Seasoning, Not Dish

I’ve taken to making a list of the next day’s proposed work before I go to bed at night, and leaving it on my desk. It’s yet another way to get the engines beneath the floor of my consciousness to work on what I want them to work on instead of chewing up random stuff and spitting it at me at 3am.

I mean, that’s kind of fun and there’s room in my life for it, but it needs to be a seasoning, not the whole dish.

Yesterday I was struggling with The Poison Prince. It’s the second in a trilogy, so the bridging requires careful thought. It’s early days in the project, so I had to take a deep breath and let the book do what it wants. It worked–a scene I didn’t expect fell out, a character moving forward and taking her place in the sun. She gets an arc of her own, this young lady, but I’m not sure where it ends.

I have to write and find out.

Then it was HOOD, untangling a discussion between Alladal and Marah. Al’s a romantic lead all her own, and she wants the Dirty Dancing soundtrack all the time. Marah, of course, has been carrying a torch for someone all this time. There are several relationships happening at once when Marah, Robb, Giz, and Al are all onscreen, and a vast majority of them are unrequited.

It’s fun. And deconstructing the Robin Hood mythos is even better. I’m fascinated by the idea that terraforming and generation ships won’t necessarily lead to a fairer and more equitable society. Plus it’s difficult to have the whole Robin Hood thing without a huge inequality, whether corporate or feudal or–what I’ve eventually gone with–both. It’s also fun to swim around in the history and myth and pull out the threads one wants, clipping them fast and building a whole new structure. After working with many different influences, it’s like slipping into a warm bath to return to one’s own backyard.

Anyway, today I get to write Little John and Maid Marian, as well as John and Robin Hood puffing and blowing like the two stiff-necked veterans they are. It doesn’t help that both of them are drunk and wounded from separate barfights.

Well, write what you know, right?

There’s also Latin flashcards, piano practice, and running the dogs. My dance card’s full, and that’s the way I like it.

Let’s kick Thursday in the pants.

Kept From Brooding

I finished up the revisions on two short stories yesterday–the Hansel & Gretel kung fu story and the Alice in Wonderland/Resident Evil one. Both are sent off to the editors now, since they need another pair of eyes to figure out where the lacunae are. The stories are so vivid inside my head I forget the reader can’t peek inside my skull and watch them. Maybe one day technology will allow for that–I remember a Tanith Lee novel where someone had a job doing as much–but for right now, text is the tool I’ve got to pry the stories out of my head.

There’s an update on yesterday’s post about Atlanta Bound. It’s particularly telling that KDP only responded once I unpublished the book, which cuts into their profits. I expect Amazon to drag its feet over listing the book as distributed by Draft2Digital, too, especially now that I’ve publicly called them out. Which isn’t perfect, it is an inconvenience I did my best to prevent, but there’s nothing to be done for it.

Anyway, today I have a scene in The Poison Prince to rip apart and rework–an Emperor and his second concubine having a long-overdue conversation–and Alan-a-Dale has to visit Maid Marian’s clinic besides. My work is cut out for me, and there’s also lasagna to be made for the Princess’s houseguests. Somewhere in there the dogs need walks, and I should probably take a shower before the morning gets much older.

The Princess greeted me with coffee this morning as I shuffled into the kitchen, a truly welcome event. Boxnoggin and B are still worn out from yesterday’s wind and long-ish run, and the advent of visitors will explode their Tiny Little Minds. There’s a lot of excitement planned for today.

I should probably get started. No rest for the weary or the wicked, my loves, and sometimes I prefer it that way. It keeps me from brooding.

Or at least, it tries to. I’m pretty sure I can brood anywhere, anytime.

Over and out.

Making a Virtue

Amazon’s still bollixed up about the Atlanta Bound release. Ah well, all other distribution platforms are doing well, and you can get the .mobi edition through Gumroad. So if Amazon’s jackassery is getting you down and you need your final fix of Ginny, Juju, Lee, and the gang, head on over.

Yesterday was a Very Good Writing Day. I tossed out a whole scene in The Poison Prince, but at least that wrong scene had shown me what the right one needed to look like, and said right scene consequently came out with little trouble. Then I switched to HOOD and a ball; there was dancing and intrigue, all leading up to a scene change and a seedy bar brawl. I suspect this is the first of many; what is a Robin Hood story without them?

Today I have to write the actual bar fight, and figure out if the next scene in Poison Prince is the bedridden Emperor or something else. I suspect I’ll need more coffee for the latter. Epic fantasy is slow to get out the gate, and finishing the massive revise on Book 1 almost broke me. I’m pretty sure the reason I’m tearing my hair out over Poison Prince is that I want to avoid Revision Hell, but I’m not sure it’s possible. Epic fantasies, when they break out of the egg, require a certain amount of effort to train their beaks and claws. Robbing them of the exercise might make them faint, or I might just be making a virtue out of a difficult part of a process.

