November Zombie Sale

In honor of enduring three years of this bullshit–and in honor of the recent spookytimes funfest–The Complete Roadtrip Z will be on sale in ebook for $8.99USD all through November! That’s all four seasons of the hit serial (funded by my beloved subscribers, whom I thank) for the price of one.

The Complete Roadtrip Z

Cotton Crossing was a dead end, but not for Ginny Mills. She’s just marking time, getting experience in the county library system, before moving back to a decent urban environment. Then the phones stop working.

Lee Quartine knows there’s no way the pretty girl at the library will even look at him. Especially since he can’t open his mouth. He knows he’s a hick, but when the power starts going out and the woods are full of strange creatures, it’s good to have someone around who can build a fire. And kill.

Ginny and Lee and their small band of survivors can’t stay put, and moving is dangerous. The infected are shambling in the hills and the concrete canyons of cities.

It’s gonna be a long trip…

Available direct, or through Kobo and these other fine ebook retailers.


Not only that, but my latest release is Duty, the second in the Ghost Squad series.

Duty

After nearly dying on his team’s last mission, Paul Klemperer is heading home for the first time since signing up for the Army. His hometown’s grown a little. The inhabitants are older. And life has moved on, but some things are still the same. Like the way he feels about the girl he left behind—who ended up marrying someone else.

Beck Sommers has a divorce in the works; if she can just hold on, she’ll be able to leave this godforsaken town. Unfortunately, her soon-to-be-ex-husband has other ideas. Her first love Paul has returned as well, making things even more complicated. And then there’s the corruption, the drugs…and murder.

Beck’s determined to fix what’s gone wrong, but she has no idea how deep the corruption goes. And Paul? Well, he’s a little behind on the local news, but one thing’s for sure—he’s not letting Beck get away this time.

First, though, he’ll have to keep her alive…

Now available from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Amazon, Kobo, and independent bookstores.

If you’re interested, the book’s soundtrack is here.


And if you’re in the mood for a VC Andrews homage, That Damn Werelion Book is now available too. November’s certainly a crackerjack of a month around here and there might be even more, so stay tuned…

Winter in Coneflower

Aliens, I tell you.

I did no cooking yesterday (US Thanksgiving). Instead, the kids and I got take-n-bake pizzas on Wednesday, left ’em in the fridge overnight, and had an easy, early-ish dinner with no stress. It was lovely; it’s an entirely different holiday when I don’t have to cook. More like an occasion than a holiday proper, as the Prince pointed out.

The whole thing was pretty fabulous. There are better years and worse years for holiday stress, and this is shaping up to be…well, not one of the better ones. But being able to keep it extremely low-key was great, eleven out of ten, no notes, highly recommended.

Even morning walkies were also reasonably quiet, and I got to snap a picture of coneflowers going into winter. I’m sure something eats their alien seedheads, or hides in them somehow. It struck me, while attempting to line up the camera (I know it’s still blurry, Boxnoggin did not want to slow down), just how alien they look. Like the succulents flowering at the end of summer.

I enjoy watching life change as the seasons slip by. Biology is a helluva trip.

I even got a run in, so I was holding steady at thirty percent zen for the rest of the day. We’ll probably even get rain, which will make the weekend a delight. Not sure if I’m going to livestream today, though. I might take a week off even though I do desperately want to talk about Emer Martin’s Breakfast in Babylon.

Suppose I’d best get out the door with Boxnoggin before it gets too damp. His paws are so dainty.

I wish you a pleasant weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, please–and with each other. Who knows, by Monday the world might have changed again!

…sorry. I know that’s hardly a pleasant thought given the past few years. All the more reason to take a deep breath now.

Over and out.

Change and Social Detox

Didn’t have time for a Soundtrack Monday post yesterday. I am incredibly irritated with a world that will not simply leave me alone to write my weird little stories. Descending into the sewers to live as a cryptid–or donning a cape and wandering into the woods, never to be seen again–sounds very appetizing indeed. If I could get coffee and reading material delivered in either situation, I’d probably be gone like a shot.

