Doubt Merely Looms

Barn Owl
© Donfink | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’m not sure who I’d be if I stopped writing (other than a corpse), but I wonder sometimes if it would stop the periodic bouts of crippling self-doubt.

I’m not talking the lo-fi “maybe I should be a plumber instead,” or even the grinding envy when you read something achingly brilliant someone else has written. No, those are all normal, and well within tolerances. I’m not talking ennui, or procrastination, or even garden variety low self-worth.

I’m talking about a bleak black hole that rivals clinical depression in its will-sapping, crushing, even-just-breathing-is-an-effort numbness. I differentiate between the two because meds beat back the depression and hold the anxiety at bay, but do shit-all for the doubt.

No, I’m not there yet, but it’s close. Some days I feel it hovering. I’m sure the current on-fire state of the world isn’t helping. Empathy is critical to writing, but it can turn into a handicap really quickly.

The bigger thing is, of course, I finished a book that was huge, complex, better than anything I’d ever done before…and it’s having a difficult, tortuous slog through the publication process. It’s the kind of experience that, if I were a newbie writer, might put me off publishing altogether. It’s like being stabbed repeatedly, pulling the knife out only to have another go in, slow or fast, doesn’t matter. A perfect storm of “whatever can go wrong, will” has crashed into my life, and upended a lot of plans.

I had meant to get some more of the Angelov Wolves written, especially Misha’s book, which I really like. Unfortunately, limited bandwidth means I’m on still on the zero of Roadtrip Z’s third season, eking out only a few words each day, pushing against an elastic, resisting barrier. It’s all I can do to keep going with the serial, and I keep glancing up at the master to-do list and feeling like crying. I have taken to closing the office door, just so I can sit and stare, the engines of story working right below conscious thought, grinding slow but exceeding fine.

The only way out is through, I guess. Punching and jabbing and fending off the hovering black hole, telling myself that even two hundred words a day is two hundred more than I had before, and that with significant portions of my emotional energy taken up with healing after the latest round of oh-my-dear-gods-you-have-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me-they-want-WHAT it’s good enough. The dogs help, of course, since as long as their bellies are full and walkies and snuggles are handy, it’s all good. And the kids are older now, so I don’t have to put on much of a brave facade. They understand when I’ve had a shit day it’s not them, and I can bitch about work at the dinner table a little and get some commiseration.

There’s coffee, and the weather changing, too. Rain is due this Sunday, and that means productivity. At least the worst is behind me, when it comes to this particular publication process. I don’t ever have to go through that particular experience again. It’s a good thing I’ve got years of accumulated experience in this career, so something like this doesn’t put me off that aspect of it completely.

But oh, my dear sweet fluffy bonnet, I need time to recover. The more I try to push, the more damage I’ll do and the longer healing will take. And thank goodness for the meds, since my brain chemistry, already having tried to kill me several times, does not need the provocation of the Gigantic Black Hole of Doubt.

After lunch–spicy, spicy noodles, plenty of curry paste and some Bangkok Blend–I’m going to take down my master to-do list, and make a new one with only three things on it, one of which I’ve already done. Narrowing one’s scope and focusing on details can push away the looming monster.

As long as it merely looms, and doesn’t settle on the roof entirely, I can get through. All this stubbornness has to be good for something. Also, Odd trundles has just settled to lick at my ankles, which means it’s time to get up and make that lunch.

Over and (damply) out.

Five Bucks of GREATNESS

We must snootboop every book.

So last Friday Mel Sterling reminded me about a book sale I’d tentatively said might be interesting. She was already on her way, and I’d just gotten home from an emergency trip to see a store about a hoodie. (Don’t ask.) I was THISCLOSE to not going, but I figured, well, anytime I see my writing partner is a good time. So I buckled into the car and went.

And OH MY WORD IT WAS LIKE HEAVEN. $5 for a BOX full of research goodness!

mmmmm crunchy.

Seriously. I couldn’t have found more weird niche stuff for my interests if I’d tried.

And to think I almost didn’t go. Let that be a lesson to me. The answer to a book sale is always, always yes.

Monday Didn’t Break Me

Sunday night, the washer stopped working, and the Little Prince spilled a whole glass of ice water all over his nightstand. Plus there was the dropping of things, a couple other breakages, and even though I’d managed to get my housecleaning chores done, the entire thing just made me want to go to bed.

