Give the Bitch a Good Show

Using the phone generally makes me so anxious I shake. I’m now using 5Calls, though, because daily superhero work doesn’t have to fray me at the edges so badly. So, if you have phone anxiety, like me, and also want to make a difference–again, like me!–I recommend checking it out.

The weekend was all about proof pages for Cormorant Run, hauling compost to all the garden boxes (shovelgloving saved my back, I’ll just say that much) and washing Odd Trundles since it wasn’t cold enough outside to justify letting him marinate longer.

Oh, yeah, and watching the attempted coup and concomitant constitutional crisis. We are living in interesting times, indeed. A rug-headed pig-eyed Cheeto with a Russian dictator’s hand up his rump–and a Nazi on record as wanting to destroy America running his National Security Council–is already killing people. It’s only going to accelerate from here, my friends.

I am clinging to hope by finger-and toenails. We outnumber the fascists by an order or two of magnitude. History’s gaze is upon us, and I intend to give the bitch a good show. It’s kind of funny to realize that every book I’ve ever written has been training for fighting evil, training for radical empathy, training for putting my head down and doing the goddamn work to make things better, to create a world. Often, looking at the news, I feel helpless, but then someone writes to tell me I’ve given them hope and my heart turns into a flower. Or someone writes to tell me they’re never buying my books again because of my politics, and I think, well, if you have problems with me calling a fascist a fucking fascist, I’m glad your grubby little authoritarian fingers won’t sully pages I’ve slaved over and bled for, fuckyouverymuch and goodnight.

There’s a lot of the latter going on.

So this week it’s back to the grindstone, making my calls every day, and if I get a certain number of wordage in, hitting up a yarn store. I feel the need for a pussy hat. And knitting might help keep me from imploding in a black hole of despair, too.

Use what you have, I guess. Here’s your regular daily reminder that this shit is not normal, your feelings are valid, and together we are stronger than any tiny-handed dictator.

Over and out.

photo by:

Not In Good Faith

I’m slowly getting back to myself after the Snowpocalypse and Concomitant Freezing. Everyone in the house is fighting off another flulike bug, probably spread from the Princess’s workplace or the Prince’s school and grown virulent in confinement. So far I’ve been able to stave it off with sleep and exercise, but who knows how long that will last? The news adds its own layer of depression, too, except for the marches and resistance. I can, when I have enough energy, feel some hope that decent people outnumber der Turmper and his brownshirts.

The trouble is, my energy is at not quite an all-time low, but close. I just…there is so much wrong. The list of lies der Turmper has inflicted on the public is seemingly endless, and he’s already signing executive orders that will kill people. Make no mistake, that’s what they’ll do–defunding Planned Parenthood and Medicare kills people. The right wing has installed a reality TV Muppet in our highest office, one they think will hand them and their corporate masters everything they want as long as they figure out how to stroke his ego. And as long as der Turmper’s narcissism is being fed, he doesn’t care that he’s being used. It’s a perfect marriage, really, except, like I said, it will kill people.

If you don’t care to hear what I have to say about this, stop reading now. That’s all the warning I’m going to give.

I grew up with conservative bigots, and I can tell you that plenty of them now are thinking that only people who disagree with them will die. It doesn’t work like that, of course, but they won’t admit as much. I used to think conservatives and bigots were just misled, but now, with a much wider experience of human beings, I don’t. Their innocence is a fiction I can no longer afford to believe. Conservative bigots do not argue in good faith; they know they are wrong, they know they are bigots. If they didn’t, facts would make an impression on their hatreds.

The right-wing authoritarian mindset is an exceedingly fragile one, requiring much violence and propping-up on a daily basis. Don’t believe me? Listen to a few hours of right-wing talk radio, and listen to the lies peddled and the fearmongering. The ego of an authoritarian is large but easily punctured, a paper balloon. (It’s no secret that a bully’s ego is just the same.) It requires constant applications of fear, faux righteousness, and adulation in order to stay upright.

If you’re interested, a good rundown of how this is often applied in evangelical circles is here. Really, the same playbook is used by gaslighting abusers, racist organizations, and right-wing authoritarians. It’s used because it works, and because so many people want to believe they are heroes without doing any damn work.

Is my analysis harsh? Yes. Do I think I’m being overly judgmental? No.

