSLY not wanting to interact, but crosses the street with his dog anyway and walks at the edge of my driveway while Miss B barks and lunges and Odd, excited now that Someone Is Making Noise, does everything possible to get in on the action. Then, once he was past my house, he went back to the other side of the street. He just could have stayed on that side to begin with and saved us all trouble.

Thanks, Creepy Dude. That was a beautiful fucking start to my morning.

Anyway, we persevered, and now Odd has been walked and is settled for his morning nap. As soon as I absorb some coffee and am relatively sure it will stay down, it’s out the door for a run, and I’m seriously considering not taking B. I’m not sure I have the patience to cut traffic for her today; both of us are somewhat cranky. I might simply make a circuit, take her for half my planned distance then bring her home and finish the other half on my own.

My subscribers get a fresh new chapter of Pocalypse Road today, and I aim to get at least 5k of wordcount in between Atlanta Bound–which is season four of Roadtrip Z–and the not-really-YA. It’s the latter that will really make me grit my teeth, probably because I’m worried my agent wants to sell the YA despite me telling her it’s not going to. And…well, I have feelings about YA publishing. Not writing books with teenage protagonists, which I like doing well enough when there’s a story that wants me to tell it. But the constant pushback from institutions scared of Bible Belt buckle-idiots clutching their pearls if a teen character says “fuck” or thinks about sex or drugs or any of the normal things teens sometimes do think about is exhausting, and was the thing that drove me away from YA. I still read it when I can, and I write stories with teen protagonists, I just…really don’t want to have to fight those uphill battles anymore. I do not have the energy.

Regardless, my agent asked for this book, and I promised, so it’s going to be as good as I can make it before it goes out the door to her. Which means serious wordcount, and putting in that POV I had no idea needed to be inserted until the zero draft was done, and which gave me a vertiginous feeling of telling the story from the wrong point of view anyway…but not really, because we need the other main POVs to understand just why this one is so compelling.

All in all, never a dull moment a la Chez Saintcrow. Also, this morning, I went down a side-road involving telepathic dogmen and frontier myth-making. So yeah, I can tell today’s going to be fun.

Over and out.

Release Day: BEAST OF WONDER

That’s right–the novella that’s been eating my head for a while is now out in the world!

A blonde stewardess, her hairspray-teased head cocked at an impossible, lolling angle, smiled with blood-threaded teeth as a pilot’s disembodied voice floated through an aluminum tube. Ladies and gentlemen…ladies and gentlemen…

Outside small thick windows, hungry grey air screamed. Light and dark revolved, crunch-thumping as carryons, magazines, purses, and other daily objects became missiles tumbling through space, flickering through eyelid-flutter strobes. Right and left changed places, and a woman in the red skirt and brown coat held her seat arms with white knuckles, staring at the stewardess in the jumpseat. Trim, uniformed arms and legs flopped like a doll’s; the blond stewardess gazed with wide, horrified, glazed blue eyes and that crimson-laced, jolly rictus.

One last terrific jolt raced through a winged tube that had been meant to carry three hundred people to Cincinnati. Then the windows cracked, and the roaring swallowed every soul on board.

It was over.

But that was just the beginning.

Note: This is a novella, approximately 20K words.

Now available direct, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or your favorite ebook platform.

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*