Attempting Recovery, Again

I finished the zero draft of Ghost Squad #2 (Klemp’s book) this past weekend, and stick a fork in me, I’m done. My wrists are hashed, my brain is liquid–the last day’s push to get the book out settled at 10.7k wordcount, which is a bit excessive even for me–and my back aches, but at least the zero is done and I won’t have to write it ever again.

Revise it, sure. Take it through copyedits and proofs, yeah. But I won’t ever have to produce this particular zero ever again, and the thought makes me feel like singing.

Consequently I’m taking today off. Well, as much as I ever take a day off. Thursday looms large this week; there’s going to be a lot of food and I should start prepping now. Plus I didn’t get regular household chores done this past weekend because I was busy with Klemp and Beck’s story, not to mention setting up Book 3, which is Tax’s. (You guys are gonna love him.)

So today will be all about watching documentaries, cleaning, preparing for Thursday’s feast, and adding to the list of last-minute items needing to be acquired tomorrow. I won’t be leaving the house for a while after Tuesday’s planned trip, because Black Friday looms and I’m not about to deal with that ruckus during a pandemic, no sir.

I’d write more, but my hands ache. So I’ll simply bid you a civil adieu for the day, my beloveds, and go attempt recovery. It always takes three times as long as one thinks it will, and is dreadfully uncomfortable to boot. I had planned to get some damn revisions in this month too; I suppose there’s still time.

Just not today. In fact, once the dogs are walked, my sole overarching desire will be to go back to bed, and everything I attempt recovery-wise will only be marking time until I can crawl back into that warm safety.

See you around, beloveds.

Accused of Sympathy

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I, uh, may have fallen into a slight hole yesterday and dumped out 9k on Ghost Squad #2. Should really choose a title for this one; so far, it’s just “Klemp’s book.”

I suppose I could title it Duty but that might lock me into D-words for the rest of the series, and I’m not sure I want to go that route. It’s a pleasant problem to have–I honestly never meant Damage to have a sequel, but the editor loved the Squad and wanted their stories, so here we are.

Klemperer’s an interesting character. He’s the Squad’s jokester, always with a wisecrack handy. What nobody realizes (except perhaps Dez) is that the humor covers a deep well of rage, and he uses it to keep himself leashed as well as to get intel. I’m at the point in the book where things have gone very wrong, they’re about to get even worse, and this guy is still cracking jokes left, right, and center.

Most of them don’t get into the book, but I end up giggling while I type anyway.

My wrists are a bit hashed, and I have at least a third of the book still to go. It’s going to be a little longer than my romances usually run in zero draft, mostly because the setup had to be just right so when my heroine’s temper finally snapped it would touch off the right set of tangled consequences.

I might be accused of having sympathy for said heroine, but not really liking her until said temper actually did snap. You can tell a lot about a person–even a fictional one–by how they act when they have finally been pushed past bearing.

Not only that, but I need to get a fellow Ghost Squad member into the mix as soon as possible, which will require yet another ratcheting-up of tension so Klemp makes the decision to call a buddy. That will be today’s work; despite appearances, I have plenty more tension planned for these characters. The heroine thinks it’s as bad as it could get, Klemp knows a little better, but neither of them are prepared for what I’m about to subject them to.

For lo, I am a cruel and vengeful writer-goddess.

I’m not sure, but I might finish a zero draft this week. If that happens I might even have time to get the revisions on a separate duology done before the end of the month, like I originally planned and had a minor breakdown when I realized I might not be able to.

I loathe not being at full productivity. I don’t care if it is a pandemic, I want to work, goddammit.

All of this means my hands and wrists are suffering a bit. Lots of stretching, ibuprofen, and ice in my future, I guess. I’m itching to get back to the work, but I have to walk the dogs and run my own weary corpse before I can get down to it. That’s not entirely bad–I can plan out several details during both, my mind working furiously while my body’s doing something else.

