Over Coffee

I did a lot of prep work yesterday; Monday is becoming the day for it. It irks me because I wanted to be writing instead, but this frees up the rest of the week and I did get a bit of wordcount in on the serial. So there’s that, at least.

Being on the internet for as long as I have been, I see certain cycles. People are frightened right now, and frightened people bite. Hard. There’s also those addicted to the emotional jolt of indignation in the mix, and the end result is a flaming pile of wreckage I keep wincing at.

It’s a sunny morning. I’m waiting for the coffee to cool a wee bit before I can bolt it and get the dogs sorted. If all goes well Boxnoggin will run with me. He’s oddly calm this morning, probably because I was up late and rolled out of bed early.

I’m retracting like a salted slug on all social fronts. I just want to bloody well write. At least the copyedits for The Poison Prince don’t look bad, and the book is long and complex enough to keep me very occupied for quite some time. After that, it’s finishing the zero for HOOD‘s Season Three and The Bloody Throne, then there’s The Black God’s Heart to consider. I’ve a plethora of work, always where I prefer to be.

Still, I feel like I should be juggling more, doing more, being more, though. The idea that one is never quite doing enough finds fertile ground in any fault line, and nowadays, we’re all full of cracks and fissures.

…ah. The coffee has just reached the perfect temperature. There’s that moment when a hot drink is just on the edge of scorching, where it won’t hurt but still makes your teeth tingle. I can almost feel blessed caffeine translating across my gastric wall and into my bloodstream.

Certainly it’s a legal addiction, but it’s also a very pleasant one. I’m having to forego my jolts in the afternoon, though. I don’t sleep when I have espresso after noon. Fortunately tea is still very okay, and I have a neat chai powder mix that doesn’t make me vibrate. The latter is Spicy Enough, which is not usual–I like a lot more cinnamon, clove, and pepper than most. Plenty of chais just don’t have the taste kick I’m after, or, if prepared to spec like Tao of Tea’s variant, give me the shakes.

There was that one time I was out with my writing partner, and we visited a Tao of Tea storefront with a teahouse attached, and I drank a whole pot of the 500 Mile Chai. For the rest of the afternoon I was sweaty and edgy, and not in a fun way. (I’m surprised the Selkie didn’t bash me over the head and roll me out of the car on the freeway, frankly. Girl has a lot of patience.)

OH! I meant to tell you guys about Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but that’ll have to wait a bit. It’s in there, it’ll just take me some time.

I’m almost to the bottom of the mug. Which means two things: The good chewy bits packing a bit more caffeine punch are about to be stuck between my teeth, and it’s almost time to brush said teeth and get out the door. Dogs aren’t gonna exercise themselves–or, they will, but not in a way anyone around here will end up being comfortable with.

It’s strange. Most of my daily life hasn’t changed an iota. The rest is unrecognizable, and not just because it’s wearing a mask.

Be kind to yourself today, dear Reader. People are everywhere afraid, and fear makes us do strange things. I spent a good twenty minutes screaming into a pillow yesterday. As meditation strategies go, it was strangely effective. I did apologize to the pillow afterward, but it said there were no hard feelings because it was doing what it was designed for and happy to help. Nobody was hurt and I ended up feeling a lot better.

Now if I can just get my heavy bag up…

Over and out.

Perception, Proportion

I may have wildly overestimated my ability to keep up with the firehose of bad news.

Of course, I am ambitious when it comes to seeing how much punishment I can absorb, a habit left over from childhood when it became a point of pride to disassociate during bad events so I wouldn’t cry or give any sign of weakness.

It’s only taken me decades to realize this is perhaps just the slightest, the very tiniest bit unhealthy.

Anyway, I spent yesterday getting the week’s subscription stuff edited and scheduled, as well as hopping out to the grocer’s. I made it between two waves–retail and food service taught me the magic of “dead times”–and was pleased that most people were wearing snotcatchers (i.e., masks) but not so pleased at the visible signs that most of them also considered the worst to be past.

It’s not. Even I can tell as much. I’m not the brightest bulb in the marquee, but I am possessed of a professional imagination, and predicting is somewhat of a hobby. Of course, every human being is somewhat of an expert in predicting human behavior–we do it all day, every day, and our survival depends upon it. The trick is to trust your own perceptions while simultaneously checking them against trusted external sources for a sense of proportion.

So here I am on a Tuesday, feeling pummeled even though I’ve barely been out of bed for two hours. At least there’s coffee. Both dogs are all but prancing with eagerness to get out the door. I should spend some time deciding the next Quarantine Edition–Jozzie & Sugar Belle is pay-what-you-want until tomorrow; after that, it’ll probably be something else.