Cue up Monday, a flooded utility room because of the washer–I love my children, but I swear to God, the next time one of them puts a chunk of duct tape through the washer they are cleaning that goddamn room to white-glove–and finding out the major medication I rely on to allay the panic attacks somehow, mysteriously, just tripled in price since last month, and it wasn’t cheap before.

Needless to say, I was more than ready to crawl into bed and just consign the whole day to the dustheap. I rolled with it, sure, and it was even funny in places, but that shit is exhausting. I challenged Monday and it didn’t break me, it just made me tired.

On the bright side, I may get a zero of the werewolf novella out today. That will set it up for revision and release in a little while, and I’ll have to start thinking about cover design. I want to do the Beguine books/novellas myself; we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, once the werewolf zero is done there’s the Veil Knights book to revise, then it’s into the wilds of Afterwar to make that book as good as possible before it goes off to the editor as a Reasonable, Grown-Up First Draft. In between all that I do have to prep the genie-and-accountant story, and there’s a suspense book I want to write, not to mention the sequel to The Marked.

Now if all this work would just pay me a living wage, I’d be all set. *sigh*

I’m not very cheerful today, so if you see me around and I don’t wave or make eye contact, it’s because I’m buttoned up tightly to keep the stabby-stabby from escaping.

First order of business: that damn washing machine.

Over and out.

photo by: mybulldog

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.

Blue Checkmark Blues

Oh, Twitter. You’re so funny.

Remember this little incident from 2014? Since then, every once in a while, I report harassment or impersonation of me on Twitter just to see what will happen. (Yes, there are impersonators. Which somewhat mystifies me, but at least one of them is a stalker, so…yeah. Anyway.) When I report harassment, exactly nothing beyond a form reply rejecting my complaint happens.

When reporting impersonation, however, the form letter comes with a demand for something very specific: a readable picture of my driver’s license or passport.

Twitter’s insistence on this particular piece of information–state-issued photo ID–is perplexing in more ways than one. Ever since 2014, they’ve been asking me for it. I write back explaining why I won’t be sending one, and giving links to my website, my official FB, my verified Amazon Author pages, my Goodreads page, all clearly sporting links to my Twitter account. Since I wouldn’t turn over a scan or fax of my sensitive personal information because their implied handling of such data in 2014 was questionable at best and they have not actively sought to regain my trust since, they issue a form rejection of my complaint, and when I respond to the form rejection with another explanation, I get back a form letter saying the support case is closed and further replies will be sent to to an unmonitored address.

Charming, isn’t it?

Now, when they opened up verification a little while ago, I figured I’d try it out, just to see if the horrendous parts of the process had been fixed. I figured I’d play at least part of the game, however, and sent in the links to my website, my Amazon Author pages, my Goodreads author page and Facebook fan page–you get the idea–all with clear links to my Twitter profile, and, bonus, a scan of my driver’s license with the number, my birthdate, and my address blacked out. I held out no great hope.

Well, on August 8th I received a form letter rejection, and when I wrote back asking how my profile/bio didn’t meet the requirements for verification, the email bounced. It wasn’t quite as classy as the unmonitored email address ploy, but perhaps they were losing patience with my gadfly self.

Imagine my surprise when, after a very clear rejection, this landed in my inbox earlier today:

FROM: Twitter Support
TO: contact@lilithsaintcrow.com
Case#*REDACTED* RE: Verification Request for @lilithsaintcrow

.
Hello,

We received your request to verify @lilithsaintcrow.

We need to confirm the identity of the account owner in order to further investigate this request. Please provide a copy of their valid photo ID (e.g. driver’s license or passport) within 48 hours of receiving this email.

If the legal name does not match the stage/artist name, please include a letter from the management company stating the following:

The legal name stated on the official identification provided is the authorized account holder of @lilithsaintcrow.
Please scan and upload the required documentation using the following link:
*LINK REDACTED*

We must be able to see the full name and photo, so please try to send a legible copy. This information will be kept confidential, and will be deleted once we have used it to confirm their identity.

Reply to this email to let us know once you’ve uploaded the documentation. We appreciate your patience and cooperation in this matter.

Thanks,

Twitter Support

Reference *REDACTED*
Help
Twitter, Inc. 1355 Market Street, Suite 900 San Francisco, CA 94103

I’ve redacted the link, case number, and reference number above for obvious reasons.

So, just to get this straight, they rejected my verification request outright, bounced my request for further explanation, and are STILL, after all this, determined to get their hands on my driver’s license. They do say the information will be kept confidential, yet how can I trust their policies won’t be changed in the future? “Will be deleted” once you’ve used it to confirm? Why not just spend the two seconds to google me or for God’s sake, READ THE REPLIES AND THE APPLICATION I SENT YOU? Wouldn’t that be easier than me sending personal, sensitive information to a company that exists to sell user’s eyeballs to the highest bidder?