No, I do not.

I remember the ass-end of the Reagan years. I remember when conservative talk radio underwent its huge flowering, back when Rush Limbaugh was a hot rising star and fax machines lit up with his devoted followers’ circulars. I remember 9/11 and the march to war afterward, and how people knew the WMDs were a lie but wouldn’t hold Bush Jr and his cabal accountable. I remember every fucking conspiracy theory about the Clintons, I remember the daily–daily!–attempts to rob Obama of legitimacy. Time and again I have seen how the Republicans work.

Not only that, but I grew up with this. I know their dogwhistles. They beat me when I didn’t live up to some arbitrary rule for the day, or when my facial expression wasn’t the “right” one (at eight years old) or when they had a bad day somewhere and had to take it out on someone weaker because just fucking dealing with it like an adult was not their cuppa tea. I listened to them at family gatherings, I heard all the “jokes” designed to grind women, minorities, or a different religion into the mud. I was even once beaten with a Bible for daring to say war was bad, after having a list of casualties from Vietnam and Korea rubbed on my face so hard the skin broke and bled and I had to lie at school the next day about falling down.

Yes, I know these people. I know them intimately. I do not believe them innocent. Those who are not consciously evil are still dangerous, and I do not believe them innocent at all. I can feel empathy for a rattlesnake’s fear, but I don’t have to let it bite me.

The thing is, we are in a mass of these rattlesnakes, they have wormed their way into power as a culmination of decades of using the Abuser’s & Bully’s Playbook, and fighting them off is exhausting.

If there is one thing I want you, the reader, to take away from this (rather long) ramble, it is this: Stop thinking that der Turmper and the Republicans are arguing in good faith. They are not. They are after power and money, and will kill whoever is in their way because they have convinced themselves they are heroes of a 50s kitsch America-that-never-was. If there is a way out of this, it lies not on the path of trying to meet them in the middle. Rational people have been trying to “meet them in the middle” for DECADES, and I have never seen it work. What I’ve seen instead is the right wing screaming, sulking, and gaslighting until they get their way, then turning even more viciously on anyone who didn’t immediately cave in to their demands. Over and over and over again I’ve seen it. To paraphrase S. Jason Black, when I put my key in the ignition for the hundredth time and the car starts the hundredth time, it’s ridiculous to even think the two aren’t connected.

Just because rational people with a normal dose of empathy can be met halfway does not mean that right-wing authoritarians or conservative bigots can. There is no middle ground for them, only their boot stamping endlessly on a human face and their pockets full of useless gold while they crouch slavering and grinning on a mound of corpses, listening to a recorded crowd’s adulation.

I am not resigned to having my face stomped in. But I am so, so tired today.

Over and out.

Cabin Fever

We’re still snowed in, so telling the story of Who Shot At Willard and the Consequences Thereof has hit an unexpected snag. Everyone is inside, safe and relatively warm. They’re saying “ice storm”, though, and those are two words I never wanted to hear again. The dogs are both snarky and twitchy because it’s been too slick to take them out, and Miss B in particular needs a job or two before she goes mad from boredom. I need to get out and run, too, before I explode with frustration. The treadmill only goes so far.

Case in point: it’s taken me about twenty minutes to write the above, between dogs demanding attention, kids wanting to talk, shivering, refilling my coffee cup, and various moments of irritation so intense I have to shut my eyes and take at least five deep breaths to stave off screaming.

We’re supposed to warm up after the ice storm, which will mean rain and flooding. At this point, I’m counting it a small price to pay for just getting back to normal.If I was a little younger I’d probably go running, even on solid ice, and count a cracked bone as just the cost of getting some of the damn prickling under my skin worked off.

So I’m going to channel some of that aggression and irritation into Afterwar, do some office cleaning, and play some Prince to encourage dancing around. One kind of effort is much the same as another, and if I keep moving, I won’t think about how furious I am at being trammeled. Solitude is as necessary as food or air, and the older I get, the more so it becomes.

Over and out.

photo by: h.koppdelaney

All Romance Hell No

So.

This landed in my inbox today.