I suppose some of the irritation is detoxing from Twitter. The site seems to be imploding, and despite knowing it would happen, I’m still upset. A sizable chunk of my professional life and connections were stored there, largely because I had no choice. We all knew it was a bad deal, but it was the only one on offer.

This is no longer the case. It’s fascinating to see the realization percolate.

It’s also interesting to watch a lot of people fleeing the implosion, attempting to get the same dopamine hit and rush of indignation elsewhere. I’m hearing the same complaints I did when Twitter started, when Livejournal died, during the Yahoo buyout of Tumblr (now there’s a cautionary tale for dumb billionaires), during the several waves of Facebook emigration, etc., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum. In particular, watching people arrive on Mastodon and try to replicate Twitter experience on a platform that was specifically designed to avoid some of birdsite’s more rancid problems and practices has been…well, I wouldn’t call it entertaining, but there’s certainly an aspect of can’t-look-away. Making the shift to a place that isn’t centrally controlled, where ads aren’t part of the ecosystem and the “home” algorithm isn’t controlling what you see and when, is disturbing for a lot of people trained by years of the Twitter Character of the Day, the ads, and the constant shadowbanning and suppression not of fascists but of their opponents. Add to that the fact that people are mourning the loss of a service that wanted, as Dorsey himself admitted, to be a public utility and gave many the hope and interaction they needed to get through the first few years of pandemic, and it’s rough.

It’s really rough. A lot of people aren’t being their best selves right now. Change is difficult–I joke about dogs and toddlers being absolutely unable to cope with disruptions to routine, but adult humans aren’t far behind. The server slowdowns of a decentralized, volunteer-run system looking to absorb such massive waves of new users are entirely reasonable and expected–but not pleasant.

I’m really looking forward to marginalized communities coming out from under the weight of having to fight Twitter’s deliberate devaluation of their posts, as well as the encouragement and intentionally engineered ease with which birdsite was used for harassment and silencing of women, people of color, and indigenous groups. I’ve heard the objection that defederation and banning on Mastodon will lead to “silos”, and I think it’s entirely specious. We already know that bad actors don’t want to be locked into their own little cesspools, they want to pollute the drinking water for everyone else, and force us to listen to their nasty bigoted howling. That’s their entire goal, and being able to lock such people out with a few clicks of a button–especially if one is an instance admin–is in my opinion a net good that will only increase over time.

“But social justice won’t go viral on Mastodon!” Uh, I’ve already seen calls for help, calls to action, and news rip through the fediverse at light speed. The only difference is that they often have content warnings. So I find this objection to be specious as well, from my own direct experience.

“But Twitter was freeee!” some people howl, like the rusty gates of hell. I dunno, my friend, was it really? Already the internet requires the investment in hardware and privilege to access, and birdsite only appeared free because user info was being sold, ads were being forced into the stream, attention was being bought by corporate actors, and governments were busy subsidizing and payoff-placating Dorsey the way they have been subsidizing Musk, Bezos, Murdoch, the Waltons, and Mango Mussolini (among others) for decades. It was never free, you just didn’t see the cost because it was folded into the daily scramble to make a living and pay taxes, both activities which end up lining the pockets of bazillionaires because that’s how our society is set up.

But then, I’ve been on Mastodon since ’17, keeping my eggs in more than one social media basket the way I keep publishing eggs in more than one container. (The effort required to do so is disruptive to my productivity, but can’t be avoided under current conditions.) I’m in the luxurious position of already being over the first bump of the learning curve–and there really is one, with any social media platform–but the angry biting from some people who are determined not to like a new-to-them system because “it isn’t Twitter and I’m mad and grieving” is counterproductive in the extreme.

Not that it can be helped. We’ve seen this all before, every time a social media system implodes under the weight of corporate malfeasance and greed.

I just want to write, dammit. And manage this detox. The way Twitter and Facebook–and Instagram, and and and–are engineered to take advantage of some very basic brain chemistry is amazing, but it also makes tapering off and moving away rather hellish. Maybe I’m wrong and the site won’t fully implode. I’m astonished that World Cup traffic hasn’t done it in, though I still can’t reply to anyone in DMs and the user experience is growing increasingly janky. I thought it would break irreversibly this past weekend, and can’t decide whether I’m happy to be mistaken.

