A Gift for Yourself

fall to heaven This is, for me, the least wonderful time of the year.

The crass commercialism is merely annoying. Crushing seasonal depression mostly responds to medication. Anxiety hits a high whining note of stress. The desperation, aggravation, and just plain miserable anger swirling in almost every public place is worse, since it rasps on all my edges. The post office parking lot is a cesspool of barely restrained aggression; I suppose I’m glad that inside, the lines are mostly well-mannered. (At least, I haven’t seen any fisticuffs, mostly because I duck in, check my PO box, and duck out.) Years of working in retail and seeing parents explode at tired, cranky children overwhelmed by the sensory input has filled me with sadness. The grocery store is full of tired, cranky adults, many of whom use their selves and carts to block all progress in the physical sense, and in other senses as well.

I have the same problem with “Christmas cheer” that I have with church–plenty of people think that if they go one day a week, hair slicked down and good clothing on, that they can be complete assholes the other six without qualm. One grand gesture at Christmas does not outweigh 364 days of being a douchenozzle.

The explosion of false good cheer makes me nervous the same way presents from abusers did. You know you’re going to pay for it sooner or later, and a calm right now means the storm has only paused. Once the extended family has gone home, the presents one received (meant to impress said extended family) are easily taken away. Small things one has done during the holiday parties are dragged up later and furious punishments are meted out. God forbid you smile at another man during a holiday party while a jealous boyfriend is watching, taking notes for things to use later when he wants to use his fists.

Some years I manage to enjoy some aspects of this time of year, mostly through the happiness of my children. Their joy makes me think maybe it’s not so bad after all. To them, the holidays are full of special things and good food, burning paper wishes and lighting the vigil candle on the solstice, a few thoughtful presents and time spent lounging in the living room together, each of us engrossed in something–a book, knitting, a video game–but being proximal. And of course, winter break, that holy time of no school.

But for me personally, the joy of the holidays was shattered early, and mostly I just set myself to endure them. It’s like my birthday–I don’t want presents, I don’t want cake, I don’t want fuss, I just want the day to pass as quietly as possible, with no breaking plates or screaming or paralyzing fear. A few of my loved ones find this hard to accept, but it’s a gift that means the most to me.

Some holiday seasons aren’t so bad. This one, well. I’m not responding to contact-form emails until January. (Sorry about that, but you don’t want me responding when I’m on edge. TRUST ME.) I’m withdrawing from many things, holing up until the storm passes. Spending what little leftover energy I have on work, which is ironic since publishers shut down from December to February.

Like I said, I know a lot of people love this time of year. That’s great; I’m unreservedly happy for them. For those who share my sentiments, though–you’re not alone. Take care of yourself out there. It’s okay to say no and conserve your energy. It’s all right, I promise. You can give yourself the gift of getting through the end of the year intact, and it’s a great gift for yourself and for everyone you care about.

Over and out.

photo by: Beshef

Vampire Tampons

SA_REVISED.indd I get mail. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s a genuine question, or someone who thinks they’ve found a plot hole and wants to gloat, but I’m pretty sure this is the former. Reader C.A. writes in:

Subject:
Hi

Message:
Hi Lili,
I’m a huge fan of your books, and I know you’re crazy busy so if you can’t reply I’ll just make up my own answer to my question. But something’s been bugging me for while about the Strange Angels world. What happens when a svetocha gets her period? If the djamphir smell the blood, how does everyone deal with it?
Anyway, thank you so much for writing that series. For the record, I loved the ending. I finished the series when I was around the same age as Dru, and having the girl be the most important one in the story was something I really needed at the time.

*Reader C.A.’s full name redacted*

First, dear C.A., I am so, so glad the ending gave you something you needed. That is important to me, and it makes the fighting I did for that ending all worthwhile.

