From Life Lesson to Soda

Nick Chill Photography / Foter

Life Lesson Lili Learned Today: whereas once a banana was enough to get me through a five-mile run, now a banana and three shots of espresso are most definitely not enough. I compensated with extra chia seeds in my post-run oatmeal, and as soon as my blood sugar started coming back up I vowed Never To Do That Again.

That said, I made pretty good time. Even on days when I feel slow and deliberately hold my pace back I’m clocking 10.5-minute miles. It’s a far, far cry from where I started however many years ago, being unable to run for even thirty seconds without feeling like my lungs were going to tear themselves out of my body and go find a more congenial atmosphere, followed by my cardiac muscle.

Today is Take Your Child To Work Day. I gave both the Little Prince and Princess the option to stay home, but they didn’t want to. The Princess wanted to see what school was like with hardly anyone there–her classmates were quite vocal about taking any sort of vacation they could–and the Prince, after staying home with a cold yesterday (without video games, I should add) was hellbent on getting back to his Teacher Crush.

Go figure. Of course, they see me work all the time, staring at the screen and muttering, and they know it’s Revision Time. Which is about as fun to watch as seeing me hit myself repeatedly in the head with a hammer. Despite the initial amusement value, it gets old right quick.

What does NOT get old: cucumber soda with a shot and a half of Ten Cane rum, torn-up mint, and a splash of Key Lime juice; Jim Hines posing like a man; figuring out that crazy is sometimes code for really awesome; and clarifications of plagiarism.

Another thing that doesn’t get old: the endorphins that hit usually about the end of the second mile, especially when running on a nice cloudy spring day, one where the rain waits until you get home to start pouring down and everything smells fresh and green. Hopefully the endorphins will get me through this line edit.

If not, I suppose there’s always lavender soda and gin…

Choosing Herself

Victor Bezrukov / Foter

From my email inbox:

Dear ms. St. Crow,

I just finished reading Reckoning and was extremely curious about why Dru decided to not choose between Graves or Chritophe, I’m a little perplexed since I was in suspense about which boy would win Dru’s heart the whole series, and found myself heart broken when she decided not to choose. The reason I’m dumbfounded is that the cover says it’s the last book of the series, a unique way to end the story, but the question has been bugging me a lot.

Thank you for your time.

*name redacted* (from email)

And my reply:

Hello *name redacted*,

Thank you for reading my books.

I get this question a lot. My answer is: why does Dru have to choose, why does she have to “end up” with someone? A girl is not defined by who she is “with” or who she “ends up” with. Graves and Christophe are both pretty terrible boyfriend choices, for different reasons–Graves is broken, both by abuse and by Sergej, and no matter how much Dru loves him she can’t fix him. He has to fix himself. And Christophe is far too adult (despite being djamphir) for her, not to mention he doesn’t give her the information she needs to make informed choices. Dru may eventually grow further and decide to engage with Christophe on that level, but at the moment she has made the decision to put herself first. Which is something I think a lot of young girls may not do.

A girl or a woman is not defined by who she’s dating. A girl or a woman defines herself, and it would have been unconscionable for me to make Dru’s story all about who she wants to kiss next. Dru’s story was about growing up and surviving, and while kissing may be a (sometimes pleasant) part of that, it isn’t the only or even the most important thing about finding out who you are and, as her Gran would say, “where ya iron’s at.”

I am sorry you were heartbroken. Dru was too, and since I suffer with my characters, so was I. But Dru is stronger than that–she survived Sergej, which means little things like deciding not to date anyone for a while kind of lose their sting. In the end, I think she made the right choice–to take care of herself first. That’s a difficult choice for any young woman, and some of us never master the trick of it.

I hope this helps, and thank you again for reading,

Lili St. Crow

I still believe with everything in me that Reckoning‘s ending was the correct one. (I do not think I shall ever be convinced otherwise.) My private titled for Reckoning was actually Sacrifice, because it was the book where Dru made the decision to give up her own life if she had to (when she tells Dibs to go ahead with the transfusion) to buy her friends just a little more time. For me, that will always be the correct title–and Dru choosing as she did, the right ending.

Over and out.

Take A Letter

Tal Bright / Foter

Dear Homeless Man Digging In Church Dustbin,

I know we surprised each other, me out for a run, you looking for…whatever it is you were looking for. However, I am not the police, and though I am sorry to have frightened you, I am not sorry for the filthy name I called you when you chucked a bit of wood at me and my dog. I am further not sorry she decided to lunge for you, though you were never in any danger since the leash was wrapped around my waist and you were, after all, inside a metal dustbin.

