Autopsy

"Mom, you are enjoying yourself a little too much."
“Mom, you are enjoying yourself a little too much.”

The rice cooker died after many years of solid steadfast service–regular readers will remember there were sparks, scorching, and flipping of circuit breakers–and, being ever curious about how the damn thing worked, I took it apart. (It was non-repairable. TRUST ME.)

Heating element, spring, molded plastic, metal–there was a lot to marvel at. What I liked looking at most was the circuit board. Such tiny things! Brightly colored! I could guess what most of it did, and had fun prying at things. The Little Prince wanted to wield a screwdriver and deconstruct it, and Frau L was fascinated by the circuit board too. The Princess’s favorite part was the spring and the heating element, such elegant solutions to the problem of knowing when rice is done.

Autopsy means “to see for oneself”, and I am fascinated by it in most forms. Gandalf held a great deal of disdain for those who broke a thing to see how it’s made, but he said nothing about sifting through the already broken. (The older I get, the more I think Gandalf was a bit of a cranky Luddite.) Anyway, the rice cooker was full of recyclable materials, and I’ve saved the people at the plant the trouble of breaking it apart to get at them.

There is so much wonder in the world. Even in the broken things.

Dead Steam Soldier

Last night was taco night. I sautéed the dry grains for Spanish rice, put them in the steamer with the diced tomatoes and chilis (and carrots, any tomato-based sauce is better for the addition of a few shreds of carrot) and plugged the damn thing in.

A terrific blue POP! and the fridge died.

It’s on the same breaker as the outlet for the toasters and the rice steamer. I unplugged everything and sighed. The Princess’s eyebrows went up.

Fortunately, a quick flip of the breaker fixed the outlets, but then I looked more closely at our faithful, steamy servant.

dead soldier

Copper wire heading into the steamer’s body, nice and exposed. A little soot and burnt plastic, too, just to make things fun. Fortunately, I could plop some enameled cast iron on the stove and cook the rice that way, but I have become spoiled and am having longing thoughts of slipping out today to fetch a lovely Zojirushi or something similar. For a bonus, I can take this dead soldier apart and see how he’s made. (Yes, yes, only one Frankensteamer joke per person, please.)

The Princess expected me to be more irritated, but I was just glad the whole wall of outlets hadn’t been fried. In the grand scheme of things, one dead rice cooker is only a minor annoyance. Now, if it would have caught on fire, like the sweet potato in the microwave–which the children are STILL teasing me about–that would be something.

I’m just happy the incident didn’t involve a squirrel.

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.

Wilkommen, Frau L!

Trundles is too excited to stay awake.
Trundles is too excited to stay awake.
This last weekend, in addition to descending upon a list of housecleaning chores with the furor of a thousand winged monkeys, we picked up a German exchange student at the airport.

Frau[1] L is staying for almost a month and attending school with the Princess. She’s extremely sweet, extremely smart, and thrilled to be in America–though she is puzzled about a certain orange-haired demagogue, and we had a long chat about the vagaries of the American political system and our countries’ different (but the same!) xenophobia. Bonus: Frau L plays the cello, so I am selfishly glad I get to hear the mellow tones of my favorite instrument throughout the house. (I do love the piano, but a cello is just so…sonorous.)

The next few weeks are chock-full of activities and introductions to American culture–plus copyedits, always a good time. There’s all sorts of cooking to do–there is a dish with cabbage, bacon, and a special kind of dumpling-noodle I am eager to learn, for example. I am wondering what Frau L will think of the chaos of our high school’s halls during passing time.

Odd Trundles is beside himself with glee–someone new! to schnorgle! to love! to possibly get food from! Miss B, while slightly more dignified, is also extremely pleased at the advent of someone else to heeeerd. The cats, of course, are always glad of another pair of monkey-paws to pet them and open the kibble jar. Frau L has good-naturedly made friends with the nonhuman part of the Chez conglomerate. (Thank heavens she’s not allergic. That would be dreadful.)

Now it’s time for me to get as many pages of copyedits done as possible before everyone gets home from school. (Nos morituri, and all that.) Blogging may be a bit spotty over the next few weeks, as our schedules are packed.

*Exeunt to begin copyedits, carrying machete*

[1]I am sure someone will condescendingly say “Shouldn’t it be Fraulein L?” I am told that, no, the use of Fraulein is somewhat frowned upon these days, and just as many American women prefer Ms to Miss or Mrs, Frau is more preferable to many German ladies.

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.