I mean, yes, Twitter is convenient as all get-out and it’s really great for interacting with fans, and it’s ubiquitous right now, but let’s not think this service is offered out of the goodness of any Silicon Valley bro’s heart, okay?

However, being just enough of a contrarian, and being just irritated enough, to try again for the purposes of blogging about the whole damn thing, I sent a reply. Here it is:

Dear Sir/Madam,

As I have told Twitter multiple times, this is unnecessary and somewhat insulting, especially after I was impersonated on Twitter in back in 2014. (I wrote about it here: http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/2014/02/twitter-cut-it-out/) Then, I was told that harassers and impersonators could gain access to whatever information I gave Twitter. Your assurance that the data will be deleted is not sufficient for me to risk my safety or the safety of my family.

I am a New York Times Bestselling author. Here are (a few of the many) places where my official Twitter account is referenced and linked to:

My website: http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com

My Facebook and Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/lilithsaintcrow https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lilith-Saintcrow/172118402032

My Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/131208.Lilith_Saintcrow

My Amazon Author Pages: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002BLOSOU http://www.amazon.com/Lili-St.-Crow/e/B002TN3418/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

However, I am fully expecting to receive another form letter rejecting me for verification, like the one I received a few weeks ago (on August 8, to be precise) when I initially requested verification. I have no idea why you are asking for sensitive personal information again after initially rejecting me and ignoring my request for further information about said rejection.

Best,

Lilith Saintcrow

I added the NYT Bestselling thing because my agent tells me it shows I’m Serious.

Now, why am I bothering, especially since I might not even take verification when offered? Because this has irritated the bejesus out of me. Twitter is a complete and utter mess when it comes to dealing with harassment, despite Randi Lee Harper’s clear, cheap, and effective fixes, which she’s offered for free. Also, their insistence on getting hold of critical personal information about me is thought-provoking, to say the least. Why are they so set on gaining this information? What happens to it when their policies change?

Someone remarked to me that the company Just Doesn’t Get It, “it” being harassment. I don’t think that’s strictly true. I think they get it, but it’s not profitable to care. So, Twitter doesn’t.

*gets out the popcorn* I’ll probably get another form letter in response.

I can hardly wait.

ETA: Well, I didn’t have to wait long. Another form email, exactly the same as the one above, landed in my inbox at 5:23pm. *gets more popcorn*

ETA 8/25/16: I just received this email back from Twitter Support.

FROM: Twitter Support
TO: contact@lilithsaintcrow.com
Case#*REDACTED* RE: Verification Request for @lilithsaintcrow

Hi,

Thanks for the followup email. Unfortunately, we are unable to verify you if you are unable to provide the required documentation. Thank you for understanding.

Thanks,

Twitter Support

http://support.twitter.com
@Support

Reference *REDACTED*

WELL. THERE IT IS THEN. *melts more butter* *screeches with laughter* I wrote back. Of course I did.

Dear Sir/Madam,

So, you mean to say that despite my concerns about stalking, harassment, and impersonation, and despite the fact that you can verify that @lilithsaintcrow is my official Twitter account by a few moments spent on my website, my verified Amazon Author page, and my official Facebook, despite the fact that this email address is clearly my official one, you cannot “verify” me unless I hand over sensitive personal data I cannot trust you to guard responsibly due to your track record? This is what you’re saying. If there’s another explanation, please, enlighten me.

Best,

Lilith Saintcrow

I see two options here. Either Twitter wants my driver’s license information because they plan to monetize it in some fashion later down the line, OR they don’t have the staff to run verification properly, which means they don’t have enough staff to handle the data properly. What happens when they’re hacked? They say they delete the information just after they use it, but really? Once it’s on their servers, I’m just supposed to trust them? Especially when they were very clear back in 2014 that they reserved the right to share a scan of my driver’s license with someone I had reason to believe was a stalker who had already threatened me? Neither of these options induce me to a great deal of confidence.

So. No blue ticky-check for me. I’m not even sure I’d take it, were they to suddenly pay attention and offer one. Marginalized folks, and people at risk of harassment, or people who are ALREADY being harassed, are not served well by this, and I would caution them to reconsider verification. Either it’s a data grab, or they don’t have the staff to keep that sensitive data safe. I don’t want to risk it, I won’t give out information that can possibly impact the safety of my family, and I really, really urge everyone considering verification to think about this.

