Soundtrack Monday: Boy With a Coin

Welcome back to Soundtrack Monday! This week’s track is Beth Orton’s beautiful, driving She Cries Your Name, which I listened to over and over whenever I needed to get into Robin Ragged’s head. Robin grew up in a trailer park, and Orton’s voice reliably brought her into focus for me. (The soundtrack for the entire trilogy is here.)

The Bannon & Clare books weren’t doing as well as the publisher liked, so my editor (my very favorite editor ever, actually) asked what else I had. As I recall it we were mid-contract, and normally I would have insisted that we stick with the last three books planned in that series (the trilogy where Emma and Archibald go to their world’s versions of China, America, and India, respectively) but…I trusted her.

That trust is one of the most valuable things a writer has. So, I said, “…all right, I’ve got this other thing. It has to do with the fae.”

And my editor said, “Great. Gimme.”

So I began writing about Jeremy Gallow, who hated himself far more than he did anyone else, and Robin Ragged, whose kindness was always used against her. Alastair Crenn showed up later; I only had a faint intimation of his presence while writing the first book. Sometimes characters surprise you like that, and every time I had to write Crenn I had to listen to another song…

…but that’s another Soundtrack Monday post, my beloveds, and this one appears to be done. Enjoy!

Bracing For Optimism

Boxnoggin has decided to go back to bed. Apparently a Monday is too much for even his spirit, and the leftover warmth is simply too enticing. Alas, I am forced to coffee and actual consciousness–or whatever approximation of the latter I can manage.

I spent the last of the weekend finishing Rebecca Suter’s The Japanization of Modernity, all about the work of Murakami Haruki. Consequently I think this week’s Reading with Lili will be about Murakami’s fabulous (in every sense) Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which I haven’t read in a hot minute. I was going to do Nancy Price’s Sleeping With the Enemy, but that can wait.

Price’s book got me through some rough times. I didn’t manage to see the movie until five or six years after I’d actually read it, so the two are only vaguely connected inside my head. And every time I water my African violets, certain bits of the book wander through my head.

It’s nice to have a plan–to have more things I want to share. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of cool books to talk about; it’s far more likely troll comments will make the entire project unsustainable, or the platforms I use for streaming etc. will burst into flame and sink into the swamps of corporate malfeasance.

I am also (apparently) a giant optimist this morning.

There’s work cut out for me today. Correspondence, figuring out the next step in Hell’s Acre, prepping for a big revision push–plus some copyedits–once December 1 hits, and a million other things I haven’t looked at the to-do list for. I know I’ll feel better after I get a run in, but at the moment my internal engines are catching and sputtering a bit. While I love the weather this time of year, I absolutely despise “the holidays”, and bracing myself for them is never pleasant.

The coffee has cooled, I feel like I’ve typed very little of real importance, and even though Boxnoggin loves the shelter of a warm bed he’ll be off-kilter all day if I don’t drag him out for walkies. You’d think a dog who protests so much over any deviation from routine and habit might be eager to get out the door no matter the state of the outside world. I can’t really blame him, though. I’d be back in bed if I didn’t have so much to get done today.

Or if not “done”, at least stabbed twice and left with a promise. I’d really rather be working on the bloody fanfic, but paying projects must when the devil drives, or something.

Yeah, I’ll definitely feel better after a run. Already this morning I’ve bandaged a minor injury that will make said run somewhat of a misery, but I need the sweat and endorphins too much to care. At least the laundry’s done, the plants are watered, and someone else is in charge of mopping the kitchen. Damn near a holiday, right?

Courage, my friends. I think I’m at the nadir of my detox from Twitter, and the next few days will see a marked change in both my mood and my productivity. All I have to do is stick today out; I hope your Monday will be similarly endurable.

Wish us both luck, my beloveds. Let’s get this bitch to Mount Doom.

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…