Hives and HARMONY

I got out for a run while it was still cool this morning, or at least, cool-ish. Still, I couldn’t take the dogs; the poor things do even worse with heat than I do. They’re unhappy, but it’s better than them getting prostrated by the damn temperature.

They may also be cranky because I’m cranky, having awakened covered with hives. Last night I made the distinct mistake of drinking some red wine–a completely forgivable error, you know–and watching the Assassin’s Creed movie. Frankly, it would have been a lot better if the whole movie had been alt-history instead of alt-historical and modern uneasily bolted together. I could very much have watched a dirty Fassbender lisping Castilian all the way through, thank you and amen.

It still might have turned out all right, except the heat was really bad last night. Normally, up here in the PNW, the heat breaks in the evening and we get relatively cool nights. When that doesn’t happen, the cumulative stress makes my skin try to eat itself.

But it’s all good. I got out for a run and sweated out the worst of the stress, and have rinsed the rest off and made coffee. Even the bees were giving me somewhat of a wide berth today, bumbling over my hands and shoulders instead of nesting in my hair or trying to crawl into my mouth. Maybe they could smell the irritation coming off me in waves.

At least I’m back at work, revising HOOD‘s Season One. We’re coming up on the end of that, and I’ve got so much fun planned for Season Two, you just don’t even know. It’s going to be so much fun, and I have the last season in my head as well. It took longer than I liked to recover from revisions on The Poison Prince, but at least I have an answer for one of the knottiest plot problems in the third book of that series.

Said answer occurred to me quite naturally as I woke up this morning, my skin itching like a hive and my temper frayed almost past bearing. I had consigned it to the great engines beneath the floor of my conscious self, pretty sure that the Muse had an answer she’d give in due time.

Fellow writers often say you never learn how to write books more easily, you just learn how to write this one specific book you’re working on. That’s true as far as it goes, but one of the things an experienced writer can learn is when to consign a question to the great engines and leave it alone until the solution bursts forth, full-fledged, from said writer’s forehead. After a while you can feel the things working beneath the floorboards, chewing and grinding, and can even sense with something’s going to swell and burst.

It’s a particular type of relaxed concentration married to the willingness to keep yourself distracted with other work, with a large dash of learning to trust the Muse. I know I anthropomorphize the creative process, but it helps if I think I’m consigning the problem to her rather than to something impersonal.

So much of this career is learning how to game yourself. How to get the wild thing inside your head that’s fucking up your life and snap the traces on to put it to plow.

Anyway, I should remind you that if you want to read the first bit of Harmony for free, you can do so right here. Also, I’m hearing that some readers are experiencing quality issues with the Amazon-bought paperbacks of that book; if you are, please contact Amazon customer service. When Amazon folded CreateSpace in, the quality of their printing took a steep dive; this is something I have no control over. I did choose to offer the Harmony trade paperback through KDP instead of IngramSpark’s extended distribution for reader convenience, but if it’s going to mean this sort of hassle I won’t ever do so again.

I suppose I should finish my coffee, check the focaccia dough–of course, it’s going to be umpty-scrump degrees outside and I’m baking, because I lack all sorts of smarts–and get the subscriber perks for the week out the door. That, along with revisions, should keep me busy enough to stay out of trouble.

At least, for a little while. Over and out.

Coal Seam Impression

Spent the weekend watching Turkish serials, which was the best use of my internet connection since finding streaming Kdrama. Now it’s Monday and I’m back at work, which is going exactly how you’d think it would, especially since the dogs are In a Mood. Their morning run was full of bad behavior, probably because I didn’t take them out Saturday and Sunday is our rest day. I always get to feeling like my skin is full of itchy ants whenever I take a rest day, and it’s ever so much more worse for them, I suppose.

It was nice to have the time off. I did get recognized in the wild by a librarian last week, and had a pleasant chat. And I am currently typing on a keyboard presented to me by the Princess, because I ended up dumping thirty-two ounces of lemon water over the old one and the spare just wasn’t optimal.