Should I see you again, I hope we can ignore each other. I can’t speak for my dog, though. She remembers things.

Sincerely,

Me

Red Plague Zero

fabbriciuse / Foter

So yesterday, in a blaze of something suspiciously like glory, I finished the zero draft[1] of the next Bannon & Clare, The Red Plague Affair. There are holes and sloppy bits and it needs serious atmosphere poured into the chinks between dialogue and action, but it’s done. It is no longer a terrible unfinished book.

Which means that today will be spent collapsed on the floor and drooling, while my throbbing head (seriously, the zero clocks in at 60K words, 8 of which forced their way through my tender cranium yesterday in a skidding slide for the finish) slowly cools. I may take myself to lunch somewhere, if the annoyance of driving doesn’t seem an insurmountable difficulty. I have to power-wash the inside of my skull today, for tomorrow I go back to line-edits on the all-new YA. I suppose I should talk about that…

…but not quite yet. I have a breakfast to accomplish, a schoolbus to get the Little Prince on, and some drooling to do. Oh, the glory of this writing life.

Over and out.

[1]The “zero draft” is the initial finished corpse of a story. It’s not perfect, it’s messy as hell, but it’s DONE. It gets set aside to rest for two weeks to a month, then I go back and revise it to make it a “first” draft that someone else–my beta or my editor–can read.

Snippets

Toni Blay / Foter

Agility Training:

Dog: I CAN’T GO ON.
Me: Two more miles.
Dog: I AM DYING. DYING, I TELL YOU.
Me: Two more miles.
Dog: YOU ARE A CRUEL MISTRESS. DYING. AM DYING.
Me: Mile and a half.
Dog: DYI–ohai! SQUIRREL! HEEEEEEEERD IT! *bolts*
Me: *leash wrapped around waist cuts me in half* AUGH!

Villains:

Code Boy: Why “Code Boy”? Why not, I dunno, “Black Hat” or something?
Me: Because that’s the villain in a Western.
Code Boy: …
Me: One where they wear pastel neckerchiefs.
Code Boy: I think you’ve watched too many.
Me: Don’t be a villain there, cowboy.
Code Boy: …yeehaw.

Scorpion:

Little Prince: Look, see, I made it for you. It has wings.
Me: That’s lovely.
Little Prince: It’s a scorpion. The wings turn into claws.
Me: …okay…
Little Prince: Flap flap! Chomp chomp!

Affection:

Miss B: MISSED YOU!
Code Boy: AUGH!
Me: ??? Hello?
Code Boy: Dog…
Me: Oh yeah, she goes for the nuts first. It’s how she shows affection.
Code Boy: …ow…
Me: We’re remarkably similar.
Code Boy: …will…remember…that…

History

Princess: It’s like Disney’s going back to its roots.
Me: The Forties? Or McCarthy hearings?
Princess: I didn’t watch that one, Mom. I meant Snow White.

Limits

Me: It’s a My Little Pony wedding video.
Code Boy: Don’t do this to me.
(Related: “Now, the erotic cosplay scat fetishists…there’s a thought.”)

Casa Saintcrow: always an adventure.

What-Damn-Else, Jedi Bathrobe?

….Tim / Foter

This is what my Thursday is like:

6:30 AM: Cat attacks my arm, gets another free flying lesson. I am beginning to suspect she likes this, or has just fallen into a routine.

7AM: Radio clicks on. The Cure is doing Pictures of You. THANK YOU FOR BRINGING UP THAT TERRIBLE HIGH SCHOOL MEMORY, ROBERT SMITH. *sigh* Get up, roust kids. Shrug into Jedi bathrobe because it’s damn cold. Trip over dog.

7:15 AM: Coffee in hand. Lunches being made. Dog facedown in food bowl. Child mutiny over the last of the Froot Loops is narrowly avoided by the Mommy Voice barking either figure it out or you’re both having raisin bran, dammit! Mother of the Year award: taken away. That’s okay, I never dusted the damn thing anyway.

7:30, :45, :50, :55 AM: Remind Little Prince to brush teeth and get dressed. Openly wonder if he is part sloth today. Attempt to eat breakfast. Attempt fails each time. Coffee, however, is slugged religiously until gone.

8AM: Driving Princess to school. Sudden storm of tears. Someone is overwhelmed. No doubt hormones play a part. I will not throw a sobbing child out of the car at school.

8:02 AM: Driving Princess home. Realize I could conceivably spend the rest of the day in my Jedi bathrobe. Seriously consider said notion.

8:10 AM: Driving Little Prince to school. He is twitching with eagerness to see his teacher. “She’s like you, Mom. Only she’s not cranky in the mornings.” Gee, thanks, kid.