On the bright side, that leaves most of the day for actual wordcount. I just want to crawl into a book and forget everything going on outside my four walls. Anxiety is eating the energy I desperately need to get Season Three of HOOD and The Bloody Throne out. I’m trying to moonlight with a trunk novel and The Black God’s Heart, but making books jealous by working on other books requires the wherewithal to work in the first place.

I also have to stop reading The Body Keeps the Score until things calm down a little. There’s a whole lot of useful in that book, but underlining bits that resonate on almost every page is bringing up a whole lot of things I don’t have the bandwidth to process or think about right now. I should probably shift back to The Sailor From Gibraltar even though the narrator is a complete asshole1, because piercing nostalgia is better than quivering from remembered disaster.

So. Today at 11am the latest Haggard Feathers will drop; last month we talked about marketing, this month we’re talking about self-care. We’ve covered physical and emotional self-care, this week we’re talking about what burnout is, and next week we’ll go over strategies to ameliorate said burnout.

Regular readers will notice I’m blogging less; I have a few more balls in the air than I used to and the global situation has robbed me of a lot of the energy that went into the usual Daily Grind schedule. Right now I only have the spoons for Tuesday-Thursday updates; Haggard Feathers and the fiction subscriptions are eating up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday’s energy quota. If we ever get back to non-apocalyptic times, I’ll be back on my bullshit pronto.

It feels weird not to be blogging all the time. Peering back through the archives, I can see I’ve been at this for years. It’s a lot of content, and a lot of history. Reading some posts from years ago reminds me of things that didn’t make it into the daily updates, and sometimes those are pleasant. Other times… not so much.

I wish you a serene Tuesday, my chickadees. Remember to be gentle with yourself so you can be gentle with others–at least, the others who warrant it. I’m just ill-tempered enough today to bite back when That Fucking Guy shows up on my feeds.

I don’t know who made this, but I love it and use it all the time.

Off I go to walk a pair of Very Excited Dogs. See you in a few, dear ones.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.

One Now, The Next

I wish you a very bright, kind morning, my dears. It’s sunny here, the dogs need taking out, and I woke up earwormed by an absolutely new band.

Well, Imagine Dragons aren’t new, but being earwormed by them is.

I spent my breakfast (or at least, the broth and coffee I can manage this morning, the stress nausea is very bad) with my daily Latin lesson, and I think I’m almost ready to get back to Pliny. I want to finish the damn encyclopedia by the time I’m fifty; it’s a bucket-list thing. I suspect it would go much more quickly if I just read the translation, but that’s not the point, I want the practice reading it in Latin.

Maybe I should finish Caesar first. He’s generally held to be a good introduction; his Latin is relatively simple and direct. Pliny is a recondite ass sometimes.

ANYWAY. I’m gearing up for the release of HOOD‘s Season Two next week; Season Three is now well underway. I’m already feeling the release-day nerves, added to a scrambling sensation because current events have put a dent in my work schedule liek woah, as we used to say on LJ.

It’s not a surprise that this month’s Haggard Feathers subject is self-care for writers. Also, last week’s and this week’s posts are unlocked for everyone, not just paid subscribers. Today’s post, dropping at 11am PST, will be about physical self-care.

I’m still looking at my Gumroad store to figure out what to offer for free or “pay what you want.” We’re going to be here a while, and when the first wave of cool stuff for free passes we’re going to need a second/third wave. I could say I planned it that way, but the truth is, I’m overwhelmed.

Interesting times to live in, I guess. Someone wished upon the Monkey’s Paw, or maybe the planets have aligned. (I’ve taken this quarantine as a chance to study some astrology; maybe I should do a post about that?)

I’m glad of the dogs during this. They have no damn idea about quarantine, virus, or paychecks. The kids are a little less sanguine, but what held true in their childhood is also holding true now–as long as I keep my cool, they can keep theirs. The pressure to keep calm and collected so people who depend on me don’t lose their shit actually helps keep me together–a fact which surprises nobody who’s ever read one of my books, I suppose.

…I meant to talk about the effects of social distancing and how close the virus is getting–we’re down to one degree of separation from an actual death–for posterity and all. But I just can’t. My diary is already full of it; I had to change the ink cartridge in my pen mid-sentence last night while scribbling. It’s only going to get worse, and while I am braced, nobody can ever be fully emotionally prepared for something like this.

