The Jam Loosens

I woke from a dream of cleaning a house I’ve never lived in, with music playing in my head. The former doesn’t happen that often, but the latter is pretty much a constant. I rolled over, got Boxnoggin’s wet nose stuck in my face (he was attempting to get me to wake up so we could go do fun things, Mum, come on!) and heard the plucky opening riff to the Muppets’ Happiness Hotel.

Pretty sure that means a good day, even if an unrelentingly weird one.

The weirdness has been off the charts lately. The only thing I can think to do is begin my fall nesting–a few of my friends already have, and with the current plague news, well, I’m going to need my tiny safe nook to be as cosy as possible.

Especially if we need to share space with friends or family suffering fallout.

In any case, I’ve a list of Autumn Preparation Things. Some of them are small and will fit around the bigger list of Work Things What Landed In The Past Few Days. It’s feast or famine in publishing, dry spell or monsoon. CEs (the third and final Hostage to Empire book is top of the list) and proofs (HOOD fans, the omnibus proof just landed, so very soon Season Three will be out and the omnibus will be available for preorder) and cover drafts (Moon’s Knight is that much closer to publication; once I get the final cover the trigger can be gently squeezed), not to mention revisions on the diptych of The Black God’s Heart.

Plus there’s Hell’s Acre to get daily wordcount in on, and the sequel to Damage to build. (And Guilder to frame for it. I’m positively swamped.)

In between all that is cleaning and arranging for fall–the most wonderful time of the year, frankly. I’m ready for it to cool off; the recent heatwave is no fun and doesn’t really break overnight. We have some air conditioning, so we’re a little better placed than most, but it’s still unrelentingly bad. And gods know we need some proper rain.

I’ve recovered some little bit of my harmony. The tetchiness and ill feeling have subsumed under the sheer amount of work; maybe I just need to be buried under Stuff To Do before my mood improves. Having safe spaces to vent some of my feelings at current events helps as well. Holding that sort of thing in, no matter how useful a skill, eventually curdles and turns one rancid.

I don’t like being angry. Sure, I’m often irritated, but outright anger isn’t usual for me. I can count the number of times I’ve been actually, for-real angry in my life on one hand and have fingers (plural) left over. Current affairs, however, are managing the feat splendidly, and I hate it.

Anyway. There will be a glut of news in the near future, my beloveds–preorder information for Moon’s Knight once that gets all sorted, Season Three of HOOD and the omnibus scheduled, maybe something good on the Tolkien Viking Werewolves front, so on and so forth. But today is all about copyedits with some Zoe Keating in the background to drown out the noise in my head, not to mention the dogs needing their morning walk. I won’t be able to run until the weather breaks; heat sensitivity is an awful thing.

I am cherishing the return of my usual equanimity, even if it means the Muppets will be playing inside my skull when I wake. All in all, it could be worse. Oh, and thank you all for telling me how you’re getting through this; your comments helped me see good things.

Onward and upward, excelsior and all that. The dogs have been very patient, but they need walkies before it gets too hot to breathe. Time to bolt the remains of my coffee and embark.

See you around.

Return, Usual Harmony

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…well, it’s Monday again.

Not that I mind, really. I just finished a difficult revision and have a crop of administrivia as well as fresh writing scheduled for the day. It’ll be nice to get some actual new-text production going instead of just trimming and tweaking formerly written stuff. I want a lot more lead time in Hell’s Acre than I have; it’s time to do a kidnapping or two.

So to speak.

I also have to move some things on the detailed writing schedule for the next few months. This career being what it is, all sorts of things are in flux until a contract’s signed, then it’s time to work like a demon. Generally I can plan a year or two in advance, but when I get to the six- or three-month planning mark the longer-range benchmarks often have to be thrown out or altered to bear no resemblance to their original form.