Now, on to the menstrual cycles of half-vampire girls! I am happy (is that the word?) to say this is something I thought hard about. When the first physiological changes begin to happen to prep Dru for blooming, her blood started getting the happy stuff that drove the boy djamphir crazy. The problem comes, however, only when enough of the blood hits the air. (I tried to ask Dru about the exact chemical reactions in the oxidation, but she doesn’t like chem.) A nosebleed, for example, is right there on the face, exposed to air the second it shows up.

Menstrual flow is tucked into a different bodily space. Also, it’s a sloughing–most of the time it’s old blood and tissue, instead of straight from the vein. It’s not quite as potent as, say, bleeding from a laceration. (Except ritualistically, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Except near the end, when there’s a trickle of fresh blood because the walls of the uterus are raw.

The menstrual cycle is some fascinating shit, let me tell you.

So the solution is: tampons. Svetocha tend to have irregular cycles before they bloom, and Dru had a bit of amenorrhea due to the stress of killing her zombified dad and running for her life, so it didn’t come up often. The Kouroi don’t go into the girls’ bathroom–that’s how Dru could be attacked in the shower scene–and as long as she’s a little conscientious, it’s largely moot.

Plus, Nathalie, like a true werwulfen friend, could tell Dru if she was, you know. Leaking. Or about to leak. Or bring Dru her homework for a couple days if necessary. The small wastebaskets for such products in the girls’ loos at every Schola had an ingenious method of sealing each, um, little package, sort of like a Litter Genie.

There was a scene where Nat had to tell Dru to button up and they would talk while Nat stood guard at the stall door, but it didn’t survive the revision process. It’s a pity. Along with trying to force me to give Dru a romantic ending (when she clearly did NOT need one) the publisher also got kind of weird about her menstruation.

I could go on, but I suspect it would be uninteresting. Suffice to say blooming, as a component of puberty, is a messy and uneven business, dependent on several hormones and other processes within the svetocha‘s body. (I also won’t go into the uses Anna put some of this knowledge to.)

So…yeah. I spent a significant amount of time, while writing YA, thinking about half-vampires wearing tampons. You’re welcome.

Process, NaNo, Prep

Is this thing on?
Is this thing on?
I get mail. And sometimes it’s really awesome mail! Reader MV (who I believe is Brazilian?) had a very interesting question.

Do to the approaching NaNoWriMo time, I’m searching about outlining process and how to better structure my story to face an entire writing time without failing. As a film and television production student I’ve learned to do really extended story bibles to my screenplays and that seems to work when sharing the writing process with other writers.

When writing prose I still didn’t find my way yet. I don’t feel myself a good pantster, but when I do expented outlines it somehow kills the story for my.

Looking throughout you blog I found post titled Some basic questions (http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/2009/06/some-basic-questions/) in which you say you’re more a pantster and that you know your entire story from line one and that you only write down some important events in the narrative beforehand. Because it seems to be an old post I’m interested in knowing if your process remains the same. How would you prepare yourself to a writing marathon such as NaNoWriMo?

MV is right–NaNo is approaching. (I’m doing a side project this year; you can find me here.) I sometimes don’t sign up, since I’m finishing novels all the damn time, but it’s sometimes nice to take a side project during November and have outside pressure help my discipline. NaNo’s structure a good balance between my natural intransigence and my perfectionism and desire to please; normally, I hate any sort of bit or bridle that isn’t self-chosen. But it’s good to challenge oneself, which is how I view NaNo. It’s a game I play solely against myself, one other people are playing on adjacent fields at the same time. That’s the closest I get to team sports, I guess.

MV’s questions here are extremely interesting, because they assume the problem is a structural one–that if one can just find the right balance between plotting and pantsing, the rest will follow. Which is somewhat true, but as with all things involving creative production, it’s a wee bit more complex.

