Troublesome Story

stabbity The genie story is being…troublesome. I finally figured out the problem, which was that it wanted me to go back and braid in the villain POVs it had merrily tossed by the wayside earlier. This led to me stamping about the house snarling, “You could have told me so,” at the Muse, who just laughed and selected another bonbon from a pretty pink-wrapped paper heart.

Some days, I think she does things just to spite me. Other days, I know she does.

Crappy writing days happen, and this week’s been a string of them. They come in different shapes and sizes.

There’s the “everyone will hate this, it’s full of holes, you’re not a real writer” days. There’s the days when you have to drag words kicking and screaming from your cerebellum, chip them free of old leaden rock. There’s the “cat videos are so much better than this” days, and the “Jesus fucking Christ what have I got myself into, we’re all going to starve because I think I can write” days. There’s the days you have to fight so hard to preserve your writing time from the internet, from friends who think “well, she works at home, of course she has time” or from the stupid machinery of living–you know, the stuff that forces you to do Other Things like shop for groceries or take the rubbish out.

After a long run of bad writing days, one can question one’s commitment a tad. This is when habit and discipline save you. Even two hundred measly words and a bucket of frustration is more than one had yesterday. (The frustration’s great fuel for running. Silver lining, I guess.) This is why I tell people who come to me for writing advice that it’s crucial to write every day, even if only for ten minutes. Set your smartphone or tiny kitchen timer. Carve out that space, and use it. It will save you when the bad writing days (inevitably) come along.

Sooner or later a good day will hit. You just have to be ready for it, and it’s a lot easier to be ready when you’re in the habit of showing up.

So I’m stubbornly going back to it. I thought I’d finish the genie story this week, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards. Today is for revising and knitting in more of the villain. Gutting it out, one day at a time, waiting for the magic. Sometimes it only happens in dribs and drabs, but those accretions add up. And finally, at last, you’ll have a whole zero draft on your hands.

That’s worth a little frustration.

Inefficiency Bothers Me

sixstringsamuraiicon You don’t change the location of a potluck two hours before the damn thing starts, especially on a work day. Apparently, though, one of the American teachers involved in the exchange program thought that was an appropriate thing to do. This is the same teacher that’s consistently twenty minutes late to every event, and whose indifferent organizing meant that at least three times several of the students were unable to contact their host parents when pickup times changed. *eyeroll* The inefficiency bothers me.

As I’m sure you can tell.

Most of all, though, I’m embarrassed by her. We’re supposed to be putting our best foot forward for the exchange program.

ANYWAY. All of this meant that instead of being able to attend two events for two different sets of kids, I could attend neither because I was busy driving everyone to where they needed to be. In any case, it’s over now, and I am hoping I don’t ever have to deal with this particular teacher ever again.

Revisions on She Wolf and Cub proceed apace. I’m doing a pass for formatting and basic things, since all my italics seem to have been stripped out. (You know how much I love my italics.) When that’s done, I’ll make another pass for details. The setting is so very clear in my head, but that needs to hit the page as well. If there ever was a book where I need to luxuriate in the background, it’s this one. The stacks of towering stone, the endlessness of the sand, the silver and indigo of the dunes at night, they all need to be brought forward.

So that’s my day. After, of course, I get out the door for my long run to sweat out the irritation from yesterday. I can even taste it, thin metal at the very back of my tongue. I never thought, when I started running, that it would be a mood regulator. Just one more benefit, I suppose, along with tiring out Miss B and working plot tangles loose.

Over and out.

Proprietary Imperative

victory The mason bees are back! I checked their little house recently and found a female busily filling one of the tubes with mud to seal up her freshly laid eggs. It feels like a small victory, even though I’ve been worried the little fellows won’t have enough to eat since it’s been so warm but the flowers aren’t really out yet. I hope they haven’t hatched too early.

They probably know what they’re doing, and all my worry is for naught. Still, I can’t help but feel proprietary.

Cormorant proceeds apace. Why is it that a book only heats up when I have fifty million other things going on? It’s like the Muse only wants to show up when she knows you only have a few minutes to steal, because time you’ve specifically set aside is so boring. Everyone has that time, but it’s the heart-in-mouth, slightly sweating, sneakthief moments she’s after. Maybe she’s only attracted by that heart-pounding sense of doing something forbidden.

She’s a bitch, but she manages to get the job done.

So we’re down to just the characters for the last half of Cormorant‘s third section, and as far as I can tell, the book is just about to heat up to the point where I can’t think of anything else, the point where I lunge for the end of the zero draft and pretty much everything that isn’t writing (or dealing with children’s critical needs) gets tossed out the window. This book would choose the week we have an exchange student and several events that require my complete (and maybe somewhat grudging) attention.