And I keep thinking, if breaking the addiction to birdsite is so uncomfortable for someone who has been in the process of mitigating exposure to it for five-plus years, it must be dreadful for those who never wanted to leave. Things will shake out, though, and people will eventually find other ways of getting the connection and access to breaking news they need. Personally, I’m using CounterSocial for news and Mastodon for most everything else, though at least one of my publishers really really wants me to keep my Instagram fresh and oh fuck, how did I get on YouTube anyway?

If you’re suffering a dopamine shortage from fleeing Twitter’s protracted strangulation at the hands of Manbaby Melon Husk (one of my favorite euphemisms for the site’s new owner, I gotta admit), try to be kind to yourself. It feels uncomfortable because your brain was being hit with the equivalent of weapons-grade casino-type sucker-retention tricks daily, and now it’s…not. It’s gonna take a little while for things to normalize.

Me? I’m gonna finish my coffee, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. He certainly doesn’t care about a massive shift in the online social ecosystem–he’s got things to sniff, and at least one attempt to crap in oncoming traffic to check off his daily to-do list.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. See you around.

Week, Story, Pursuit

I have decided I will not leap like a feral wolverine upon the fresh new week. Instead, I will pursue it like a stoat, steady and fixated, until the arbitrary sevenday drops dead of exhaustion and I may feast.

…I may have been watching a lot of Casual Geographic lately, can you tell? In any case, I’m more comfortable as a pursuit predator anyway. I may not be awfully fast (save for when I’m teleporting to save a toddler or a dumbass canine from Bad Decisions) but I am patient, and there’s plenty of endurance lingering in this ol’ wreck.

Anyway, welcome to Monday, everyone. We were at dinner last night and my daughter obliquely referenced Edmund Pevensie’s taunting of the Telmarines. I commented that Edmund being known as “the Just” was as close as CS Lewis could get to admitting he admired the Jesuits, then I laughed like a loon and both kids looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

Which happens rather a lot, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I always wanted to write a story where Aslan was the Big Bad, Jadis the White Witch and Edmund were the heroes, and the other three Pevensies were kind of bumbling impediments except for Susan, who is awesome no matter which way you slice it. And it is my firm headcanon that Susan never forgot Narnia, she just knew her homeworld needed her more. Because let’s face it, Aslan is a complete, humorless, psychopathic, unjust, incredible dick and I wouldn’t want him yanking me around more either.

Any Christian allegories have a difficult time covering up the sheer maliciousness of their sky god, especially in the Old Testament; really, the problem with allegory is that it lays bare a great deal of what one wants to hide as well as the truth one wishes to distill and reveal. I always suspected Lewis wrote ol’ Screwtape more to convince himself than anyone else. Tolkien seems to have viewed Lewis as Treebeard, taking so much of “the long view” as to be paralyzed with indecision; on the other hand, an Ent’s crisis of faith or confidence might not be visible to even an elf walking alongside through shadowed woods.

November was supposed to be the month I wrote the second book of A Particular Series, or at least 50k of it. Alas, it was not meant to be, but at least I think I’ve resurrected the damn thing. It took a lot of work, a lot of dry-heaving over my office wastebasket, forcing my recalcitrant body to the task. Of course my meatsuit is taking revenge at the moment. Apparently I will patiently coax any creature except my own stubborn self. Regardless, today is for stepping back into that world; this trilogy is having a difficult birth. Misunderstood by everyone but its mother, I suppose. I have to have some kind of faith it will all come out right, that it will reach the people who need it.

Sometimes I admire Lewis’s faith. Sometimes I pity his loneliness–always waiting for someone else to rescue one, instead of building a raft of whatever trash is to hand. The problem with the waiting is that the bones of those who waited in vain are silent; it’s only the “saved” we hear from, confirmation bias at its most absolute. I want the skeletons to stand up, to take their murderers and betrayers to account.

These are the things I think about on a Monday morning while my coffee cools. When I finally down the dregs, Boxnoggin will be waiting for me to make breakfast, beside himself with joy at the prospect of crusts and walkies. To him I am the changeless elf, a sorceress who can make light with a flick of her fingers, a goddess who provides kibble, warmth, direction. Makes me wonder if the gods see humans as we view dogs–they don’t make good choices, but they’re loving. Look how I dressed mine up! Oh, ouch, I can’t afford to take this one to the vet…why, oh why, are their lives so short?