Digression: I should note here that in the intervening years since the post MV references, I have shifted to drafting in Scrivener and revising in MSWord, mostly with TrackChanges turned on and an editor’s comments in the margins. Scrivener is a relatively new change for me, but the big update they did in ?2013?, I think? really made the entire program easier to use, and I took the plunge. Most of the bells and whistles are still unnecessary, and I don’t use a lot of them, but a few features–project targets, character sheets, ease of footnoting for glossary terms, the ability to move whole scenes–make up for it.

With all that said and out of the way, let’s get to the meat–what’s my process now, and how do I recommend prepping for NaNo?

My process is basically the same. For some books I do a sort of halfass outline with major scene points [[written bold inside brackets]], so I can search for the brackets and see what the fuck I was thinking, or delete them once I have a zero draft. Most of the time, the novel veers away from what I think the scenes are going to be, at which point I delete bracketed scenes as I come to them. One never learns how to write novels per se, one only learns how to write the novel one’s writing now, but after one has finished a few, the relaxation into the process makes it marginally easier.

Marginally.

Now, as for prepping for NaNo…really, it’s a question of scheduling. Make it a priority to schedule time for writing in every damn day during November. This is the single most critical piece of prep I can think of. I know a lot of people will resist this, or call my advice cruel. That’s fine, they’re allowed their opinions. But making the commitment now to set aside some time will save so much heartache later, and sticking to it through November (come hell, holiday, or high water) will get you in the habit of prioritizing your writing. The commitment to writing every day breaks down the amount of text you’ll have to produce into manageable chunks, AND will help you get back up on the horse if you miss a day. (Which happens, since the world is an imperfect place.) Put it on your to-do list. Wake up a little earlier and use the extra time to write; schedule your lunch break so you can write longhand or on a laptop and then transcribe it when you get home, pitch your daily television-watching or Buzzfeed surfing out the window and write instead.

As for facing the entire writing time without “failing”, well, better to attempt than to do nothing, right? I’m going to recommend this: don’t worry about pantsing or plotting or failing once November starts. Just get in there and get your daily wordcount (the NaNo site has tools to help you with the brute count needed to get 50K in during the whole month) done with whatever happens next in the story. If you haven’t outlined what happens next, guess. Take the most logical path, or just send in aliens and death rays. Trust the story. This will get you a lot closer to the end than you think, AND you’ll have a chunk of text you can go back and shape and trim once December hits and you have that headache that tells you why writers drink. Outlining is fine, as far as it goes, but a lot of people mistake the work of outlining for actual production of the story, get sucked into building the elaborate bones, and run out of steam. The road to Hell is paved with pretty outlines and good intentions. Get your ass in the chair and your hands on the keyboard once November starts, and if the outline isn’t behaving, set it on fire and ignore its screams while you concentrate on your daily wordcount.

Other writers might give different advice, but I’m the one you’re asking, and that’s what I think. MV, you’re welcome to throw questions into the comments if you don’t mind outing yourself. Anyone else attempting NaNo this year can use the link above to buddy me, and feel free to throw questions into the comments here too if you want. I can’t promise to answer all of them, but I’ll try, and other prospective NaNo participants might have some good ideas too.

Over and out.

Redacted Entitlement

Thank You Yes, I get mail. Yes indeed.

Dear Lili,

Good afternoon. I hope this email finds you well. I am a book reviewer, blogger, and a HUGE fan of your writing. I am sending you this message to inquire about the possibility of receiving a signed copy of your book STRANGE ANGELS. It would truly mean the world to me. I would also like to interview you the same time my review of your book goes live. I appreciate your time and attention and hope to hear from you soon.

*address of person redacted*

Sincerely,
*redacted*

Well, putting your address on is a bit…optimistic. Still, Redacted says s/he’s a “HUGE” fan. I’d really like to help Redacted out. I wish I could.

Unfortunately, I get so many of these requests I could easily go bankrupt paying postage if I acquiesced to them all. I don’t have the money or infinite free time, and it already says on my site that interview requests need to go through the publishers for just that reason. Still, I want to be kind. So, my reply:

Dear Mr/Ms *redacted, since the name was gender-neutral*,

Thank you very much for reading! And thank you for your kind words.