So there are good things this week, but it’s hard to get back in the groove. I looked at the news this morning and absolutely should not have. I never thought I was the type to develop an ulcer about world events, so congratulations, I guess?

I know you guys are going to ask, so my favorite set of clips from a Turkish serial this weekend was Black White Love. Holy cow, can Ibrahim Celikkol smoulder. The man does a great impression of a coal seam burning for years until oxygen hits an exposed surface and WHAM. Lord, there was my narrative crack all over

Why, yes, I was scribbling notes on the smoulder the entire time, why do you ask? I have a type, and it’s repressed bad boy. Nice to watch, certainly, but very bad to be involved with. That’s part of the glory of being in my forties: I can enjoy the vibe without getting caught in it.

I am mildly amused it took me this long to learn, but oh well.

I have to decide if I want to do a fantasy or a vampire hitman for my next gift book–oh, what’s a gift book, you ask? It’s a book I write for someone. For example, I know my agent likes my YA stuff, so I wrote Harmony1 for her; I was in a generous mood so I wrote Jozzie & Sugar Belle for my Evil Ladies.2 I like taking a character or a situation that a friend gives me, spinning it out in my own inimitable fashion, and presenting it wrapped up in a bow. It’s one of the weird ways I show affection, like being willing to bring a tarp and a shovel at a moment’s notice or fussing at you to eat.

Right now the vampire hitman is winning out. I think it would be fun to write him, once I finish figuring out exactly what makes him tick.

…I’m sure I had something interesting to say when I started out, but it’s gone by the wayside as I’ve had to get up and deal with dogs and laundry. Time to put the headphones on and plan the day’s work, and if I’m very good, I’ll reward myself with a vampire priest hitman chapter or two.

Man, I have the best job.

Grab your weapons, chickadees. Let’s take Monday by storm.

Endurance Novel

HOOD

5k on The Poison Prince yesterday, and I can see the shape of the end. All I have to do now is hang on long enough, and it will sort itself out. It’s 85k of epic fantasy, and will only get bigger through the publication process. For right now, though, it’s all mine, and all on me.

I did get to play ES Posthumus’s Kalki several times and write a particular chase scene I’ve had in my head since the series started. So that was pretty awesome. I had to stop before I was absolutely exhausted and done-in for the day, giving myself enough candle to burn today, and I resented every moment of having to feed myself and sleep when what I’d rather be doing is writing, but that’s a given when I get so close to the end of a project. Especially a HUGE one like this.

The third book is going to kick my ass, I can tell. But between then and now, I need to finish the zero of this one, and the zero fo HOOD‘s Season One too. After those two zeroes are in the can and marinating, I can take a look around and think about what I want to do next. Probably Dolls, though I want to write a high fantasy epic with dragonriders and do it right.

What I don’t want to do is write The Highlands War, which was next on the list. Most people have been exceedingly lovely about the format choices for Kaia’s stories, but there’s always the bad apples. It will happen if it’s meant to, I suppose.

I feel like I’ve always been writing Poison Prince, like there’s never been a day I’ve not been writing it, and like I will be writing it for-fucking-ever, world without end, amen. Every novel is an endurance race, this one’s just…longer. If I stay stubborn enough, I’ll eventually get there.

…it occurred to me I have Harmony and Incorruptible to revise, so maybe I’ll do that while the zeroes are marinating and push off the decision about a fresh new world to play in for a little while longer. Getting more work out and before the eyes of the ravenous public would certainly feel better than this hack-slash-cut at a book that refuses to die no matter how many times I stab.

Five more scenes at bare minimum, then I can be done with Poison Prince. I’ll love the book again, probably in revision when I come across bits I don’t remember writing. But for right now it’s just one more enemy to slay.

I’m ready. I think. I mean, I suppose.

*buckles on goggles*
*the goggles do nothing*

Freeing, Not Optimal

Jozzie & Sugar Belle

Writing epic fantasy is very…different. For one thing, I’m not getting the “oh, this phase of the project is done” hit of dopamine as regularly as I’m accustomed to, and that makes me cranky. For another…well, let’s just say that working under another name is freeing, certainly, but it’s not even close to optimal. It would be better if the books weren’t regularly orphaned, or if I wasn’t treated like an embarrassing bodily noise instead of the person who’s writing the damn books everyone else’s job relies on.