Specifically, the Cold North trilogy (also known as the Silmarillion Viking Werewolves) will have to be written around paying projects, but several of those spaces have also opened up, so we’ll see what fits in them. It means a much longer timeframe before the adventures of Solveig and her shieldmaid can meet the world, but such is publishing.

I’m just glad the irritation and crankiness from earlier in the month have gone their merry way; upping my running mileage and clearing a difficult project both mean some of the usual harmony tiptoed back into my corpus. I don’t like feeling prickly as a herd of adamantium porcupines; keeping a deathgrip on my temper is unpleasant (though necessary, because friendly fire isn’t) work.

Let’s see, what else can I tell you? I read a few Vietnam War memoirs this past week, and might read a few more; I also have Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, about murder in Ancient Rome.

I suspect I shall savor the latter with quite unbecoming enthusiasm.

The morning music queue is serving up a lot of Portishead, and I’m not quite sure what to think about that. I suppose I’ll just groove with it, since Past Me is the one who went on a mad trip-hop jag while finishing up revisions. I’ll add some Copland and Gershwin, not to mention some thrash metal, to confuse the algorithms later in the day.

I am large, I contain multitudes.

So today is for the last bit of finish work before sending revisions in well in advance of their due date (love it when that happens) and a great deal of administrivial paperwork set aside during the push to get said revision done. On the one hand it’s got to be done and has lingered long enough.

On the other, I absolutely despise bureaucratic triplicate. I often mutter, “Why doesn’t your mother commit murder more often?” and both children chime, “Because it makes paperwork, that’s why!”

…look, one has to go with the objection that works, and if the disdain for paperwork keeps me from running amok, I’ll use it.

One of the neighbors put in a backyard fountain this past weekend, so I suspect Carl, Sandra, and Jerry will disdain our plebeian birdbath’s stagnation for this new luxury. Being what they are, I suspect they’ll tear the damn thing apart in their enthusiasm and I will be treated to someone else screaming at the local fauna for once.

It’ll be a nice change. I’m almost looking forward to it.

Enjoy your Monday, my beloveds. It’s a tricksome day even in the best of weeks, but with all of us watching it can hardly do more than twitch, right? At least, we can operate under that assumption for now. I’ve the machete ready and I don’t even want to know what the rest of you have stashed.

Over and out.

HELL’S ACRE, In June

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It’s June, and you know what that means–Hell’s Acre is now underway! An all-new serial adventure, delivered weekly, and full of stuff Bannon & Clare fans might like–carriages, dresses, a London where the Roman Empire never fell, rooftop battles, assassinations, and the like. There won’t be any magic, per se, but a great deal of semi-combat sorcery Mikal might approve of.

If you’re interested, you can get the first three chapters for free here.

It’s a holiday Monday, so I’m off to walk the dogs before it gets too warm. They’re saying 90F or near it for the next couple days, and I am a pale Pacific Northwest mushroom who shrivels in such temperatures. I plan to work only a half-day today and then retire to the couch to knock off the rest of a book on the Ancient Rome and the silk trade. (It’s all Rome, all the time in here lately.)

I wish you a blessed Memorial Day, my friends. I woke up with Dolly Parton playing inside my head, so I’m hopeful for a good day.

Over and out!

Not Quite Vacay

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It’s raining, and I woke up with Rain’s Sad Tango playing in my head. Which isn’t bad on either count. I get to run while water is falling from the sky, and there’s also a catchy groove to do it to.

I meant to take this week as a vacation, at least from serial writing. Unfortunately life has other ideas. Cold North is still going great guns; the elementalist has left that world’s variation on Nargothrond and is heading for a hill topped with red foliage. (Turin Turambar fans are going to get a kick out of this part of the tale.) I’m also getting plenty of progress in on Hell’s Acre, which has a scaffolding somewhat resembling an outline–though anything approaching an outline gets thrown out about two-thirds of the way through any work.

I just can’t stick to directions when it comes to a story. It has to take its own organic shape, and though I can often predict said shape, the execution is always much different than the projection.

