Freeing, Not Optimal

Jozzie & Sugar Belle

Writing epic fantasy is very…different. For one thing, I’m not getting the “oh, this phase of the project is done” hit of dopamine as regularly as I’m accustomed to, and that makes me cranky. For another…well, let’s just say that working under another name is freeing, certainly, but it’s not even close to optimal. It would be better if the books weren’t regularly orphaned, or if I wasn’t treated like an embarrassing bodily noise instead of the person who’s writing the damn books everyone else’s job relies on.

But hey, you know…nothing’s perfect.

Anyway, I’m super cranky today. Lord Boxnoggin is whistling with his desire to get out the door for a run or get down the stairs to find a cat, whichever. And yes, his whine is so high and prolonged it sounds like a whistle. Not a train whistle, more like a kettle at low boil, right before all the water evaporates and you’re left with a lump of metal melted to the stovetop.

Not that I’d know anything about that, no sir. *clears throat*

I know exactly why I’m so upset. I dislike being ignored when it’s my work that creates the value for everyone else in the stream; if I’m not going to be granted a reply to my quite reasonable questions I shall work to please myself, and that might mean finishing another story or two for some sweet sweet dopamine before I go back to this beast. I have to have faith, and trust that the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing. Fifty-plus books in and I’m still having to hold my nose and step blindly where that bitch leads.

It’s enough to make me want to call the girls for a drunken night, stay absolutely sober, and write another Jozzie & Sugar Belle. At least that was fun and I got answers when I bothered to ask anyone about Tuckerisation or the like.

I suppose a run will put me in a better mood. I’m not being allowed to do my usual detailed work from start to finish with these books, and it irks me far more than I thought it would. In any case, I’ve learned my lesson: if I ever write YA or epic fantasy ever again, it will have to be for a publisher who doesn’t think readers are stupid or treat me like a rancid afterthought.

I hope such beasts exist.

*wanders off to run, muttering*

Adversarial Book

Took a bit of a sabbatical last week, at least from the blog and most social media. It was nice to do some deep breathing and restore my sense of proportion. I keep thinking I can save the world.

The world, however, either doesn’t want saving, or the job’s just too big for me. The latter isn’t so much of a consideration–I take on jobs too large for me all the time–but the former is. You can’t save those who want to drown.

The Poison Prince has broken the 60k mark, and I’m beginning to think I can pull this off. There’s no reason for the dividing line between books 2 and 3 to be placed exactly where it is; I can slide it back and forth as the need arises. Everyone in this book is talking when I need them to get to the dying.

This is probably a common problem in epic fantasy creation. *snork*

I’ve been moonlighting with a couple other things–Sons of Ymre, and the other Watcher book. Neither are moving very quickly because I have to fit in wordcount around the big bulk of Prince. I want to be done with this book so badly, it keeps me up at night sometimes. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard, because if I end up pulling all-nighters I’ll need longer to recover when I finally get a blade in the bowels of this fucking book and it breathes its last.

*eyes former paragraph* I may be having an adversarial relationship with this bloody book. Anyway.

It’s a cloudy morning; hopefully there won’t be anyone with unleashed dogs at the park. I’m having to stagger Miss B accompanying me; she’s getting to the age where the shorter runs are all she’s comfortably capable of. Of course she wants to go on every run, bar none. She would gladly run her heart out if I asked it of her, but I don’t ask it. In fact, I actively discourage such a thing, being a cruel and unjust owner who wishes to keep her safe and sound for a few more years.

It was awful to lose Odd Trundles, but the awfulness was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that we expected to lose him at any point, so it wasn’t exactly a shock. B, though…when she ascends to the great kibble bowl in the sky, I’m going to be devastated. It’s going to hurt worse than just about anything.

All the more reason to take care now while she’s with me, and snuggle her a bit more. If I can get her to hold still for it–she’s always wriggling free to go play with Boxnoggin. He is somewhat of an elixir of youth for her, their wrestling, yapping, and chasing serving to exercise them both. She’s pretty pissed every time he goes on a run alone with me.

Poor Miss B. She just longs to supervise everyone and everything, like the busy little bossy bee she is. Speaking of bees, there are no doubt going to be plenty of them trying to infiltrate my skull. Maybe I should braid my hair to give them more places to cling instead of a ponytail.

Well, that’s my morning work cut out for me. I suppose I should get moving.

Over and out…

Gut-Heaving Weekend

So Saturday morning, instead of settling down to work all day, I gutted out a run and came home to promptly lose everything I’d eaten in the last twelve hours.

Since I run in the mornings, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be, but bad enough. Still not sure if it was stomach flu or food poisoning. I’m tender in the middle right now but feeling ever so much better, especially since I had Sunday to recover as well.

The only bad thing is that I needed those days for work, not for time-sharing on the loo. I managed to get all my housework chores done, even the mopping, but dear gods in heaven, I would have rather been writing than heaving out my guts. Though the two often feel somewhat similar.