I’ve spent most of my life vibrating with anxiety and the aftereffects of trauma. This creeping, constant fear feels like home. It’s like all the work done to get to a healthy emotional state and manage the anxiety is useless now, and was only a brief respite before we got back to the regular program. I know this is extraordinary, I know the disaster is fitting into the trauma footprint left on me by childhood and other similar catastrophes, I know the queer feeling of relaxation comes from this all feeling very, very familiar indeed.

Knowing doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Even my well-hidden but usually irrepressible optimism is MIA on this one. I’m trembling on the edge of “fuck it, nothing matters anyway.”

But the dogs need walking. Boxnoggin is sensing I’m almost finished with the morning’s work, and is performing a play bow in the middle of the office while I type this. Next will come him nudging my knee, hopefully, his large mild brown eyes wide with questioning and glee. Come on, he’ll say, focus on the NOW, and what is NOW is walkies for dogs.

It’s only Tuesday, and it feels like this week has lasted forever. I’m going from one “now” to the next like clinging to handholds on a traverse, hoping like hell my fingers are chalked enough. It seems the only way to survive this.

I’m curious, of course, and if this is the way through, we might be able to do it together. So, my dear Reader, if your eyes have traveled this far… what is your now like, and what’s the next now you’re grasping?

Season Three Begins!

I’m excited today, my friends. Not just because I have a very good cup of coffee to start the day1 and not just because I’m working on three paying projects (hallelujah) at once, but also because today marks the first day of HOOD‘s Season Three!

Every single one of my subscribers–Gumroad or Patreon, Latte’s Worth to Nest Egg–will get the first two chapters today at around 2pm PST. I love writing serials; they’re good practice, and I really like having something new for subscribers every week.

Also, the regular monthly support, no matter how small, is a rock to cling to in an unsteady career. It allows me to write much longer, more complex stories without a lot of interference, which is always nice.

This particular serial started while I was still writing Roadtrip Z and looking for the story that would come after Ginny, Lee, and the gang reached the end of their journey. I’ve always been fascinated with Robin Hood retellings, but I didn’t want to write even more historical-flavored fantasy. So I was watching fanvids of Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, and all of a sudden it hit me…

…well, a lot of things hit me when I watch Richard Armitage, but this particular time I thought “what if Robin Hood was coming home from a space war? The society would have to have a semi-feudal structure, how would that work?”

Of course current events inform plenty of my work, and a discerning Reader will see the threads, as well as the terminology2 for certain things carried from Old Terra to Anglene. Some things have happened that I didn’t expect–Giz’s true aims were a mystery to me until halfway through Season Two, the exact dimensions of Robb’s athleticism and gifts continues to surprise me, and Alladal has become much sharper-edged than I thought. Which is good–her handling of Wat the Tinker gave me flat-out chills.

Anyway, even with all this excitement, there are dogs to walk and wordcount to get in today. I’m feeling how I usually do when working on the last book of a series–anticipation with a sharp edge of fear, just enough for seasoning. I’m always afraid of dropping one of the narrative threads while braiding everything in. And there’s a whole lot of moving parts in this one, from Alladal’s decisions to help (or not) to Giz’s body count (I suspect it will grow steadily) to Robb hitting bottom (or so he thinks) to Jorah Smahl’s critical part in the plan to spring Robb from jail (not to mention his part in the return of a certain prince) to what, exactly, Marah will risk for what she thinks is right (in a word, everything). And that’s not even counting Will and Kameny’s relationship (such as it is), Sharl Notheim’s plans (mostly to cover his own backside, as usual with such men) and the little question of Gil Blamaíne.

I’ll get it done the same way everything else gets done, I know. Tiny bites, well chewed, like the Shel Silverstein poem about eating the whale. And I’m super glad to have my subscribers along for the ride.

Now it’s back to work.

Music, Noise, Work

The Society

Walking the dogs this morning, Matchbox 20’s Disease came through my earbuds, and I found myself thinking of The Society again. That was one of Delgado’s songs.

Man, I was so young when I wrote that. A few discerning fans had fun untangling the X-Men references in it, and I still like to think about Rowan and Del every once in a while. I didn’t extend the series because if I had, a character I like very much would have had to die, and I don’t want to feel it in my own body.

Best just to leave things precariously balanced where Hunter, Healer left off.

I do know what happens after all my books end. Sometimes I keep the information locked up in my head, a private playground. Other times I turn the situation a certain number of degrees and look at its contours, and another story tentatively pokes its head out, whispering have you considered it this way? Write about this.