I can’t decide if we make stories to escape the confines of the world, or because our world is so impossibly beautiful. Porque no los dos, right? In the end, what matters is the transmutation, the act of creating, the act of love.

So I lope after this week, reserving my strength, following tracks in sand as the wind rises, noting broken branches which speak of my prey’s direction and speed, discerning slight scuffs on bare rock. I hunt this arbitrary division of time, moving through other universes written into being by people long dead, creating my own out of the infinite multiverses lingering in my own bones and breath, the stories lined up around the block waiting for their chance to speak through me.

As I pursue, so am I pursued. That chain is infinite too.

But I’m done with coffee now and Boxnoggin is prancing down the hall. The hunt is afoot, and so I must be as well. See you around, my beloveds.

(But Aslan’s still a dick. I SAID WHAT I SAID.)

In Shadow, Green

Finding a way, again.

A jumble of boulders on one of our usual morning-walkies routes is always good for a thought or two. Boxnoggin agrees, although his “thoughts” are mostly of the let’s pee on it variety. He’d climb the entire damn pile if I let him.

Anyway, if you peer back into the shadows, you’ll see green on the left side. Yes, even in that deep crevice, things are living–not just lichen, but actual plants. As late as October they were dead straw, hiding from the heat; now, after a few good rains, they’re happily growing in semi-darkness.

Makes all my own problems seem smaller, I must confess. It feels like I’m jammed in a dark crack, reaching vainly for any scrap I can grab; thankfully, I have opposable thumbs and can move into sunlight. (Always assuming I don’t hiss and melt under its touch. Heh.) Life is still forcing its way into the crevices, taking advantage of every inch. Hope is not some evanescent, helpless waif–she is a Valkyrie with blood in her mouth, scraped knuckles, double black eyes, and bruises all over, spitting a tooth as she rises once more from the floor.

We’ve reached another Friday. It promises to be a good one, but either way it’ll be the weekend soon. I hope you have a fine one, beloveds.

COVER REVEAL: The Salt-Black Tree

“But Lili,” I hear you say. “You just did a cover reveal not too long ago.” And yes, you are absolutely correct–but the two books of The Dead God’s Heart will be out within months of each other, so the publisher’s getting ducks-in-a-row now. It will be nice, since readers won’t have to wait too long for the series to be “finished”, per se. Two whole years’ worth of work will pay off…next year.

That’s publishing, baby. Anyway, are you ready?


Isn’t it pretty?

Since the series features American divinities and one hell of a roadtrip, of course there are cars–Dima Konets’s low black sports car, Maria Drozdova’s old Léon-Bollée, a Cadillac driven by a certain Coyote, and more. I’m also pleased about the snake, which is kind of a vehicle all its own.

There’s a burst of furious activity happening behind the scenes right now–copyedits, page proofs, queries on said page proofs–so everything is in place for the release of Spring’s Arcana next May. Considering that I wrote these books during lockdown and other assorted pandemic foolishness, it’s feeling rather strange to see them inching towards their debut.

The wind is up, and I’ve much more to do today. I just had to share the loveliness, though. Happy Thursday, my friends. We’re almost through the week…

Halfway to New

The wind came through hard last night, cold skybreath combing the trees, leaves and needles and cones shaken free. A lot of stuff tapped the roof, but we were all warm and snug in our beds. Especially Boxnoggin, as I spent part of yesterday washing bedding and switching to flannel sheets. Which meant a fresh, dryer-fragrant comforter for him to sleep on, several blankets for warmth and cushioning, and the heated mattress topper, all toasting him from below. He was a happy, happy doge.

I wasn’t so bad myself. It was high time to switch to flannel and more blankets. Most of my trouble sleeping lately has been stress, but some was certainly the change in weather. Now I am roasty-toasted, and feel halfway to a new woman. (Only halfway, the rest is the same old bitter hag.)