I suppose I’d best get started; the dogs are anxious. The could not care less about the book, all they know is that as soon as I finish my coffee, it’s time for toast, tying Mum’s shoes, and engaging on the daily ramble. They’re furry little anchors to the real world, and I love them for it, even if I am all but vibrating with the desire to get back to the story.

See you around, my beloveds. I hope your Tuesday is as pleasant as I anticipate mine to become.

Prolific, No Choice

NaNoWriMo proceeds apace. I dumped out 6k on Ghost Squad #2 yesterday, but realized late in the evening that I have to go back and change a Rather Significant Plot Point in order to make the rest of the book hang as it needs to. That will be today’s work, I should think, plus some cleanup.

Reader mail comes in waves. I’ve been getting a lot of the “How are you so prolific?” questions lately. Which is odd, because I’m working at about half productivity right now due to ongoing pandemic stress, and I hate it. But I did take a look at things, and realized Working For the Devil–not my first published book, just my first trad-published book–came out in 2005.

That was a minute ago, wasn’t it. My stars.

So I’ve been around for a few years, which isn’t so rare. (Writers, as Tess Gerritsen once memorably pointed out, tend to die with their boots on.) But there’s also the fact that I do little else.

I started in this game back when submitting one’s manuscripts by email was just beginning to be standard practice. It was also the Wild Wild West era of Ellora’s Cave, and we all remember how that was.

…sorry, I just had of of those old lady “those were the days” moments.

Anyway, I had two toddlers and another dependent to feed, as well as the cats, and I had the dubious benefit of a spouse who simply wouldn’t get a job they felt beneath them. (Spoiler: This eventually turned into “wouldn’t get any job at all.”) Writing stories, which I’d always done, could occur at home while I raised and homeschooled two very young kids. I could fit paragraphs between the constant disasters of young childhood and the relentless backbreaking work of trying to keep the house fit for human habitation despite the best efforts of cats, human-toddler chaos emitters, and said spouse, who not only wouldn’t get a job but seemed bizarrely determined to undercut any success I could find, too.

Which was odd, because by then I was the one paying the bills, so said spouse’s behavior seemed counterproductive at best. Anyway, I wrote anything possible for anyone who would pay me, and sometimes I even think of those days fondly.

I learned, as they say, a lot.

Fast-forward a couple years, I was beginning to get some real traction and the divorce was well underway. Which eased some pressure–instead of three dependents, the cats, and a constant battle cleaning up after and putting up with said spouse, I only had three dependents and the cats to support with a notoriously fickle career in a highly competitive industry, where returns on investment dribble in over months at best and years at worst.

If I’d had the time to think about it, I might’ve considered giving up.

The kids went into public school, and eventually my dependent count dropped to two. The cats stayed about the same, but a dog came along. Things eased up to the point where I could, with a lot of luck, get us moved into the current chez. But it was never certain. I had to produce at a frenetic pace just to keep the lights on, the new mortgage paid, and some milk in the fridge.

Now, I had (and still have) a great many advantages. I’ve been writing stories all my life so I had some practice, and I managed to keep an internet connection all through the entire deal. The spouse, when they’d had a job, was fond of technological gadgets, so I had what passed for a reasonable laptop until I could generate some income and get better tech.

I still have that original Asus laptop in a file cabinet drawer. The thing gave signal service, and the duct tape shows it.

I got a lot of lucky breaks; because I was desperate I used every one of them. I read slush, I edited and charged per page, and I wrote cover copy on the side while learning the ropes of small-press and trad at high speed. I lucked into an agent–I was such a baby writer I didn’t even know she was offering me representation during our first phone call.

So I was incredibly privileged and fortunate, even if it was never a sure thing and the stress was mind-boggling. I managed to keep the lights on, but it meant I literally didn’t have time for anything else.

No telly. Very few cons or events–which truth be told I didn’t miss, between the hassle of getting childcare and the ever-present harassment. No real hobbies or leisure. Tried dating a couple times, but my workload (and, let’s be fair, probably my personality) put paid to that.

