Introducing SKIN

skin So I’m trying out Wattpad for a serial. We’ll see how this works out. I decided I’d throw an old piece into the cooker and update weekly-ish, unless disaster or deadline intrudes.

Werewolves on the moon, they said. What could go wrong, they said.

Yeah, let’s send everyone with the Lup17 virus offplanet, sure. Put them on a ghetto the size of a quarter of Terra, send up the bare minimum mandated survival tech and supplies, and sit back and watch the fun. Or just ignore it, let it go, survival of the fittest and all that.

Nobody really expected them to live up there.

Nobody ever expected the Outbreak, either. So all of a sudden the corpses rise and Terra becomes a wasteland, and there’s the Moon hanging like a ripe fruit, Luna all nice and shiny and terraformed and completely Outbreak-free. A choice between the shambling undead and the wolves who sometimes wore human skins, what do you think anyone would pick? We’re all humans, right? Right?

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

So they wanted to come up. There were diplomatic hassles, there were speeches in the United, there was lots of gavel-banging and talk about saving the best and the brightest. The only trouble was, it ended up being the rich…and those with a grudge.

Every transport was supposed to be vetted before it blew atmo. Let’s keep Luna Outbreak-free!

Except they didn’t…

I have an idea of where this story ends up, and it’s not pleasant. Which cheers me up immensely. It will also exercise a couple of writing muscles I haven’t used in a while. In between this, the second Gallow book, and the sekrit agent book…hm. Might have bitten off more than even I can chew.

Time to grow bigger teeth…


ripper It’s here! It’s here! The Ripper Affair is now officially released!

Sorcery. Treason. Madness. And, of course, murder most foul…

A shattering accident places Archibald Clare, mentath in the service of Britannia, in the care of Emma Bannon, sorceress Prime. Clare needs a measure of calm to repair his faculties of Logic and Reason. Without them, he is not his best. At all.

Unfortunately, calm and rest will not be found. There is a killer hiding in the sorcerous steam-hells of Londinium, executing poor women of a certain reputation. A handful of frails murdered on cold autumn nights would make no difference…but the killings echo in the highest circles, and threaten to bring the Empire down in smoking ruins.

Once more Emma Bannon is pressed into service; once more Archibald Clare is determined to aid her. The secrets between these two old friends may give an ambitious sorcerer the means to bring down the Crown. And there is still no way to reliably find a hansom when one needs it most.

The game is afoot…

Available now through Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Indiebound, and maybe even (yep, still this thing going on) at [amazon text=Amazon&asin=0316183725]. As always, you can also purchase signed (and personalised!) copies through Cover to Cover Books–just fill out the Stock Inquiry form, and they’ll hook you up.

This is the last Bannon & Clare adventure for a while. I did have a few Emma & Archibald Go Traveling books planned, but other stuff intruded. Maybe later. As it is, this one opens with a bang (literally) and closes at just the right moment. I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

Reading, Lately

I’ve been taking notes on Pliny–the Pliny Train is still going, but doing posts every few pages, while fun for me, is a massive time investment and quite probably boring to everyone else. So I’m thinking about a different structure for those posts. More of an overview than a detailed reading.

victorian culture In other reading news, I’ve finished Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity. It was a fun read, in a crunchy cross-discipline way. Goldhill got a little unreadable when it focused on novels–a lit-critter he is definitely not–but the paintings and opera sections were just what I like: analysis, making connections, pointing out that a classical education wasn’t just education, it was also a passport into higher society and a ticket to a certain form of social mobility. It made me think very deeply about my own pursuit of what one might call a classical education, and the reasons why I do it, including cultural reasons that might not be immediately apparent to me. Culture is like Palmolive–you’re soaking in it, Madge.