Remember the cover reveal for Spring’s Arcana? Well, in a few days we’ll have another for Book 2 of the duology, The Salt-Black Tree. They both release within a few months of each other next year, so you won’t have long to wait between books. It’s very exciting; I haven’t had this kind of trad publisher support before. Maybe it’ll go well?

I can’t think about that or I’ll go mad with worry. Best to just put my head down and continue, one foot in front of the other.

I should’ve been working on different things yesterday. (I won’t list them; on that path lies madness.) Instead, I banged out 3.4k words on the Jolene, Jolene story. It needs a bit of polish and some trimming, then it’ll be off to the agent for her delectation. Depending on what she says it might make the rounds–if it doesn’t, I might just keep it to gloat over, a shiny treasure in my hoard. Don’t fret, though, subscribers will definitely get a taste.

It was pleasant to feel like I could still accomplish something, and to get the dopamine hit from finishing a piece. The crisis of confidence from…certain publishing industry hijinks, let’s say, hit me hard. Fortunately I have lost my patience and as a result become somewhat close to tranquil, and part of that process was apparently writing a short story based on a Dolly Parton song.

What can I say, I’m wired really weird.

Today will be split between the serial and the NaNo book. All the hard work resurrecting a dead series over the weekend is about to pay off. The nausea has gone down, and after I get a run in I’ll probably feel closer to zen than I have in a long time. Of course, before I get out the door I should do some of that trimming and polishing on the short story. It would be nice to send that off by the end of the day. I should collect and re-edit a bunch of my shorts, too, put them in an anthology–in all my COPIOUS spare time, ha. It would be nice to have them in one place.

Last week–and the weekend–were kind of awful. But there’s a silver lining, of course; there always is, even if it’s only a thin thread. I went through a whole-ass process at warp speed instead of letting a certain situation drag out for many more months, and now I can get back to work. That’s one grand thing about my mid-forties. I am no longer prepared to waste much, if any, time. If that makes me a bitch, fine. That’s what they call a woman who won’t let you take advantage of her anyway. Might as well wear it like a badge of honor.

The wind seems to have slackened. There will be plenty of downed stuff and wrack for Boxnoggin to get his nose into, and he’ll enjoy the sunshine. I’d prefer rain, though this is all right–the air doesn’t quite sparkle like champagne, but it does go down smoothly and I’ve the glow of a finished story to keep me warm.

Let us clamber into Tuesday, my beloveds, and see what the day holds.

Soundtrack Monday: Assassin

Blood Call

I was a John Mayer fan for a hot minute (Why, Georgia still plays in my head some mornings) and around the time I was writing Blood Call, I came across a fan video of his Assassin. It fit very well, and I might have watched it a few (million) times whenever the book got stuck.

That book started out–as some do–with a very vivid image. An old-style flip phone (my goodness, it was a few years ago) sitting in a leather cup on a very clean desk, with a particular fall of wintry afternoon light across it. I would’ve thought it was deja-vu instead of the beginning to an organic study (I’ve talked before about organics vs. what-ifs) except for the feeling in it.

The phone was buzzing, and my mental camera-eye pulled back. I could smell the office–a place cleaned twice a week, furniture polish and fresh carpeting, and the faint but unmistakable scent of despair. There was a window kitty-corner–he didn’t like having his back to the glass–and I saw Josiah standing with his head cocked, looking at the phone.

Of course, I didn’t know his name was Josiah–my writing partner and I had just agreed to write a story each with that name, so he inherited it. I did know his last name was Wolfe, that he had been waiting years for this phone to ring without any real hope that it would, and that he was frozen by the fact that it had.

I also knew who was on the other end of the line. Not her name yet, just that she was desperate and had literally nowhere else to turn. The rest of the story flowered from that one image of the phone rattling in the cup, Wolfe staring at it like he thought the thing might be venomous, and the woman in the phone booth hoping, praying, that the number was still good.

There are other songs on that soundtrack, but every time I hear the opening bars of Assassin I am taken back to that story, to writing in the living room of the old house, cross-legged with my heart in my mouth, finding out what kind of trouble needed a man like that to fix. (Also, Kit is HILARIOUS.) I’m still very fond of this book, even after all this time.

Which is certainly better than the alternative, especially nowadays…