So I parented, I wrote, I made deadlines, I read history and research when I could, and I fell into bed after eighteen-hour days for a few fitful hours of tossing before I got up and did it all again, for years. Was it great practice? Yes. Did it keep us fed? Yes.

Would I do it again? I hope I never have to. I had what amounted to a breakdown during the divorce and went into therapy–cash pay, with a therapist who had a sliding scale, but part of my privilege lays in knowing things like that are even an option, so I was operating with a distinct advantage.

All of this is not an origin story. Women all over the world do far more with much less every day. This is just to explain that I’m prolific because I had (and still have) no choice. I don’t write, we don’t eat, and good gods but the dogs love eating. Not to mention the kids.

Things are way easier now. The kids are older and contributing to the household to keep us on more or less an even keel. I’ve achieved some small success in my chosen field, and all those years of sleepless, laser-focused intensity are paying off–though said payoff is invested right back into the career keeping us afloat, as has been the case for years.

I still don’t watch a lot of telly other people do, even with streaming. I still put in eighteen-hour days, just far less often. I do now have semi-hobbies–I knit and cook, for example, and hot-glue googly eyes to things–but the fact remains most of my time is spent writing. I haven’t really slowed down, though several outside stressors have either vanished or been mitigated. I’m highly productive because I have to be in order to feed us all, and because I literally don’t do anything else.

It’s not bad. I’m doing the thing I was meant and made for, so the work is often enjoyable. Lots of people have it worse. I’ve never really thought of stopping–for one thing, I’m not fit for human consumption most days, so an office or retail job would quickly founder under my atrophied ability to put up with entitled customer or middle-manager bullshit.

So, to answer the question, I’m prolific because I do little else but write and have for almost two decades now. In other words, “that’s my secret, Cap–I’m always working.”

I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. It’s a helluva career, but it’s mine and after all this time I’m peculiarly fond of it. I look forward to telling you many more stories. Maybe one day I’ll get some spare time…

…but don’t bet on it. I suspect I’ll die, as Gerritsen says, with my boots on.

So to speak.

Leaf Magic

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Just hanging out…

The feeling when one is just ditty-bopping along, minding one’s own ditty-bopping business, and one comes across a floating bit of leaf…suspended from gossamer threads tiny eight-legged predators extrude from their backsides.

You cannot tell me Nature, the gods, the Universe, or whatever’s responsible for All This doesn’t have a sense of humor. Sometimes that sense is almost as bleak and mordant as my own, sometimes it leaves mine in the dust, and sometimes it’s complete zaniness. I mean, think of platypuses, a giraffe’s blood pressure, fungus in general, the fact that rats laugh when you tickle them, entire groves of birch trees as a single organism–and floating leaf-bits, hanging from silk from spider buttholes.

Laughing at the absurdity is better than screaming at an uncaring universe. Or so I firmly believe, and will believe until I am shuffled out of the mortal coil. Plus, this shit is just genuinely hilarious.

Have a lovely weekend, my darlings. Be kind to yourselves, and each other; keep a sharp eye out for the weirdly funny lingering in every corner…

Bureaucracy, Serial, and Sale

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I feel like I lost an entire day, because it taken up with a visit to a hive of wretchedness and bureaucracy, terror and paperwork.

That’s right, we visited the DMV.

It wasn’t half bad. They have shifted to appointment-only for some things (coincidentally, the items we needed done) but we scored a few slots around the same timeand so could accomplish everything the family needed in one trip. I was braced for a lot of unpleasantness that didn’t happen, and I always like it when I’ve overprepared rather than the opposite.

In other news, I’ve put my current serial, Hell’s Acre, in Kindle Vella. What started out as an experiment with crowdfunding the writing of Roadtrip Z has turned into me having a dedicated slot in my writing schedule for an ongoing serial, and so far it’s worked out pretty well. The adventures of Ginny, Lee, Juju and the gang gave way to HOOD, and now Hell’s Acre. So I guess you could say the experiment is working out well.