I could have been happy with the “novels” section of the book given over to more exploration of opera, or more of the Pre-Raphaelites. I would have really loved to see Salome or Cleopatra get the same attention as Sappho and Mariamne, frex. Also, Goldhill on Wagner’s anti-Semitism is a fascinating chapter, and handled, I think, very well.

imago dei I’ve also finished Imago Dei. Based on a series of A. W. Mellon lectures Jaroslav Pelikan gave about Byzantine iconoclast and iconodule arguments–they were originally on a very fine tapestry icon–this is a really good introduction to the issues around the whole icon controversy in the early Church and, by extension, about some of the basic theological differences between Eastern and Western Christianity. Pelikan has a way of distilling and translating complex theological stunts and battles into understandable terms, and now I want to pick up some of his other history works. Granted, I feel about theology the same way I feel about sports–it’s all imaginary point-scoring that people riot and kill for when they could be making art or improving everyone’s quality of life instead–but still, to understand different historical periods it’s necessary to try to comprehend what people fought over and cared about.

One of the things I had never delved into before was the Eastern Orthodox chain of logic and belief around Marianism. It led me down some interesting mental roads, not the least of which was imagining myself a Byzantine semi-Hypatia, arguing that the true reflection of God was the woman who gave birth and then had to watch her child die as a result of stubbornness and bureaucratic idiocy. (Yeah, I would have been torn apart by a mob, too. Sigh.) I’ve been interested in Byzantium ever since I read Norwich’s excellent Short History of Byzantium–I liked it so much I went back and got the three-volume expanded work. (The first one’s here, if you’re interested.) It’s a natural extension of my interest in Rome. Norwich and Pelikan both have a very clear, patient style–one mark of understanding a subject thoroughly is being able to clearly explain bits of it to laymen, I think, and I find them both well worth the effort of reading and note-taking.

I’m still slogging through Braudel and also reading In The Fire of the Eastern Front as a part of my ongoing study of that WWII theater. It’s…interesting to see what the writer chooses to put down as justification for the war, and pretty intense practice in just reading for information while being sickened by what I know is occurring in the background of this one person’s story. Every once in a while, it’s good to read things one disagrees with, just to keep oneself flexible and open, not to mention compassionate.

So. What are you guys reading?

PACK and the Ripper Affair!

Saintcrow_Pack(ES) Here’s the cover for PACK. Isn’t it pretty? It’s an upcoming Orbit Short Fiction drop (similar to Unfallen) and it’ll be available on 9/23. But I was able to get permission to share the cover with you, my dear chickadees.

Pack is a weird little story. It’s related to my Fireside Fiction short Maternal Type, in a way–whenever I set out to write a short story, I have several weird almost-false starts. I call them “almost-false” because each one teaches me a little more about what the story actually needs to be, and sometimes they develop into finished works in their own right. I find shorts very, very difficult to write, but sometimes the starts uncover another story that was waiting to be told. Pack is one of them.

Readers of Maternal Type (and those waiting for the upcoming serial in Year 3 of Fireside Magazine) will see commonalities, from the feral child to the no-nonsense protagonist. But I think each story stands on its own.

And there’s something else exciting, too…

ripper I got boxes of author copies of The Ripper Affair yesterday! (It officially goes on sale August 15.) Amazon is still being nasty and not letting people preorder it, but Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and Indiebound can hook you up. If you want a signed (or personalised!) copy, all you have to do is order from Cover to Cover, my friendly local indie. It’s the last Bannon and Clare book for a while, but I think it’s a good one.

Sorcery. Treason. Madness. And, of course, murder most foul…

A shattering accident places Archibald Clare, mentath in the service of Britannia, in the care of Emma Bannon, sorceress Prime. Clare needs a measure of calm to repair his faculties of Logic and Reason. Without them, he is not his best. At all.

Unfortunately, calm and rest will not be found. There is a killer hiding in the sorcerous steam-hells of Londinium, murdering poor women of a certain reputation. A handful of frails unseamed on cold autumn nights would make no difference…but the killings echo in the highest circles, and threaten to bring the Empire down in smoking ruins.

Once more Emma Bannon is pressed into service; once more Archibald Clare is determined to aid her. The secrets between these two old friends may give an ambitious sorcerer the means to bring down the Crown. And there is still no way to reliably find a hansom when one needs it most.

The game is afoot…

I’m so excited about this, I’m having trouble sitting still. I’m hard at work revising the first Jeremy Gallow book, as well as working on a super-sekrit YA that probably won’t sell, but I love it and I’m going to finish it anyway.