FROM: All Romance Ebooks
TO: contact@lilithsaintcrow.com
DATE: 28 December 2016 at 10:57
SUBJECT: All Romance Closure

RE: All Romance Closure

ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS, LLC
6252 Commercial Way #145, Weeki Wachee, FL 34613

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with great sadness I announce that we are winding down the operations of All Romance eBooks, LLC. For the first year since opening in 2006, we will be posting a loss. The financial forecast for 2017 isn’t hopeful and we’ve accepted that there is not a viable path forward.
We are grateful for the opportunity to have worked with you. On midnight, December 31, our sites will go dark and your content will cease to be available for sale through our platforms. This includes any content you are having us distribute to Apple. If you wish to inactivate your content sooner, you can do so by logging into your publisher portal.

We will be unable to remit Q4 2016 commissions in full and are proposing a settlement of 10 cents on the dollar (USD) for payments received through 27 December 2016. We also request the following conditions:

1. That you consider this negotiated settlement to be “paid in full”.
2. That no further legal action be taken with regards to the above referenced commissions owed.

If you are willing to accept the offered amount and the terms proposed, please hit the reply on this email keeping the history intact. Change the subject to “Publisher Settlement Acceptance” and copy/paste the acceptance statement below into your email, filling in the fields.

Upon receipt of the signed agreement, I will authorize payment of the settlement amount in full by 28 February 2016 via the method stipulated in your publisher account.

It is my sincere hope that we will be able to settle this account and avoid filing for bankruptcy, which would undoubtedly be a prolonged and costl y process.

I appreciate that you may have questions. Unfortunately, we will be operating with limited staff as we prepare for closure. We will do our best to respond to the extent possible and will do so in the order received. Our priority over the next few weeks will be processing settlement requests. At this time, there is no additional information to share.

I thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

Lori James

All Romance Ebooks, LLC

Acceptance of Agreement:
I accept the terms of the attached proposed settlement on this date.

Signature:

Electronic Signature
The author’s sub mission of the information entered by selection of the submit button below shall constitute author’s signature signifying acceptance of this Agreement with the intent that it be valid for all purposes and in compliance with the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000 and the laws of any other applicable jurisdiction.

Please note: This message is intended for use by the person or entity to which it is addressed. Please do not disseminate, distribute or copy. If you have received this message by error, please notify us immediately and destroy the related message. Re-disclosure without appropriate consent is prohibited.

Interesting. This is the same company that, as recently as last week, was putting together ads for Boxing Day sales, and contacted me for permission to sell my self-published ebooks at a discount during the sale. It’s also really interesting because half of it’s a scare tactic. Ten cents on the dollar for royalties? No, I don’t think so. That’s not how business is done. Additionally, “Re-disclosure without appropriate consent is prohibited” in what universe? You can bet your bippy I’m disclosing this, because you’re attempting to take advantage of numerous writers.

ARe used to be a good distribution channel. Now I’m wondering if the royalty statements I’ve received from them for the last year of sales are accurate, and I’m wondering what other chicanery is afoot. I am a little steamed at the moment, so I won’t unpack this further. Their website is crashing now, no doubt as publishers yank their books and customers attempt to use their credits and gift certificates (that they pushed before Christmas, not to mention the 2017 advertising they took money for) and in short, it’s a fucking mess.

Here’s my response to their ungenerous offer:

FROM: Lilith Saintcrow
TO: All Romance Ebooks
DATE: 28 December 2016 at 18:21
SUBJECT: Re: All Romance Closure
Dear Ms James,

I do NOT accept this “deal.” You will pay me the royalties you are legally obligated to. You will provide me with a reasonable schedule within which the whole of said royalties will be paid. And you will not, under any circumstances, threaten me again as the “re-disclosure is prohibited” rider is an obvious attempt to do so.

Sincerely,

Lilith Saintcrow

I doubt I’ll ever see any of those royalties, but I am not resigned.

ETA: AS OF 6:37PM Pacific time, I managed to get in and inactivate the three self-pubbed books I had at ARe for distribution. They haven’t been deleted so customers can go and make sure they’ve downloaded! Keep trying to get through, it took me about an hour to do so.

Until My Heart Begs

EXPECTOPATRONUMsmall GOOD MORNING.

Harmony is 95K, and it still will not die. I meant to spend November getting wordcount on Afterwar, but, um, it looks like the 50K I’m producing this month is going to this monster of story that will not lay down no matter how many times I stab it.