I love this way of writing, because not only do I get to tackle longer, more complex stories trad publishers probably wouldn’t take a chance on, but also get to show my beloved Readers and subscribers a lot of what happens behind the curtain and under the hood. It’s a great way for readers to see how a story grows, and what changes between the initial idea and the final, finished book. I’m curious to see how the Vella thing works out.

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In other other news, Harmony is $3.99 across ebook platforms until December 1. I like running sales, and I am under strict orders to do some more marketing. (Very strict. Like, Box of Shame strict.)

After the crashing realization that I am, indeed, reduced to only being able to work on one project at a time for some short while, I’ve rearranged said writing schedule a bit. “Go until burnout and then back off two paces” really isn’t optimal, though I don’t seem to have any other setting. Or, rather, it would be a little less suboptimal if Current World Events weren’t also kicking my emotional ass.

Writing takes energy–physical, mental, emotional, and I daresay even spiritual. Carefully shepherding and guarding that energy from a world desperate to tear it away is an ongoing balance, requiring constant vigilance and readjustment. At least, it’s that way for me; I’m not sure about other wordwrights.

On the bright side, the atmospheric river is bringing all sorts of rain our way. It’s grey and positively filthy outside, I love it. The dogs will be nonplussed during walkies–well, Miss B, being an all-weather pooch, will be quite sanguine, though I’m sure her joints ache a bit. Boxnoggin despises water falling from the sky, poor fellow. He thinks his beloved Mum is responsible for it, that for some incomprehensible reason I’m making the sky drench us all.

I wish I had even a fraction of the power that dog apparently thinks I possess. Or maybe I don’t, because I’m not sure I could be trusted to use it responsibly. My ongoing thought experiment of “what would happen if I had pyrokinesis?” rather bears out that caution, because they all end with me cackling in pleased fury.

In any case, walkies must happen no matter how much Boxnoggin would like them to be dry year-round, and I’ve my own weary corpse to run in the rain. Peeling out of my running togs before slithering into a warm shower will be glorious today, but I’ve got several kilometers to go before that’s an option and I’m not sure whether this persistent headache is sinuses, stress, or low blood sugar.

Time to get started.

Hoping For Temporary

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The third and final!

I…might have to rethink November’s schedule.

In a normal year, I would be able to do NaNoWriMo and get other projects done on the side, no problem. Piece of cake, because it’s just a normal workload, after all.

But after two years of pandemic plus a fascist coup1 and a few personal-life events, I think I’m beginning to crack.

In other words, I can write this damn novel or I can get the revisions for Black God’s Heart done. I can’t gear-shift between the two in a single day, as I normally would. And this is driving me, in technical terms, utterly batshit.

I’m used to writing at least four new books at any given time2, juggling between them as they reach different stages of the process. Revisions can generally take up two of those daily working slots, while CEs and proofs are short-term intense efforts requiring a few days of complete effort, all my engines turned to the task at hand. This is the way I’ve worked since the beginning.

But now, it appears I can either work on a new book3, or I can do the revisions. I can’t do both. I’m unsure how long the damn revisions will take (another new thing, thanks, I hate it) and that might push the goal I’ve set myself–finishing Ghost Squad #2 during NaNo–into the realm of utter impossibility.

This infuriates me to a degree I am slightly baffled by. There have been only two times in my life the words have flat-out refused to come4 and I am somewhat frightened the current state of affairs presages a third. For someone used to juggling chainsaws with some facility, if not ease, it’s…disconcerting.

Really disconcerting.

I’m hoping this is temporary. I’m hoping a good hard run or two and a couple days’ worth of internal pep talks will remove whatever this damn blockage is. I’m used to being able to will–or simply flat-out endure–my way out of problems; this time, throwing myself against the wall is producing a little less of a dent than usual.

At least the weather is nice and grey. And at least NaNo is only a personal goal, not a hard-and-fast one. Still…the thought that I might be cracking under the strain and becoming unable to work at even half my usual pace is terrifying, and I would really prefer not to have that hanging around while I’m trying to concentrate.