8:20-9AM: Go home, soothe Princess, make list of errands to be done. Decide not to stay in bathrobe after all. Leap into shower, turn shower off, have forgotten to rinse, hop back into shower. Shampoo in eyes. Curse and weep a little.

9:10-:55 AM: Post office. Grocery store. Princess is dragged along–if she’s not going to school, she’s going to help carry things. (She should be happy I’m not in the damn robe.) Prescriptions picked up. Princess makes longing remarks about the bagel shop. I roll my eyes, give her some money, and tell her I’ll schlep the bags to the car while she goes and gets an Eggel. My stomach growls. I stomp through the rain, get everything in the car, walk back to collect the now-beaming teenager, suspect I’ve been played the whole morning, decide she can clean the catbox later today. Gloat a little, secretly. Tell the madwoman canvassing the parking lot for drug money “not today, sorry” while cutting her away from my child. Stomach growls again. Child’s Eggel smells really good.

9:56 AM: Fall from dietary grace includes a couple hash-brown patties and an Egg McMuffin. Because I feel the need for wax and trans fats, okay? OKAY? And I don’t want to go into the bagel shop, because they have pumpkin bread, and I will not stop until I have eaten it ALL.

10:04 AM: Arrive home, chewing on the McMuffin while backing into the garage. Am slightly proud of myself for pulling that off. Princess is suitably impressed, helps carry groceries in, and throws her arms around me. “You know what, Mom? You’re really great. Really, really great.”

10:05 AM: Smiling, I realize I still have to do laundry and get a blog post up. Oh, and the book? It’s been simmering in the back of my head all this time, and I still have no idea what Emma Bannon is going to find when she opens up that door.

10:06 AM: Sigh heavily. Stare longingly at chocolate stash. Suppress grease-McMuffin burp, and know I’m going to regret all of this later.

10:30 AM: Wrapping up blog post. Look at couch, thinking nap might not be a bad idea. Trip over dog on way to couch, almost break leg, sit and swear through simmering pain-tears for a solid minute, Princess observes a deathly silence from her room where she is doing makeup work for her absence today. (Wise of her. If I’m swearing, I’m all right.) She pokes her head out when the storm passes. “You okay?”

“Yes,” I sigh, and drop heavily back down in my chair. “Just got told to get back to work.”

“Take a break. You work too hard, Mum.”

And I’m smiling again. She’s a good kid.

I can’t wait to see what-damn-else will happen before noon.

Terror and Reading

mrehan / Foter

So on Monday I was at McMenamin’s Kennedy School, where I hosted Ted Kosmatka and Shanna Germain for the SFWA’s Pacific Northwest Reading Series. It was a lovely event–thanks go out to Mary Robinette Kowal (who put the first sentence of her new book on my right breast) and David Levine, as well as Mark Nieman-Ross (who was disappointed I didn’t finish my salad, but glad I didn’t vomit from terror) and the lovely folk at Wrigley-Cross Books, who had copies on hand for signing and purchasing. (Hint: they also have event-signed copies for sale through their website.)

The readings were fantastic. Ted read from his new release, The Games, and let me tell you, the birth sequence? Creeptastic. Then the ever-lovely Shanna knocked it out of the park with the first half of a short story featuring rats, a pipe, and twins. *shudders gleefully* I am waiting for the end of the story to be posted on her website, because I need to know what happens next.

I ended up reading from my upcoming Bannon & Clare novel, The Iron Wyrm Affair. Despite being terrified enough to almost pass out (yes, really, Jay, I am that scared of public speaking) I think I might have done an okay job. Certainly nobody threw any rotten plant matter at me.

After the reading, there was a general move for the bar, but I had to (TMI) attend to my fluid balance. It was then I discovered two things: the loos at the Kennedy School are haunted, and a text from the Princess telling me a Duct Tape Emergency had transpired and my presence was required at home. Which meant, of course, I scrambled out the door. Ghosts are One Thing (yawn) but duct tape is Quite Another. I made it home in time to find the emergency had passed and one-half of my sleepy children slumbering peacefully, the other half drowsy and proud of herself for Dealing With It.

*sigh*

So that was my Evening Of Leaving The House, OMG! I rather think it went well. And to all the fans and readers who came out to support us: thank you! You are who we’re writing for.

Now it’s time to go recover…

Kennedy School Reading

Foter

So this is about to happen on Monday:

SFWA‘s Pacific Northwest Reading Series is having our next event in Portland, Oregon next week! Monday, April 16th, we’ll have New York Times best-selling author Lilith Saintcrow, along with Ted Kosmatka, whose SF novel The Games just came out last month, and multi-genre writer Shanna Germain. Wrigley-Cross will be on hand again selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Monday, April 16, 2012, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Portland, OR 97211

If you want to come see me struggle through reading in front of a crowd, now’s your chance!