Then Florence + the Machine’s Breath of Life came up, and I found myself thinking about The Black God’s Heart; I think that song is probably Nat’s. You haven’t met Nat yet; I haven’t written the book. But I’ve made a good start and I’m stealing time to work on it in the evenings, when I’m tired from the day and needing something I enjoy, not just a slog.

You can tell I’m serious about a book when the soundtrack starts to coalesce. It’s only a single indicator–I’ve written other books without soundtracks, just not very often. I do have just-plain-writing music, but certain songs help me slither into a character’s skin.

Writing is an exercise in focused, critical empathy. Imagining myself so deeply and profoundly in someone else’s shoes is on the one hand difficult, requiring imagination and stamina; on the other hand, it’s the easiest thing in the world because, well, empathy. It’s a normal human skill, most often shown in the flinch when we see someone else get a sharp pain.

I know there are plenty of empathy-challenged people. I also think even a grain of it can be strengthened with practice and care. Writers, of course, can gain a massive, overblown sensitivity.

It’s no wonder so many of us drink to deaden it. The cray that is publishing doesn’t help either, I suppose.

Music isn’t an absolute necessity; some books do very well with silence or some variant of white noise. (I also use the Noizio app sometimes, when I want a little sound but not tunes.) I find songs are most helpful when I’m, building a book–walking or doing housework while the subconscious engines work on arranging the story for me.

Writing isn’t solely about the typing, although that is an extremely necessary part. It also takes a lot of relaxed focus, letting the machinery below conscious floorboards grind away with enough fuel and grist to keep from overheating.

Anyway, the world is afire with greed and plague, but I’m still writing. There’s not much else I can do, and people need stories now more than ever.

Time to get back to work.


It’s Thursday, which means my paid Haggard Feathers subscribers have an open thread to ask questions and give comments on. Also, Crow’s Nest, Nest Egg, and Serial Time subscribers are about to get some very cool stuff in their inboxes this week…

Best, Ignored, Work

I was tooling around on the internet yesterday, and a realization struck me: what I think is my very best writing often goes unnoticed.

Good writing is supposed to go unnoticed a lot of the time; that means it’s efficiently carried its cargo into another person’s head and left it there. But there’s also good writing that goes unnoticed for other reasons, and that’s what I was thinking about.

I happen to think Cormorant Run is some of my best work, and Afterwar will probably survive me. There are other books with individual passages I don’t remember writing and when I am forced to reread I stop and think huh, that’s well done. (For some reason, things I remember writing rarely pass my internal editor without a fight.) Some series–like Gallow & Ragged or the Human Tales–contain some very beautiful things I was so frightened I’d mess up, but which came through without a lot of damage. And there are short stories I feel like I’ve knocked out of the park. It’s a feeling like a good clean hit with a bat or a perfect strike with a sword; you know you’ve done it as soon as you start to move.

But the books I think are objectively my best very rarely get a whole lot of fan love. It doesn’t bother me–such are the vagaries of writing for a large population–and I am allowed to think what I like of my own work.

It’s funny that the books I think are my best are rarely the ones I enjoyed writing, in the usual sense of the word enjoy. Instead, they were painful to create, with an edge of pleasure like lancing a boil or scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds. The relief once the writing was done was almost exactly that of reopening a wound to let it drain, knowing it would heal and queasily fascinated by the entire operation.

Not that I’m comparing my books to carbuncles. *snort* Even though it might be warranted, I have some pride.

I have very little hope of most of my work surviving me. Being treated as disposable both by society and the publishing industry provokes me to severe doubt on a daily basis, frankly. And even if some of it does survive me there’s no guarantee it will be what I consider (a la Henry James) my blest good stuff.

And yet there’s a quiet glow inside me of knowing that I’ve done my best with every single book or story, worked every time to my absolute limit, and part of that glow is some pride in what I consider my finest work. (So far, that is. I plan to die with my boots on and my fingers to the keyboard.)

The world will do its best to rob you of joy. Hewing to said joy is a survival mechanism, a necessity, not a luxury.

After all, without some small measure of joy, what’s the point?

Anyway, these are the things I’m thinking of lately, especially since my career is changing. I haven’t done a bad bit of work, really, when I survey its dimensions.

Maybe things aren’t hopeless after all.


It’s Tuesday, which means at 11am PST there’s a new paid-subscriber-only post up at Haggard Feathers. The theme for March is marketing, so this week’s post is about the #1 marketing strategy for writers. It’s not what you think…