Unfortunately, I no longer mail out signed copies, as the cost of postage for the number of requested copies has become prohibitive.

Regretfully,

Lili St. Crow

Usually that’s the end of it. Occasionally people offer to send SASEs, which is fabulous and makes me hurry to the post office. But imagine my surprise when another terse missive landed, from a different name altogether, but still in the same email thread, with the former emails tacked below.

Do you have any swag you could send?

Sent from my iPhone

Oh dear. Oh, dear me. Just from your iPhone? Things seemed to have become informal rather quickly, dearest Redacted. And this is a little…suspicious.

Dear Mr/Ms *second redacted name*,

I am a little confused. First it is a signed book for a huge fan, now it’s asking for swag? I am not at all sure what’s going on here. But no, I am not in the habit of mailing out a great deal of promotional items. Again, the cost of postage on such items is prohibitive, and there is no return (if any) on them. My time is better spent writing books. Thank you for your inquiry.

Good luck,

Lilith Saintcrow

Apparently this was not what this particular Redacted wanted to hear. The next time there was no “dear”, no name (either of them) and no signature.

Yes, I inquired about receiving a signed copy, but since you couldn’t provide one, I thought you could send a bookplate or bookmark. Now do you understand what’s going on or do I need to break it down slowly for you? You should appreciate your fans because if it weren’t for them, no one would buy your books and therefore you would not get paid. You
shouldn’t complain about $2.00 postage when your books are sold for $16.99 (US). I’m glad you revealed your rude, pretentious personality. You can guarantee I will never contact you again and I will definitely not purchase anymore of your books. Maybe I can use the ones I already own as fire kindling this winter. Please don’t contact me again, you’re not worth the time it’s taking to write this message.

I do appreciate my fans. Every day I sit down and I open up a vein, and I write stories for them. Apparently dear Redacted thinks all writers are positively swimming in cash and free time. Some of them may be, but I’m definitely not. I could explain exactly how much of that cover price I see per book, and how much is overhead for the publisher, and also send a detailed breakdown of my finances and income. But why bother? Something tells me Redacted is furious at not receiving something for free, and that is a species of entitled rage no amount of fact or kindness will soothe.

Regardless, I bear no ill will.

Dear Mr/Ms *redacted second name*,

Thank you so much for informing me of your intentions. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.

Sincerely,

Lilith Saintcrow

Poor Redacted. S/he just can’t catch a break. As for me, now I go back to work.

And people wonder why I don’t answer more mail…

Bundle of Cheer

Duck is judging us all.
Duck is judging us all.
Odd is groaning, the Prince can’t find his shoes (six pairs, and he can’t locate the ones he wants) and Miss B has her nose firmly glued to my calf. The Princess made snickerdoodles last night, so a sugar jolt right after toast made both kids extremely active for a few minutes. I can’t seem to get enough caffeine in, Bandit keeps talking and talking, and all in all, I want to go back to bed.

Sadly, I am committed to being vertical and actually working, so it’s going to be some tea and Olympic-level self-restraint. At least I got the proof for The Demon’s Librarian re-release done, and have only to turn it in. We’re almost out of milk (Christ, I swear the kids bathe in the stuff) and the apples are gone…

Oh. Wait. It’s Monday.

That explains everything.

I’m getting a lot of mail asking me to “Please write more Bannon & Clare!” Guys, I’m not able to write more of them because they didn’t sell well enough. I’m dreadfully sorry, but there it is. I had four more books in that series planned, but it just wasn’t to be.

I do have some tentative good news on the Steelflower front. I can’t say anything just yet. It remains a severe financial hit for me to continue with Kaia’s adventures, and I have children to feed. Not to mention the dogs, who will hold off on eating me for a while, and the cats, who most definitely will not. *sigh* Maybe it will all work out, I don’t know. Right now I’m so damn tired of people demanding things I can’t do without harming myself, I’ve grown a bit sharpish.