I also might make lasagna today, because clearly I am a glutton for punishment. Though if I’m going to do that, I should stop blogging and get started, because of course lasagna requires proper bread to go with it, and proper bread does not make itself.

I hope your week has been calmer than mine, dear Readers. We’re almost to the weekend, but for now I’m putting on my Menstrual Rage Hat and rolling up my sleeves. Let us take no prisoners and reach the weekend all in one piece.

Or, at least, in a minimum of pieces…

Prospective Jacket

Both dogs are exhausted by roughhousing after breakfast. Which is fine by me, it’ll make walking them easier. It’s also chilly today, with a brisk wind, which Sir Boxnoggin does not enjoy. Miss B, thanks to her wonderful Aussie undercoat, is an all-weather dog, but Boxnoggin may need a jacket if it gets much colder.

I have deep philosophical objections to pet costumes, but a little pink plaid jacket to make Boxnoggin feel like a warm boy sounds delightful. I’ll have to take a handful of treats and measure him up.

He will probably try to eat the tape measure, but such is life with canines.

I spent a good seven hours hunched over revisions yesterday, which was at once a vacation–because my work days are generally about ten hours long–and a torment, because my back has decided it doesn’t like the super-fancy office chair at the moment. Time for pillows and other such things until my back decides once more I and the chair can be trusted.

I almost, almost got to the point where I need to shoehorn another scene in. I think the bastard prince needs to be on a caravan heading into the capital city of his country’s greatest enemy, and seeing the sheer size and scope of said city will have a few effects on him. He’s very much a “go big or go home” character, and it’ll be interesting if he decides to do the former in the series.

As it is, though, I just want this goddamn revision over. The book’s crept past 185K, and if one more person says “but it needs more politics!” I am going to scream like a Munch painting. Since a certain game of thrones has become popular, everyone wants to shoehorn similar things into every damn fantasy, losing sight of the fact that it’s characters people care about that drive the whole thing. Publishers are always looking to force the Last Big Thing into the Next Big Thing, whether it wills or no. Fighting that tendency is exhausting sometimes.

All the same, I love my job, and I’m sure when this book achieves its final fighting form I’ll be proud of it. I’m just tired right now, that’s all.

Which means it’s time to get out the door with the dogs. If we keep moving the wind won’t trouble us much. At least, that’s the plan.

Over and out.

Paradox, Revisions


Already this morning I’ve woven in 400 words, gone through yesterday’s added scene twice to layer in detail, and made a couple global changes. The Maiden’s Blade is growing slowly, tortuously, and now the largest problem is where to salt in the other scenes needed to bring another character’s arc forward here instead of in the second book.

I know what happens, but just when is largely a matter of choice, not chance. A project this large means the paradox of absolute submission to the work and absolute control over its fine points is even more marked, and holding both horses steady instead of letting them careen in different directions to tear the work in half is a matter of balance and one-pointed concentration so fierce it almost robs me of breath.

It doesn’t help that the revisions are late for a number of reasons, not least of which is the complexity of the task. I haven’t attempted anything this complex in one single volume before; even Roadtrip Z is split up over several seasons. (Which reminds me, I have to get the last season’s unedited ebook formatted for my beloved patrons this week, too. Never rains but it pours.)

So it’s Tangerine Dream on the playlist, a gallon of tea, and cross-checking fictional dynasties. All favorite things, and they make a hard task bearable.

See you on the other side, chickadees.

Re-Tuning Rituals

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I haven’t been able to drink alcohol since the stomach flu, and good gods above, do I ever miss it. It’s not that I can’t function without, it’s just…man, getting to cocktail hour and pouring myself a measure to celebrate getting through the day and take the edge off my nerves was a welcome ritual. Now I’m doing things like stretching and drinking ice water, and it’s just not the same. Sure, I’m healthier and all that but I would love a little fuzzy soft-focus come 5PM.

I hadn’t realized how much that small ritual was a signal for me to relax and let the end of the day proceed, to look over the day’s work and fix egregious typos. It’s also nice to just let the story sink into the bottom of your brain and turn the entire problem of what comes next over to your subconscious. Those giant engines below the floorboards need something to do while I’m sleeping. Left to themselves they just come up with nightmares, and while those are sometimes instructive, they’re not terribly useful.

Sometimes I think one’s entire life is seeing how fast a primate can come up with new rituals in changing conditions.