Back to work…


The Size of Sol

The Size of Sol

We’ve gone out past the Moon in Pliny’s universe. He regards the Moon as being on the edge between atmosphere (though I’m not sure he would understand that term in the sense we use it) and into the “regions of clear light” he imagines the other heavenly bodies reside in. He’s more concerned, however, with what he can state definitively about the Sun. He spends a careful few paragraphs laying out why one can say with absolute certainty that the Sun is EFFING GINORMOUS. (Note: not his words.)

Carefully, logically, he lays out that the shadows of a miles-and-miles-long row of trees are the same size, that the sun reaches the vertical on the equinox at the same time for everyone in the “southern regions,” and something about the Tropic of Cancer. I confess I can’t parse that bit of Latin quite as well.

…item qua circa solstitialem circulum habitantum meridie ad septentrionem umbrae cadent, orto vero ad occasum, quae fieri nullo modo possent nisi multo quam terra maior esset…p200

“Meridie ad septentrionem” is Tropic of Cancer, right? And not the Henry Miller version. One rather thinks Pliny would think Henry Miller a bit debauched. (Gee, you think?) Then again, there were Ovid and Catullus, and either of them could blow the doors off Miller in style.

Ahem. Anyway. Catullus is for another day.

Pliny goes on to detail why the eclipse of the moon proves that the sun is OMGHUGE. At the very end, he waxes a bit rhetorical and informs us that the sun retreats in winter when:

“…otherwise it would unquestionably scorch up the earth, and even as it is does so in a certain part, so great is its magnitude.p203

I rather like that bit of the translation–“scorch up the earth” for “exusturus haut dubie, et sic quoque exurens quadam in partep202” A good translation obeys the spirit as well as the letter, I think, and Rackham does pretty well.

Our stop here at the Sun is a short one (rather uncomfortably warm, isn’t it? Just a moment longer…) and please do keep your arms and legs inside the Train. Ice and various drinks are being dispensed, and the lights are about to go down as we speed from the celestial realms back to the more human country of History. Next, Pliny is going to tell us about eclipses and war.


Little Darling I took no pride in my solitude, but I was dependent on it. –Charles Bukowski, Factotum

I went mostly-dark yesterday. Every once in a while one just has to clean everything out, retreat inside. Do only the bare minimum of email-checking or popping online to get the news. I didn’t realize how much of my day had become a steady diet of What The Internet Has Going On, and it troubles me a little. The interwebs are not ubiquitous, though it feels like it when you’re on them. And I have to remind myself often that the platform costs of signing on (a desktop or a smartphone, a wi-fi connection, a cell phone plan) are things that require an investment. Even “free” wi-fi at a coffee shop requires an investment of time as well as petrol or bus fare to travel there. This is why I say the internet isn’t ubiquitous–those who don’t have the infrastructure advantage or the financial ability to invest in the hardware turn invisible. It’s one major reason why e-books “replacing” physical books isn’t going to happen either. (Not to mention that if the power goes out, the majority of my cheaply-acquired paper library is still usable.) Sherman Alexie noted this very thing ages ago when talking about the elitism of the Kindle:

Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle? (Sherman Alexie)

The dogs, of course, were thrilled that I wanted to spend serious time on the floor with them, playing tug and doling out ear and chest skritches. Not a bad way to reset one’s brain.

Time to queue up the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, get some more caffeine down, and get some more work done. Here, have the ways chemistry can save you during the zombie apocalypse, with a bonus of how a certain nasty little King choked out his last. You’re welcome.

Over and out.

photo by: Helga Weber

Book Haul


My recent book haul from Cover to Cover. They know what I like, and set stuff aside they think I might be interested in. Just one more reason local booksellers are incredibly awesome.

You can also just-see the copy of Allegiant they ordered for the Princess, and the Pokemon and science books they set aside for the Little Prince. The Princess finished Allegiant that same afternoon, and is still in shock. The ending is making her think very deeply about a lot of other stories.

Plus, she’s reading 1984 in school. The end of that one is gonna be a kicker for her as well, I can already tell…

Soundtrack Monday: To Hell And Back

| violin | And Soundtrack Mondays are BACK! Today it’s the track list for [amazon chan=default&asin=0316001775&text=”To Hell And Back”].