*time passes*

…I just sat here for a couple minutes, staring, fingers poised on the keyboard. I’m exhausted, most of my energy is going towards finishing this damn book, with a sizable portion of putting my money where my mouth is regarding resisting the fascism sweeping across America. This is a nightmare, and I am not resigned. However, you’ve seen that on my social media feeds. I’m not going to repeat it here, at least not today. I’m just too goddamn tired.

Today, I’m going to use some Focus and get this book closer to being finished. I’m going to take a few deep breaths and practice some self-care, because I am scraping the bottom of the barrel, energy-wise. I have a long run scheduled, which will hopefully renew some of my Zen. And, last but not least, I am going to tell my kids I love them, hug them, and reassure them. I suspect this last is most important of all.

So. *cracks knuckles* A few hundred words setting up this bringing-cult-leader-back-from-the-dead scene, then it’s out into the rain to run until my heart begs me to stop. Then run some more. Then it’s more writing.

Well, my day is sorted, I guess. Over and out.

Inconvenience Bigotry

wonder-woman So. The popular vote elected our first woman president, but the electoral college will hand it to a racist orange malignant narcissist and his super-evil twopence piece who will, God help us, probably be doing the actual governing. Hatred has reaped a rich harvest. I am hoping its sowing methods are not sustainable and the ground will be exhausted ere long. Optimistic, maybe, but I have to believe that or I’ll go even madder than I already am.

In light of this, I have two things to say. (I have more, but two will suffice today.) The first is simply this:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers

I would add, when scary things are happening, be one of the helpers. If that means you practice self-care so you can be strong for others, great. If it means protesting, fine. If it means hugging everyone you love and committing afresh to daily kindness and decency, okay. You know best how to help in your own circumstances and life.

The second thing I have to say is for my fellow white people. Yes, I am talking to you. Sit up, pay attention. This is on us.

Do not be polite to bigotry anymore.

I’m hearing a lot of “come together” rhetoric right now. I’m hearing a lot of “part of my family is racist but I still have to see them at Thanksgiving.” Here’s the thing: you don’t have to lend yourself to hatred. You really don’t.

Racists often talk about how they’re “ostracized” for their “beliefs.” You know what? Good. Racism is ugly. Hatred is ugly, and it is not worth a whit of social acceptance.

When your elderly Fox-News-swallowing neighbor starts in with the coded dog whistles, walk away. When your family members make “Killary” jokes, make your disgust plain and walk away. When that guy on the bus is yelling at a PoC to “go back to where you came from” or “sit at the back of the bus”, say something. You don’t have to engage the asshole directly, but sitting next to the target of harassment and striking up a conversation about the weather, using your body language to shut the harasser out, can work wonders.[1] Let your face show how disgusted you are with that asshole. Make it clear their behaviour is absolutely repugnant.

One of my favourite things to say to assholes like that is simply, “Stop that. You know better.” Because they do.

Look, everyone is saying “the polling mechanisms are broken!” No, they’re not. What happened is simple: People know racism and hatred and Donald Trump are repugnant. They know. Having to say you support Trump while talking to a pollster is repellant. You could not believe yourself a good person and do that, and most people want to believe they’re good. (I could go on a rant about most people stopping at four on Kohlberg’s stages of moral development here, but I won’t.) In the voting booth, nobody is watching, and you can be as much of a shitheel bigot as you want to be.

Which is fine. I’m okay with the voting booth letting people show the aggregate ass-end of white supremacy. It’s not like anybody didn’t already know, and the right to vote cuts both ways. But out here in other spaces, we have the absolute right to be disgusted, and to show our disgust.

Let’s make racism so socially unacceptable that even their “polite” dogwhistles and little euphemisms are repellant. Let us make it clear how fucking loathsome bigotry and hatred are.

Now, I can hear some of the bigots whining already. That will make us a minority! You can’t pick on minorities! Nice strawman, try again. I am not advocating violence, simply clear disgust. I’m saying it needs to become the norm to treat bigotry, hatred, and harassment with the contempt it deserves in every social space. When it becomes an inconvenience and a moral and social cost to be a Turmpist “alt-right” asshole, less people will do it.