So…if you, my beloveds, are having similar issues, you’re not alone. We’ve been holding on for so long, and the frustration–we could have been done with this and focusing on rebuilding by now, if not for some selfish, racist asshats–is intense, at least for me. If you’re having trouble concentrating, if you’re only working at half speed or less, this is entirely reasonable. I mean, just look at what we’re facing. It’s a wonder any of us bother to get out of bed at this rate, even when forced by the exigencies of survival under late-stage capitalism.

I don’t even have a ding-dang suggestion for overcoming or whatnot. “I suppose we just have to hold on,” isn’t a suggestion. It’s more like a desperate prayer.

Regardless, there’s coffee to finish and the dogs to get out for a walk. Yesterday I spent with the NaNo novel, today I’ll spend with the damn revisions. If something’s got to give, it’s going to have to be Klemp and Beck at the moment. I know they’ll wait, and yet…

Tuesday beckons. I keep giving the baseball bat longing looks.

Time to get started.

Covers and Schedules, Oh My

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Oh look, The Bloody Throne has a cover! Whew. I’m still waiting for the author’s copies, which will mean the series is all the way done instead of just mostly done, but it’s very nice to reach each semi-final milestone.

Winter–such as it is in the Pacific Northwest–has arrived. The first line of real, lovely storms moved in, dumping rain and stripping plenty of leaves. The clinging remainders are brightly colored, as a rule; there are bits of wet flame everywhere. The dogs are extremely glad for the heated mattress topper1 on my bed; Miss B’s old bones and Boxnoggin’s slick coat mean they both enjoy the heat on “their” side.

Yes, they have a whole side of the bed. In the first place, I’m a sucker. In the second place, they’ll alert me of hijinks and intruders, and that’s part of their job.

They work hard, the fuzzy little brats.

I spent the weekend with kitchen chemistry. My candymaking is improving by leaps and bounds, mostly due to having the proper tools. It’s been a real journey of, “Oh, this is why they recommend using one of these! Who knew?”

I did not work on the NaNoWriMo book more than lightly. Ghost Squad #2 (Klemp’s book, for those playing along at home) is moving right along. It’s about time for the first real danger, which I think will be cut brake lines.

I just have to figure out what in hell the cutter of said brake lines is bloody well thinking. They’re utterly convinced of the rightness of this course of action, while I’m mystified. They’ll tell me in a bit, I’m sure, I just have to trust the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing when she insists on something like this.

Never been wrong yet, but there’s always a first time.

I also have to reserve a significant amount of time today for revisions on The Black God’s Heart. I’m getting to the point where I distrust both projects, revising or in the process of creation, which is normal at their respective parts of the process but hardly comfortable, especially when I’m staring at the NaNo book and muttering, “why the fuck did I think I could do this, who the fuck do I think I am, everyone is going to hate this book, YOU MIGHT AS WELL STOP WRITING NOW, LILI.”

Plus ça change, and all that. Plus there’s the pressure of other deadlines looming. My ability to distinguish between “deadline RIGHT NOW” and “deadline a little later” is all caddywumpus, despite all the scheduling software I use to keep on track. (I like Cushion.) I thought I could also work on Jake’s book (Sons of Ymre #2) at the same time, but instead of being able to juggle four projects at once I’m down to two slots during the day when I can give my full attention to things.

I’m torn between “lo, how the mighty have fallen” and “this goddamn pandemic, we could have been past this by now if YOU PEOPLE2 would just cooperate.” Neither are particularly comfortable.

At least there’s some rain. Most mornings are nice and grey, just the way I like them. Boxnoggin is definitely not pleased by that, but he loves the occasional blaze in the fireplace, cuddles on the couch, and (of course) the heated mattress topper, which sometimes I turn on during the day for his napping pleasure.

There are good things in this season, even for a summer dog.

My scheduling app informs me that it’s time to swill the rest of this coffee and get the canines walked. We’re a bit early this morning, because there’s a lot to do. I suppose I should get started.

Let’s hope our respective Mondays behave, my dearests. If not, I’ve got that ashwood Louisville Slugger ready.

It’s nice to have a plan.