…I just took the first gulp of today’s coffee, and my gods is it ever welcome.

I’m having to switch back to tea in the afternoons, since sleeping is becoming difficult again. On the one hand, I could just get up and work when insomnia strikes. On the other, I’m getting older (surprise, surprise) and the very thought of pulling all-nighters the way I used to makes me even more tired. I might as well give my body all the help I can. Besides, tea is stuffed full of anti-depressive chemicals, and that’s always a bonus.

I’m also ready to open up my Discord server for a new round of members, so come on in, the water’s fine! The invite link will last for a week, unless we get an influx of bad actors. (Which sometimes happens, this being the internet and all.) Patreon and Gumroad folks get special access on the server, and I’m kicking around the idea of doing some voice chats with subscribers–an AMA or two sounds like a good time, especially with a cuppa. The server has a living room, a place to discuss the books of Yours Truly, a place to discuss other authors’ books, a hellhole where politics are discussed, and more.

I’m slowly working my way through coffee. It’s a nice quiet grey morning, and after listening to Sad Tango on repeat I figure I’ll shift to the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack, look over the day’s work, and finish said java before taking the dogs on walkies. Boxnoggin will be extremely put out that it’s damp, but B will be just the same–she’s all-weather, all the time.

OH! I almost forgot. The Princess informed me yesterday that the Yankee Squirrel Flipper is doing its duty, and a squirrel has been flung at least once into the Venerable Fir. Sadly, I did not get to witness the occasion, but I have to admit to a bit of evil laughter, especially since the damn arboreal rodents have been digging up my seedling trays to bury their bloody peanuts.

Yes, someone in the neighborhood is still feeding them. I don’t even know.

That’s the news that’s fit to print, I suppose. There are rumbles in the distance, both concerning Cold North and Moon’s Knight, but nothing definitive yet. And come June 1, not only will Hell’s Acre be live, but I’ll have to shift engines to do revisions on Sons of Ymre, which should be out later this year (but will probably be retitled, so stay tuned).

My goodness, that’s a lot. I started this post thinking there was very little if any news, but apparently I was wrong. It’s a good thing I don’t mind being wrong. I even enjoy it, in some cases.

This vacation is turning out busier than many regular work weeks, but that’s my own fault…

…as usual. Onwards, upwards, and inwards to Thursday, beloveds.

Music, Noise, Work

The Society

Walking the dogs this morning, Matchbox 20’s Disease came through my earbuds, and I found myself thinking of The Society again. That was one of Delgado’s songs.

Man, I was so young when I wrote that. A few discerning fans had fun untangling the X-Men references in it, and I still like to think about Rowan and Del every once in a while. I didn’t extend the series because if I had, a character I like very much would have had to die, and I don’t want to feel it in my own body.

Best just to leave things precariously balanced where Hunter, Healer left off.

I do know what happens after all my books end. Sometimes I keep the information locked up in my head, a private playground. Other times I turn the situation a certain number of degrees and look at its contours, and another story tentatively pokes its head out, whispering have you considered it this way? Write about this.

Then Florence + the Machine’s Breath of Life came up, and I found myself thinking about The Black God’s Heart; I think that song is probably Nat’s. You haven’t met Nat yet; I haven’t written the book. But I’ve made a good start and I’m stealing time to work on it in the evenings, when I’m tired from the day and needing something I enjoy, not just a slog.

You can tell I’m serious about a book when the soundtrack starts to coalesce. It’s only a single indicator–I’ve written other books without soundtracks, just not very often. I do have just-plain-writing music, but certain songs help me slither into a character’s skin.

Writing is an exercise in focused, critical empathy. Imagining myself so deeply and profoundly in someone else’s shoes is on the one hand difficult, requiring imagination and stamina; on the other hand, it’s the easiest thing in the world because, well, empathy. It’s a normal human skill, most often shown in the flinch when we see someone else get a sharp pain.