I keep telling myself I can just stick to the wordcount for each day and not go over, just get up and walk away when I’m finished with the day’s minimum quota, but that never happens in the last third of a book. The goddamn things worm inside my head and beat in time to my pulse, a swollen-sweet pain.

I wonder if that’s how the bees feel when it’s time to hatch. An imperative, so to speak. There comes a time when one has to struggle out of a mud-caked hole and fly, and when that time comes, nothing but testing your wings will do.

There’s no point in staying safe when there’s living–and writing–to be done.

Deep Desire

split infinitive Today, along with the laundry and prepping for our dinner (Frau L is going to show us a German method of making potato noodles and cabbage with bacon) I get to lunge through a bit more of Cormorant Run. I already have an editor asking, “Can we change the title?” and I have to say, “Not this one.” Some books can have their title changed–I’m thinking specifically of Valentine’s Fall here, which I wanted to use very badly for both Dead Man Rising and Saint City Sinners–but with others, the title is an integral part of what’s happening in the rest of the book.

Part of having a longstanding relationship with an editor is that you have to pick the hill you want to die on. I don’t set my heels very often, but when I do this particular editor knows better than to push me. I can be reasoned, and in some cases even bargained, with–but not always. On the other hand, I have to have the sense to know when my editor is right, and the sense to listen. It’s always a balance.

Anyway, today I begin to ratchet up the tension among the survivors in Cormorant. They’re in the Alley now, and that’s a very dangerous place. The sad thing is, no matter how hazardous one’s environment, it’s always other people who represent the greater threat. I learned this early and well, and it permeates much of my work.

There’s also, in this book, the idea that people will fool themselves much more easily and easily than any con artist could hope to. Everyone is in search of their deepest desire, and that desire is rarely ever conscious. Digging down layer by layer to know yourself–and to know that deep, deep wish–is strange, difficult work. Sometimes I think it’s what writing, on its most basic level, is. Each book is a processing of something, even the fun ones. Climb the mountain just a little, to prove that it’s a mountain[1].

Of course, writing is such a multifaceted thing, any time I start thinking “oh, it’s this and only this” I get rudely disabused of the notion. Never get too comfortable, or the Muse will pull out some pins to stick in your behind.

Over and out.

[1] And that’s all the Bene Gesserit I’m going to quote for the day.

Not Dead

vinicon Nope, I’m just resting. I think I’ll go for a walk.

Frau L came down with a bit of a travel cold, and the Princess had a resurgence of her almost-flu. For the last few days it’s been kind of sickbed central around here, and I’m feeling none too perky myself today. Trying to slow down and take a day off is almost as stressful as gathering all my resources and bringing t hem to bear on a copyedit in order to turn it around in the tiny timeframe allotted by the production department. Look, I love every single Production Department that’s ever handled my books, they just have some really small windows and I am no longer as spry as I used to be, sliding through them.

So! Today I am cleaning, doing laundry…and revisions on yet another book loom. She Wolf and Cub is going to be a book instead of a serial! I am revising now, packing even more cyborg-assassin-Western goodness into my homage to one of the greatest goddamn manga ever.

I’ve glanced over the manuscript in order to prep the revision engines inside my skull. I’d forgotten what it was like to slip inside that nameless narrator’s head. She’s very crisp and very efficient, and I find myself thinking in more clipped terms, moving with a different precision around the house. No, my characters aren’t me, but sometimes wearing their skin bleeds over into my life. It’s a funny job, this balancing between the outer world, the inner world, and the worlds one creates.

And that is my deep thought for the day, because I really need to get to work now. There’s some sunshine, so maybe I’ll even get a bit of spring weeding done if I can get enough inside work out of the way.

Here’s hoping.

On Steelflower, Redux

steelflower I get mail. Recently it was a scolding message sent to me through Patreon. This particular patron was only interested in Steelflower 2, and since that book is dead on the vine they wanted to cancel their pledge. Fair enough, except I can’t alter a patron’s pledges. That’s kind of the whole point of Patreon, but a second and a half spent with Google turned up some helpful information. (WHO KNEW?)

ANYWAY, the “scolding” bit was that I was “punishing” my readers for the “actions of one asshole.” I think I should post my entire reply here.

Dear *redacted*,

I received your message and wrote you one in return yesterday. Since it seems that didn’t go through, let’s try again!