I’m fine now, as long as I eat as little as possible and don’t move too quickly. I don’t mind the non-eating; I’m busy enough that cutting down on meals or just eating a handful of bland stuff is a relief. But the moving slowly? I’ve got running to do, dammit, and it won’t get done if my body keeps being weird about it.

So it’s back to the epic fantasy, I guess, without a weekend’s worth of work on anything I want to write. At least I’m back in love with The Poison Prince, I made a decision last week that freed up a lot of mental and emotional energy. I’ve a death scene to write and the barbarian hordes to get moving for the border, so I’d best get started.

But first, a run. A nice gentle one with Sir Boxnoggin, since Miss B spent the entire weekend trotting after me and attempting, in her own inimitable fashion, to “help.” There isn’t much a dog can do when one is heaving, but she tried, and each time I got up in the middle of the night she was right there to herd me the few steps to the loo.

I suppose I’m lucky to have such aid. I would have hated to get lost.

Anyway, I am tender in a number of places but I have not yet begun to fight. Plus, Boxnoggin is all but vibrating in place. Time to get out the door.

See you around, chickadees.

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Cinnamon Roll Prospects

It’s one of those mornings. I’m barely vertical and even getting coffee down the hatch seems an impossible task. At least it smells like rain soon, and yesterday I had the great good fortune of getting my finger and toe claws into The Poison Prince. I even got my teeth into that fucking book, and shook it like Sir Boxnoggin with a squeaky toy.

Consequently, now I have a better scaffolding, and I feel like the book, while huge, is also manageable. If I keep biting, eventually I’ll bleed it into compliance. Most of the time, I settle into the story’s world with a thump, like the floor dropping a little during an earthquake. This time, the sensation is of my hands and feet aching and tense, my jaw clenched, while i see which direction the damn thing will veer in.

The Princess and her best friend are in the kitchen. I’m told there’s a prospect of cinnamon rolls soon, but I’d best get out to run before it happens. Maybe, now that I have all my spikes in Poison Prince, I can also juggle it with another work instead of letting it monopolize me. It would be great if I could just work on one book at a time, but the mortgage needs paying and the kids have this habit of eating.

Speaking of which, The Complete Roadtrip Z is available in ebook format through Gumroad now! It’s available for preorder but won’t be released on other distribution platforms until April 9, and Amazon might be later still because they won’t allow you to set an ebook for preorder unless you’re listing through KDP.

Of course, Amazon also lets plagiarists and scammers keep going, because they bring the ‘Zon cash. Which surprises exactly no-one. I’m still waiting for those assholes who came at me yelling when I pointed out “Amazon is not your friend” years ago to produce apologies. Something tells me I’ll wait forever.

I might as well write while I do, but not until I get this coffee finished. My stomach’s rolling like a heavy sea and I can’t wait to get out the door and shake all the fidgets away. I might even leave the last half of my coffee to do so.

Maybe. *eyes mug* Or maybe not. Over and out, dear ones.

Get It Early

The ebook version of the Roadtrip Z omnibus is almost out! You can get it early (tomorrow instead of the 9th) by buying direct on Gumroad if that’s your fancy, or preorder it through Barnes & Noble or Kobo. Amazon won’t let you list an ebook for preorder unless you use KDP, so sorry, Amazon folks–but if you need a .mobi, it comes with the .epub you purchase on Gumroad, so there’s that.

I’m considering a paper omnibus version of the first three Steelflower books too. I will not be putting Steelflower in Snow in ebook format in the foreseeable future. Every time I start thinking about it, some damn ebook pirate rears their nasty pimple-head, and I’m reminded of the feeling of utter violation those thefts force upon me.

It doesn’t help that when I mention there will not be an ebook release, I am immediately deluged by people calling me some variety of uppity because I don’t want my work stolen and and another variety of ableist because again, I don’t want my work stolen. And that just kills any desire I have to continue writing The Highlands War, too, especially since that’s a complex book requiring a lot of emotional energy.

Victory has a cost. Kaia knows that better than most, but Redfist has to learn, and it’ll take a lot of losing before he does. I know what happens, but writing it is a losing game if people are going to be so shitty to me about it. So there’s that.

In any case, it’s a Monday, the world smells like spring, and the bees are out looking for flowers. Some few of them circled my head yesterday as I was doing yard work, but they didn’t try to nest in my sloppy ponytail, thank goodness. The real test will be today’s run with Sir Boxnoggin. I’ll probably end up with a bee or two in my ears, and a few trying to crawl into my mouth besides.

It’s not like I grudge them the ride, but I really worry about inadvertently injuring one of the poor little fellows.

But before I can become a Totoro Catbus for bees, I have piano practice and the ritual shoe-tightening to perform, so I’d best get on that. I hope your Monday is gracious and kind, dear Reader.

If it’s not, I’ll hold it down and you kick it until it becomes amenable, all right? Or vice versa…