I was exhausted physically and emotionally by the end of the Valentine series. It was an incredible ride, but I was so tightly locked into Danny’s POV that it took me some time to recover. Not to mention, my marriage was well and truly on the rocks but the divorce was a ship on the horizon, I was almost killing myself trying to save the relationship on my own. (Pro tip: that never works.)

Fun fact: this book was supposed to be titled The Devil In Love, after Jacques Cazotte, but I was overruled. This was one of the few times I’ve bowed to an editor’s insistence on something that really mattered to me, because said editor had cogent reasons and a track record of not pushing me unless it was hella important. Given the number of [amazon chan=default&asin=015603283X&text=”The Club Dumas”] and Ninth Gate references and Easter eggs all through the series, I felt really insistently that Devil in Love was the right title. To me, the book remains DIL, but the editor had the final say. Maybe she was right.

Dante Valentine Won’t Back Down, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers This was, is, and will always be the theme song Danny and I share–the one thing we agree on, as it were.
A’tai, hetairae A’nankimel’iin. Diriin. Virtue, Jesse Cook
My Word Is Broken The Road To Hell, Chris Rea
Not Anubis, But Sekhmet Fallen, Sarah McLachlan
You Betrayed Me First Here Is Gone, Goo Goo Dolls
There Is No Mirror It’s No Good, Depeche Mode
I Am Your Fallen Savin’ Me, Nickelback This one veers between Danny and Japh’s viewpoints. Guess which is which.
Konstans-Stamboul Gypsy Rhapsody, Bond
Sephrimel’s Agony, Japhrimel’s Strength Born Yesterday, Rob Dougan Japh’s frustration with Dante reaches epic proportions. One imagines Sephrimel and Inhana had similar issues.
The White-Walled City All That I Am, Rob Thomas
It Was Burned Away In Hell Special, Garbage
Or Learn To Leave Them Unsaid It Doesn’t Matter, Alison Krauss
Throw The Dice You Can’t Lose-A Me Cholly, Leadbelly
Paradisse Run For It, Delerium
The Vegas Waste Head Like A Hole, Nine Inch Nails
Not All The Hosts of Hell, Just One Living Dead Girl, Rob Zombie
A Promise I’ll Keep Nothing At All, Rob Dougan

And that about wraps that up. Yes, I didn’t put the Saint City Sinners soundtrack up. I don’t think I’m ready to yet. That book still makes me cry. Next up: the Kismet series!

photo by: arquera

Delayed Gratification Success

Lydia The book launch for Latimer’s Law was a roaring success. I made plenty of coffees, my writing partner read from the first chapter of her book, and I got to see so many old friends–former writing students, and poets, and people familiar from all the community events Cover to Cover hosts. I was also called “the evil little voice that sits on Mel’s shoulder,” which is one of the higher compliments I’ve ever received.

I should mention here: part of the reason for the success is the grunt work Mel’s done over the years, both as Cover to Cover and personally. As a bookstore owner, she’s gone in early and stayed late to host poetry open mics, book launches, signings, NaNoWriMo write-ins, and a thousand other things. She encourages local authors, and also gently tells the business reasons why their books won’t work in some stores. She’s endlessly patient with even the prima donnas–something I don’t think I could ever be, and one of the reasons why I’m the evil voice in our partnership.

As a writer, she’s a community builder too–not just as my writing partner, beta, and support system, but also for a wide circle of far-flung wordsmiths (like Grace Draven, frex) that rely on her wisdom, support, and wonderful sense of humor.

This is why, when she modestly credited other people for a large part of her success, I immediately jumped in to point out the work she’s done for YEARS as a facilitator, bookstore owner, crit partner, editor, networker, friend and confidant not just to me but to literally hundreds of people. All that work, those late nights and that patience, pays off. It’s delayed gratification, true, but it prepares the ground so that any luck falls on rich soil.

Which brings me to my Monday Lesson, chickadees. Being invested in, and proud of, other peoples’ success is a good strategy. This is not a zero-sum game, where the more success a fellow author has means less for YOU. The more success other authors have, the better it is for everyone, and reciprocity and community-building makes you luckier, and makes your own success that much more robust. It really does pay to be kind to each other. Not being an asshole is a great business strategy, and one I wish certain other people would practice…

…but that’s, say it with me, another blog post.