All right. Today I go over revisions for Roadside Magic. Soon I’ve to get the third Gallow & Ragged not just boiling in my head but on the page. The problem with getting most things done early is that people begin expecting it, and exhausting myself by scrambling begins to become the norm.

I’m just a bundle of cheer and happiness today, aren’t I. I’m going to go cue up the Pet Shop Boys, fetch my brass knuckles, and have a talk with Monday. We’ll see if it makes the week behave…

Soundtrack Monday: NIGHT SHIFT

Nght_shift_23 You guys have been so patient. Almost, dare I say it, Perry-patient. (You can’t see it, but I’m wearing an evil grin.) And before I get started, if you’ve written to me about Glocks and hammers, go here.

Night Shift was actually the second Kismet book I wrote–the first was Hunter’s Prayer, so NS was more of a prequel than anything. My editor wanted to know how Jill and Saul met, and I spent about ten minutes telling her about the Cenci case, and she finally sighed and said, “Look, Lili? Just write me that book.”

So I did.

Readers may find it interesting to note where Cenci’s name came from. Also, I had a series of Harp and Dom books in my head, but they never quite jelled. Harp never blamed Jill for Saul’s choice, she’s not like that…but Jill never knew. And that’s all I can say about that.

Enjoy!

Continue reading “Soundtrack Monday: NIGHT SHIFT”

Soundtrack Monday: Working For The Devil

piano I keep promising to do soundtrack posts for you guys, don’t I?

Music is a pretty integral part of my writing process. Books have soundtracks I listen to over and over again while writing. I usually burn them to CD and keep them in a collection just in case. (Computers have a habit of eating playlists. Om nom nom.)

So I figure on Mondays I’ll post a soundtrack, and I’ll shift the Pliny Train to Wednesdays. That will give me time to read further between posts, since getting that done on weekends doesn’t happen what with all the cleaning and the kids’ social events.

So, without further ado, let’s start with Dante Valentine! Here’s the very first iteration of the Working For The Devil playlist. (There were eventually four versions, but this is the one I listened to during the actual writing.) I’ll link to YouTube where I can, but other weird musical stuff may not be found there. Sorry about that.

WORKING FOR THE DEVIL

1. Jaf Appears Goodnight, Moon Shivaree
2. Remembering Doreen/You Would Call Me Friend? Virtue, Jesse Cook
3. Dante and Death Witness, Sarah Maclachlan
4. You Will Not Leave Me To Wander Alone The Heart Asks Pleasure First, Michael Nyman
5. Santino/Nightmare Boudicea, Enya
6. Eddie Thornton Woo Hoo, The 5.6.7.8s
7. Nuevo Rio Terra Firma, Delerium
8. Slicboard! Galaxy Bounce, The Chemical Brothers
9. Kiss For An Old Boyfriend, Danny? Summertime Killer, Luis Bacalov
10. Dante & Jace Duel Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Santa Esmerelda Suite, Santa Esmerelda & Leroy Gomez
11. You Can Be The New Madonna A Silhouette of Doom, Ennio Morricone
12. I Am Your Fallen Take This Life, Mandalay
13. Blood Is What I’m Tracking Tiburon Citrino, L.S.G.
14. Those Are For Santino Battle Without Honor or Humanity, Tomoyasu Hotei
15. Attack On Santino’s Lair, Dead Souls, NIN
16. Cinnamon Ash/Jaf’s Dead Ne Me Quittez Pas, Nina Simone
17. Return to Saint City Temple, Beverly Klass
18. Jace/I’m Staying I’ll Be Your Lover, Too, Van Morrison

Film aficionados will realize that Danny Valentine owes a great debt to the first Kill Bill movie as well as Alex Proyas’s Dark City and The Crow. Tarantino has a genius for soundtracks and dialogue, even if he’s sometimes very messy structurally.