But hey, you know…nothing’s perfect.

Anyway, I’m super cranky today. Lord Boxnoggin is whistling with his desire to get out the door for a run or get down the stairs to find a cat, whichever. And yes, his whine is so high and prolonged it sounds like a whistle. Not a train whistle, more like a kettle at low boil, right before all the water evaporates and you’re left with a lump of metal melted to the stovetop.

Not that I’d know anything about that, no sir. *clears throat*

I know exactly why I’m so upset. I dislike being ignored when it’s my work that creates the value for everyone else in the stream; if I’m not going to be granted a reply to my quite reasonable questions I shall work to please myself, and that might mean finishing another story or two for some sweet sweet dopamine before I go back to this beast. I have to have faith, and trust that the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing. Fifty-plus books in and I’m still having to hold my nose and step blindly where that bitch leads.

It’s enough to make me want to call the girls for a drunken night, stay absolutely sober, and write another Jozzie & Sugar Belle. At least that was fun and I got answers when I bothered to ask anyone about Tuckerisation or the like.

I suppose a run will put me in a better mood. I’m not being allowed to do my usual detailed work from start to finish with these books, and it irks me far more than I thought it would. In any case, I’ve learned my lesson: if I ever write YA or epic fantasy ever again, it will have to be for a publisher who doesn’t think readers are stupid or treat me like a rancid afterthought.

I hope such beasts exist.

*wanders off to run, muttering*

Adversarial Book

Took a bit of a sabbatical last week, at least from the blog and most social media. It was nice to do some deep breathing and restore my sense of proportion. I keep thinking I can save the world.

The world, however, either doesn’t want saving, or the job’s just too big for me. The latter isn’t so much of a consideration–I take on jobs too large for me all the time–but the former is. You can’t save those who want to drown.

The Poison Prince has broken the 60k mark, and I’m beginning to think I can pull this off. There’s no reason for the dividing line between books 2 and 3 to be placed exactly where it is; I can slide it back and forth as the need arises. Everyone in this book is talking when I need them to get to the dying.

This is probably a common problem in epic fantasy creation. *snork*

I’ve been moonlighting with a couple other things–Sons of Ymre, and the other Watcher book. Neither are moving very quickly because I have to fit in wordcount around the big bulk of Prince. I want to be done with this book so badly, it keeps me up at night sometimes. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard, because if I end up pulling all-nighters I’ll need longer to recover when I finally get a blade in the bowels of this fucking book and it breathes its last.

*eyes former paragraph* I may be having an adversarial relationship with this bloody book. Anyway.

It’s a cloudy morning; hopefully there won’t be anyone with unleashed dogs at the park. I’m having to stagger Miss B accompanying me; she’s getting to the age where the shorter runs are all she’s comfortably capable of. Of course she wants to go on every run, bar none. She would gladly run her heart out if I asked it of her, but I don’t ask it. In fact, I actively discourage such a thing, being a cruel and unjust owner who wishes to keep her safe and sound for a few more years.

It was awful to lose Odd Trundles, but the awfulness was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that we expected to lose him at any point, so it wasn’t exactly a shock. B, though…when she ascends to the great kibble bowl in the sky, I’m going to be devastated. It’s going to hurt worse than just about anything.

All the more reason to take care now while she’s with me, and snuggle her a bit more. If I can get her to hold still for it–she’s always wriggling free to go play with Boxnoggin. He is somewhat of an elixir of youth for her, their wrestling, yapping, and chasing serving to exercise them both. She’s pretty pissed every time he goes on a run alone with me.

Poor Miss B. She just longs to supervise everyone and everything, like the busy little bossy bee she is. Speaking of bees, there are no doubt going to be plenty of them trying to infiltrate my skull. Maybe I should braid my hair to give them more places to cling instead of a ponytail.

Well, that’s my morning work cut out for me. I suppose I should get moving.

Over and out…

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.