Why am I saying this directly to my fellow white people? Deploying our privilege to show everyone that this shit is not okay is on us. Getting up and pointedly leaving the room your racist Uncle Bill holds forth about building a wall and making Mexico pay for it is the least you can do for humanity. Using your privilege to shield the target of harassment on a bus or the street or in the workplace is a righteous act.

Maybe it’s just because I’m forty and I have little to no patience for bullshit. Maybe it’s because the field in which I grow my fucks is barren now, or maybe it’s because I have kids and I want the world I leave them to be a little better than I found it, or at least a little less hateful. Maybe it’s because I’m goddamn tired of people nodding and smiling and smoothing things over when some crepe-necked white man assaults everyone around who doesn’t look like him. Maybe it’s because I’m a fucking human being. I don’t care.

Do not give people a pass when they spout bigoted bullshit. Let them find out that hate is lonely and ugly. Let that truth inconvenience them. A very wise friend of mine is of the opinion that Americans don’t make a move until their convenience is threatened, and I think she’s right.

So let’s inconvenience the fuck out of bigotry, my friends. Because we know better.

[1] I can already hear a bunch of people saying, “But what if it’s unsafe?” Well, you’re the judge of that in the situation, fine. Do as your conscience and safety dictate.

Not Too Wild-Eyed

109ram_icons005 That moment, after a super intense period of stress, where your body takes revenge for the emotions, whatever repression you’ve done to manage the worst of them, and the nail-biting anxiety? That’s where I am. The Princess brought home a cold from work, and I put off getting sick until the gauntlet was finally run. I knew I was storing up trouble, but in classic Lili fashion, didn’t care.

*sigh* I give myself very good advice, sometimes don’t follow it, and often decide to just run the fuck through at full speed and worry about the bruises later.

The good news is…the stressful events are done. I am once again producing paid work for a publisher. Someone I love very much has passed on while in hospice care; he is in no more pain and I was able to see him before he went on that greatest of journeys. I am over the worst of the cold and can get back to running next week. The meds mean I’ve been sleeping, at least.

Now it’s just fallout to deal with. I retreated into a good 200 pages of the third volume in Shelby Foote’s Civil War narrative yesterday. A good fifty of those pages were lit with sunlight coming in the front window, so there was probably a little vitamin D in there. The cold is retreating, and I think I’ve probably cried all I’m going to for a little while. I’ve turned my email autoresponders on; whatever business is left over for the rest of this week can wait.

The kids are healthy, my sisters are in contact, the dogs are content, the cats are their usual selves and the cavy is monstrously fat and extremely active. Agent and editors seem to be happy enough with me, though I’ve been somewhat of a trial to them in the last month, I’m sure. The people I rely on to keep me on the straight and narrow tell me it’s fine, I’m not too wild-eyed.

I had to make an emergency trip to the PO box recently, and buy stamps from the automated kiosk there as well. It was after hours, and a woman who spoke little English was in distress, with something she had to mail. My fierce maternal instincts took over, and I went to work–grabbing an envelope, addressing it, putting her return address on it, popping enough stamps on it to cover the cost of the envelope AND the postage. We both had Google translate on our phones, and between that and gestures and babble, we solved the problem and got the thing into the mail for her.

I tell this story because I realized, when I got into my car–still in my pyjamas, having driven all the way over muttering to myself over having to leave the house at all when I felt like warmed-over crap–that I felt…better. Helping someone else is an anodyne, especially when one’s own life holds some unpleasantness. It feels good to pitch in, to help solve someone else’s problems or to simply listen to them and share the weight, knowing you’re relieving some of the pressure inside someone else just by being there.

It almost makes me pity people who lack empathy, because the dopamine hit from helping someone else out is so nice. I wonder if they just don’t feel that, and it baffles me. Doing the Right Thing, pitching in, helping where one can is one of the few surefire ways to ameliorate the black hole, at least for me.

All the way home from the post office, the sun peeked through clouds as it sank, and the light was golden. The crows were out, and they help too. They’re smart, strong survivors. I know the recent stress won’t break me, that the overwhelming feelings will pass, and that even the runny nose and annoying body aches will pass as well. It’s not comfortable, but I can get through it. That’s what forty has become for me: the consciousness that I’ve made it this far, that the feelings will pass through and away, and I’ll still be here when the wave is spent.

It’s enough.