I know there are plenty of empathy-challenged people. I also think even a grain of it can be strengthened with practice and care. Writers, of course, can gain a massive, overblown sensitivity.

It’s no wonder so many of us drink to deaden it. The cray that is publishing doesn’t help either, I suppose.

Music isn’t an absolute necessity; some books do very well with silence or some variant of white noise. (I also use the Noizio app sometimes, when I want a little sound but not tunes.) I find songs are most helpful when I’m, building a book–walking or doing housework while the subconscious engines work on arranging the story for me.

Writing isn’t solely about the typing, although that is an extremely necessary part. It also takes a lot of relaxed focus, letting the machinery below conscious floorboards grind away with enough fuel and grist to keep from overheating.

Anyway, the world is afire with greed and plague, but I’m still writing. There’s not much else I can do, and people need stories now more than ever.

Time to get back to work.


It’s Thursday, which means my paid Haggard Feathers subscribers have an open thread to ask questions and give comments on. Also, Crow’s Nest, Nest Egg, and Serial Time subscribers are about to get some very cool stuff in their inboxes this week…

Soundtrack Monday: Perry, in Love

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Yesterday, the iTunes algorithm kept trying to force Pink Martini’s Amado Mio on me until I broke down and listened to it. Now, I love Pink Martini with the flame of a thousand suns… but so did Perry from the Kismet series.

The first bars of Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love send a chill up my spine, because I could reliably play it and Perry would lift his head in the Monde, smiling his bland, appreciative smile. It’s what’s playing inside his hellbreed head when he’s strapped into the metal frame and Jill’s at work with the knives.

I suppose it doesn’t help that in my head Perry looks a lot like a young Max Raabe, especially in the short story where he meets Jack Karma. Raabe in a tuxedo with his hair slicked back is exactly what Perry looks like when he’s wanting to impress, look harmless to, or seduce someone. Of course I know Mr Raabe is a nice fellow and Perry only chose that particular form to send s shiver through me…

…but it worked. It worked really well.

Enjoy the music, my friends. I know Hyperion-Pericles-Perry does.

Soundtrack Monday: Helena Beat

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I listened to a lot of Foster the People while writing what I call the Human Tales, which the publisher insisted on tagging Tales of Beauty and Madness. (But the covers were beautiful; it’s a shame the books didn’t sell very well. Teen readers liked them, adults did some pearl-clutching, you know the drill.)

Foster the People is very much the music Ruby likes while driving like a bat out of hell, even though her beloved Tommy Triton is more like a mix between them and Daft Punk’s Instant Crush. One particular song, though–Helena Beat–was very much Cami’s. I took a sip of something poison but I’ll be all right…

Working with fairytales was… troubling. The stories are deep and they are bloody; one had best be prepared to face one’s own demons when invoking them. Behind the driving beat of many songs I loved when I was young lies a great deal of loneliness and uncertainty, too. Helena Beat came too late for that, but I could recapture some of the feeling while listening, especially when Cami visits the club with Tor, or when Ellie finds just a moment of peace in her busy day while the music is turned up, or while Ruby is driving fast to escape her own fears.

When you’re new, and terrified, and your heart is in your mouth because pure youth is telling you you’re immortal but you can’t imagine living forever with the pain of what adults are doing to you every day, the beat that picks you up and shakes you out of yourself is a blessing. It gives you some small space to breathe, and sometimes that space is the difference between being broken and surviving with at least some psychological integrity.

A lot of my books are, deep down, about how to survive. A lot of the music I love is about finding a fraction of joy if one’s forced to live under a terrible regime. When I was very young, enduring the indignity of living required any joy I could lay my hands on, in books, in music, anywhere. It was a necessary inoculation against the despair of trying to survive an inhospitable environment (to put it lightly).

Turn it up, feel the beat, shake the world. Remember feeling young, both immortal and vulnerable?

I do. So let’s dance.