‘Nuff said.

A Full Weekend

Markedcover2 I’ve added new perks to the Indiegogo campaign for The Marked. If you have an idea for a perk, do let me know.

This past weekend, the Princess graduated from high school. (Good Lord, I feel old.) Yes, I cried. That seems the only appropriate response when you’ve successfully managed to get a tiny dependent being through the eighteen years of childhood and early adolescence. The ceremony to mark such a thing, while boring, is still important because it’s a ritual, drawing a nice bright line between the phase of “public school” and the entry into young adulthood. I rarely have the patience for communal rituals, but I recognize their import.

My baby, growing up. *sniffles a bit*

She’s handling the transition better than I am. You get into the habit of feeding, caring, listening for their breathing, constantly blocking traffic for them, guiding, watching, loving them so hard your very bones ache when they’re in any kind of pain. It leaves an imprint. Learning to let go, bit by bit, as they grow, is hard. You wake up one day, and they’re doing things like BEING ALL GROWN-UP. And the feelings get so big they leak out of your nose and eyes and mouth.

The other thing I did this weekend was run a writing workshop for teens. It was interesting. I have often thought of running online writing workshops, and it was fun to do sort of a dry run and see what kinds of questions people ask, how a workshop is structured, and how to keep an audience interested. I think it went rather well.

Still, all the emotion, and the public speaking, left me drained down to a bare shadow of myself. I suspect I’ll need another day or so to recover, then it’s on to Cormorant Run revisions. I planned to start them at the beginning of the month, but the zombie apocalypse story grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I think I was using the zombies to decompress, or just plain to escape.

…yeah, my wiring is weird. But then, if you’re reading this, you quite probably knew that already. I’m retreating, also, because the news is so terrible, and I am old enough to realize it’s very likely nothing will be done. People simply love their fear and their hatred too much to change; it terrifies me that my children will be going into such a world.

So I’m off to refill my creative well, and to go back into a world I built a while ago. If there’s hope, it lies in creating. Or at least, so I tell myself. It’s all I have to fight the fear.

Over and out.

Internal Engines

jazzhands.jpeg So apparently yesterday’s bees (look, they won’t sting me, but it is a bit concerning to pull my tank top away from my breasts and have a bee fly out, really) were carrying a night of vivid dreams for me. Which, great, I must have signed up for this sort of shit before I was born and I’ll put up with it, but really, YOU COULD HAVE JUST SENT A CROW, FOR GOD’S SAKE. (Aaaaaand this just landed in my inbox from my writing partner, who delights in doing such things.)

Anyway. Ahem. Hi. Welcome back, dear Readers. In the past couple weeks I’ve finished revising two all-new books and sent them off. While I chew on my fingers waiting to hear back (no, that’s not a typo, we’re down to actual flesh) I get to try and force myself to take a breath before going in to restructure, rebuild, revise, and just generally make CORMORANT RUN better. I wrote the zero and first drafts at such a white heat I’m surprised my hair didn’t catch on fire, and it’s a good thing I have my favorite editor around to tell me where the story in my head needs a little more clarification on the page.

Editing doesn’t have to be adversarial.

The trouble is, my internal engines are unstable and going at such high speed I stand a very real risk of pulling some mental muscles by going back into the fray before I’ve healed up. At the same time, I am aching–aching–to get some more work out the door, because the financial hit from having to shelve the Book That Shall Not Be Named because fuckwits kept stealing has been…severe. I’m not quite at the point of no return yet, but I’m definitely in Anxiety Land.

I keep telling myself that things have been truly bleak before and this is not that. I practice self-care, I am taking the long view and choosing not to do short-term flailing that will injure my ability to keep producing. At least, producing for public consumption. I’ll always write, it’s just publishing that seems to be the strangle-point. Then again, after being in this game for over a decade now, I should know that it’s cyclical.

Why do I speak about this publicly? Because a lot of people don’t. Because there are few things “new” and aspiring writers need to know more than what makes a sustainable career. Because being honest about it helps demystify the process of making a living as a creative. Also, because I want people to know and understand the consequences of thievery, and to shame those who still indulge in it. Also also, because I don’t have time for bullshit, and openness discourages yon fragrant bovine droppings liek woah.

Yes. Well. Now I have to distract myself so I don’t go blazing into the next round of revisions just yet and hurt myself.

…It’s going to be a long weekend.