The Map Is Not The Territory

Sashala / Foter

Yesterday was that day that I dread, that day that comes every time I write a book. No, it’s not the day copyedits land with a thump, not release day, not even the day I figure out the whole thing’s crap and my career will tank if I publish it. (Yes, this happens every stinking time.)

It’s the day I have to throw out even the vague roadmap I had in my head for the current book and strike out into the unknown.

I’ve been a pantser pretty much my whole writing life. The story has its own shape, and soon enough I begin excavating it rather than building it. But there comes a tipping point in every book where I am thrown into some version of the Outer Darkness. The vague feeling of this is what happens next evaporates, and I’m left groping in the dark with a plug in my hand, feeling around for an outlet. I know I’ll eventually get there–I have no choice, after all, and I know where the arc of each story ends. But that’s not a lot of help in the dark, hearing things slither around.

After doing this so many times (when someone asks “How many books have you written?” now, I just say, “After 30 I stopped counting…”) I am reasonably certain that I will eventually find the outlet, and in far less time than I think. Still, it is frightening to strike out into the unknown. The submission to the process is a scary, scary thing. Trusting the work is like letting go and trusting that something will be there to arrest your fall, and not in a way that causes severe deceleration trauma. Still, every other time, it’s worked out fine.

Or reasonably fine.

This is, incidentally, why I don’t outline more than a vaguely “I think this might happen, and this might be cool.” Why waste the time and effort when I know the map is going to become damn near useless a halfway through? I know there are some writers who have no trouble sticking to an outline, or using it like monkeybars to get across the alligator pit, but I’m just not one of them. I often wonder, though, if that way has its own pitfalls and stressors.

Anyway, I ran five miles this morning on a new route. I’ve nibbled a blood orange and some trail mix, and have a full glass of water with a little lime juice in it. Ennio Morricone is playing softly, and the dog and cat are both asleep.

Time to crawl around in the dark. Wish me luck.

Sunday Always Comes

.craig / Foter

I suppose it’s odd for a dyed-in-the-wool pagan heathen such as myself to read Slacktivist so closely. But I have to admit, he appears to be of my party without knowing it–or, just maybe, I’m of his without knowing it either. Either way, I’d like to knock back a glass or two with the fellow:

Well, actually, “favorite” is the wrong word. It’s not that I like this day so much as that I understand it. It’s recognizable, familiar, lived-in.

This day, the Saturday that can’t know if there will ever be a Sunday, is the day we live in, you and I, today and every day for the whole of our lives. This is all we are given to know.

Easter Sunday? That’s tomorrow, the day after today. We’ll never get there in time. We can believe in Easter Sunday, but we can’t be sure. We can’t know for sure. We can’t know until we’re out of time.

Here, in time, there’s just this day, this dreadful Saturday of not knowing. (Slacktivist)

We live all our lives in the Saturday of not knowing, and the only light in our darkness is the hope of something better, whether it is built on our children, our work, or our sacrifice.

What stands out, ultimately, and whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, or think the whole thing is a bunch of hooey imported from the Egyptian mystery cults or somewhere, is that, in the story of Easter week, unreasoning authority loses. (Charles P. Pierce)

It’s nice to believe that unreasoning authority loses. Especially since I’m reading about Stalinist Russia at the moment.

Anyway, let me greet you on this day, a festival of fertility, spring, resurrection, of unreasoning authority losing and the boot grinding into the face of humanity being forced away for a few precious seconds. I greet you, wherever you are and whoever you are, whenever you are reading these words, to say:

I believe that understanding brings compassion. I believe that we are getting better. I believe that there is always a spring after winter’s death. I believe my love for my children will somehow help. I believe humanity is largely noble, in its own unremarkable way, and will learn to be more so. I believe in good news, and in sappy things like redemption and love and people caring about each other. I believe that blood shed will someday be shown to be worth the pain, and that by quietly being as decent as possible on a daily basis will make some sort of difference. I believe, and I have absolute faith, in the power of art to redeem where necessary and to transform everywhere.

Last but not least, whoever and wherever you are, I have faith in you. If you have been looking for a moment when someone believes in you, look no further. It is here, now. Grab it and use it, for all it’s worth. You have permission, commission, absolution, redemption, and any other -tion you may require, right fucking now.

Now let’s go kick some compassionate ass, huh?

Over and out.