I do not have the ability to alter my patrons’ pledges in any way, shape, or form. A quick Google, however, found this:

Link to Patreon FAQ on deleting pledges

One of the things I remember from your message yesterday was that you felt I was “punishing” readers for the actions of one person. I do not see it quite that way. In face, I would contend that, having suffered the loss of a significant amount of paid working time to write the 70K words I did get done on the sequel, and then feeling utterly violated when that one person (yes, I know who it was) uploaded Patreon bits to a torrent site, is a punishment far greater than any my readers may suffer. The subsequent financial “hit” and the fact that I cannot even open up the Steelflower 2 file on my word processor without feeling violently ill definitely qualify as punishments. It seems to me that however much readers may miss the exploits of Kaia and her crew, I miss them more. They are parts of me that have been completely, well, violated. I keep using that word because it is the one that applies.

Fortunately, readers who pledged through Patreon saw considerable chunks of that book, and they were the only people in the world (other than the e-pirates) who saw them. Even my agent didn’t get to read those.

Thank you very much for your communication. I hope this clarifies my stance on the entire sad matter.

Best,

Lilith Saintcrow

There is yet another twist to the Steelflower story–Samhain Publishing, the press that was kind enough to take a chance on the first book, had contracted for the second. Unfortunately, they are in they process of shutting their doors and have released me from the Steelflower 2 contract. So I am back where I was before I thought I could write the last two books of Kaia’s series–no publisher, and people taking time out of their busy lives to yell at me over things I have no control over. Only this time, there’s a significant financial hit from the loss of paid working time and BONUS e-piracy!

In short, I am right about here:

give_a_damn_icon

It will take a while for the rights to the first Kaia book to revert to me. When they do, I am having longing thoughts of just letting the book go quietly out of print. At least then, when people yell at me over the whole thing, I can just tip the e-mails into the “Entitled Prats” bin in my inbox and let them vanish forever into the screaming electronic wastes.

I’m done.

Over and out.

Mountain, Fork

twain3-00 Ever have one of those days where the sheer amount of things needing to be done in the upcoming weeks produces vapor-lock, and you are paralyzed by overwhelming anxiety?

Yeah. That was (sort of) yesterday, and is shaping up to be today. The only cure is putting my head down and performing small manageable chunks of larger tasks, but even then it feels like moving a mountain with a fork. Self-care becomes of primary importance in situations like this–because without it, the anxiety can eat you alive.

It has, after all, happened before.

I don’t talk a great deal about my anxiety disorder. (Or the goddamn depression.) One reason is that other people speak about it far more eloquently than I can. Another is the stigma of “mental illness”–though one way to break the stigma is to speak openly, sometimes I don’t have the fucking spoons. Then there’s the inevitable response that I need to “grow a thicker skin” or “get over it”. If I could “get over it” with sheer willpower, I would have done so. Lack of willpower is never something I’ve suffered. (I am, after all, still in publishing after a decade, not to mention still alive.) I tried the willpower route for years, and even when I was seeing Calm Therapist I resisted any suggestion that perhaps I might need a little more help. I’ve tried going off the meds, with Frau Doktor’s careful help, but the side effects of that have been…well, let’s just say there’s a reason I’m still on them and never miss a dose, though I loathe the very thought of taking pills for various reasons.

I am familiar with people who go off their meds regularly and use the occasion to spiral into an orgy of emotional (and physical) destruction of everyone around them–then go back on and blame the pills for the whole thing to escape responsibility for their actions. This is, in part, why I resisted taking pills at all; I do not ever want to even get close to being That Person. I am terrified of missing a dose; this makes me, I am told, one of the patients Frau Doktor worries about the least. (Which is nice.)

I still struggle with the feeling of being “weak” or “lesser” because the pharmaceutical help is necessary if I want not to wear my body out with its wonky over-response to stress. Life involves discomfort (thank you, Gautama Buddha) but, as Frau Doktor points out often, there’s regular discomfort and then there’s your body trying to hurt itself because of genetics and upbringing, and it only makes sense to treat the latter.

Even if you don’t have brain chemistry that actively tries to do you in, self-care is important. Yes, that voice in your head will always say “people are depending on me, I have to, I have to!” That’s all well and good, but one must care for oneself so one has the resources to care for everyone else.

So I’m off for a run, despite the anxiety screaming at me that I shouldn’t waste time on that when there’s so much work to be done. And I continue, day after day, holding my nose and taking the pills I don’t want to, because doing what’s necessary even when distasteful is what a responsible adult does. There is no room for the comforts of martyrdom when one has kids and dogs to feed, not to mention a house to keep from sliding into chaos.

Anyway, that’s the state of Chez Saintcrow today. (This is also the last day of the current coupon code at Payhip, if one is so inclined.) A morning run, using a fork to move a mountain, and remembering to eat.

When I put it that way, it sounds almost doable.