Anyway, I took most of yesterday off since Tuesday ended with finishing the first revision of Atlanta Bound. That was a monster of a revision because I’d written the zero so lean and at such a furious pace, moving from handhold to handhold. Crossing that particular task off my list was extremely satisfying. Trying to unplug and chill Wednesday was…not as satisfying. The flywheel inside my head, still spinning from the Afterwar release and the revision of The Maiden’s Blade under a severe time crunch, ramped up again to get through another revise, and didn’t want to slow down or stop. The knowledge that I’m courting burnout if I don’t schedule in and force myself to take recovery time is a very thin rail to keep me plunging off the cliff, indeed. I itch under my skin if I don’t write, and I have about twenty-four hours before the discomfort becomes acute and I must write or begin scratching, snapping, and sparking.

So today I took my sweet time getting out the door for a run, and dawdled on the way back with Miss B, who was ecstatic to be rambling New Places. I have subscription stuff to send out, that will eat up about an hour.1 I’m allowed only a little bit of work today, but it’s going to be on Robin Hood in Space, which I’m tentatively titling HOOD.

Man, I can’t wait to start playing with the genre conventions of that particular tale.

There’s also a podcast interview scheduled for this evening2, so I wouldn’t be able to imbibe anyway. I miss the habit of relaxation and I joke a lot about writers having to fucking drink to put up with all the bullshit in publishing; maybe I should look into edibles instead because they’re legal in my state.3 Christ knows the bullshit isn’t going away anytime soon. Only the coping mechanisms change.

And now, having thoroughly depressed myself with that last observation, I’m off to do some formatting. Catch you later, alligators.

Housecleaning, Steelflower, Monday

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Late Friday evening, I compiled the first draft of The Maiden’s Blade into a Word doc, eyeballed it for formatting…and sent it off to editor and agent. Consequently, I spent the weekend twitching, desperate for something to slow down the flywheel inside my skull. The kids flat-out told me I wasn’t allowed to do anything resembling work; I gather I looked a wee bit haggard.

Well, you know, more haggard than usual.

So there was a lot of cleaning, especially in the kitchen. Since the dishwasher seems to be settling in all right (thank the gods) I decided it was time to do the regular spring cleaning. Even the kids got in on the act, mopping, shaking rugs, finding things to tidy all over the house. Come Sunday afternoon, we could all achieve our liquid forms in various parts of the house and settle to reading or video-gaming, which was quite pleasant. The tidiness won’t last, of course, daily living (not to mention dogs) takes care of that.

But it’s nice while it endures, and the fact that I didn’t have to do it all myself is golden.

The Little Prince is attempting a Narnia read-through. So far, he’s in the wilds of The Magician’s Nephew, and he can’t get over how creepy Uncle Andrew is. “All I want to know is where’s Polly, and this guy has cocoa powder in a box and won’t tell me!” he fumed at the dinner table last night, and I just kept telling him, wait until you get to the White Witch, my son.

We are also the (proud?) owners of a Cards Against Humanity set, and I’m contemplating inviting a few people over to play. I’m not social even at the best of times, and I hate competitive games1 but getting a bit tiddly2 and putting together several filthy MadLibs with people whose verbal agility and sense of humor are just as hyperactive as mine sounds like a great time.

And now that I’m not pushing to heave this bloody epic fantasy out of my head posthaste, I might even have some energy left over. (Maybe.)

The big project this week is finishing the top-to-bottom first revise of Atlanta Bound; then it’s on to revising a YA I wrote about getting enfolded by a cult. The latter needs its crisis to be drawn out a little more; it chose to come out in a tight first-person POV and by the end of it (120K words, I think?) I was tired, tired, tired. I’m pretty sure nobody will buy it, since my YAs feature kids who cuss and suffer things I did growing up, but eventually it might see the light of day elsewhere. The thing after that on my big to-do list is a revise of Steelflower in Snow, which is tentatively planned for an October release. There is one more Steelflower book after that, if the current ones do well. I don’t think I’ll write her eventual return to her homeland, I think maybe I’ll just let her adventures in the Highlands reach their natural conclusion and bid farewell to the series. Mostly because I’m tired of people yelling at me over them.

Odd Trundles is Extremely Put Out this morning, since he refused to leave the Fancy Office Dog Bed and as a result got splattered with saline. (Don’t ask. Just…don’t ask.) To add to his discomfiture, the Mad Tortie has decided she wants to play, but only wants to play according to her rules, which shift so quickly Odd can’t keep up. He keeps getting smacked on the nose–with no claws, the Mad Tortie is velvet-pawing him–and looking at me with this long-suffering but I’m doing what she wants, Mum, make her staaaaaaaaaaahp look.

In short, it’s Monday all over, for the bulldog as well as yours truly. When I head out for a run he’ll moan, groan, eventually settle for his morning nap, and be snoring gustily by the time I return.

Would that we were all so lucky.