On HOOD

I’m almost ready to submerge again. Almost ready to turn off all socializing1 and dive into finishing a zero draft. Season One of HOOD wants to be born, and quickly.

It’s not the usual point in a draft for me to submerge. Normally it’s the last quarter of a book that comes out in a white heat. This time, a full third of the book wants my complete and total attention, mostly, I suspect, because of the speeder race. I also suspect that HOOD, while partly a tongue-in-cheek Robin Hood in Space2, is also about grief, and trauma, and survivor guilt.

I mean, plenty of my work centers on those issues anyway. Write what you know, right?


One of the more fascinating things about Robin Hood is how the legend changes. Taking it solely from the 1800s, Robin Hood has changed from Ivanhoe‘s cheerful patriotic fellow through a tights-clad, smirking mustachioed Errol Flynn to a somewhat smoldering3 combat veteran, with a detour through Disney4 and ending up somewhere between Russell Crowe’s constipated expression and Jonas Armstrong’s cocky but utterly forgettable second-fiddle to Richard Armitage’s tormented Guy of Gisbourne.

It’s the latest that gave me the kernel of HOOD, really. I know, it’s obvious, but I didn’t realize it while the seed was sprouting below conscious level. Robbing the rich to feed the poor is particularly germane to our current times, and it’s a great and worthy cause. But…it’s never as simple in implementation. Resistance is a business all its own, with all a business’s pitfalls.

Consequently, Alan-a-dale and Marian have taken center stage. Both work at different ends of resistance, Marah by using her social position to shield who she can and Al by somewhat more direct action. No doubt many will find Al’s methods reprehensible but more worthy, seeing in Marah’s choices a certain abnegation of responsibility.

I’m not so sure. Both, to my mind, are equally brave.


Robin, Guy, Friar Tuck, Little John–in HOOD they’re all veterans, and they return to a changed world. Plenty of my friends have. “Undeclared” wars and “police actions” are brutal, unholy euphemisms and leave only shattered bodies and minds in their wake. Once you’ve survived such a thing, how can you ever return? How do you find the way back to those left at “home”? How do you find your way towards a peacetime self, once you’ve had to do terrible things to survive?

Sometimes I think I write about nothing else because I’m trying to find the way to do so myself. I’ve often thought, in the black bleakness of 3am, why bother surviving if it makes me feel like this?

I keep writing because I can’t stop, but it’s also largely (I suspect) to push that question away. Answering it seems beyond my faint powers, but that’s no reason not to attempt doing so. Anything less than utter dedication to the attempt is spitting in the face of the great good luck that allows me to still draw breath.


One of the best treatments of Robin Hood I ever read was Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood, which was the first time the actual logistics of a band of forest outlaws intruded upon my young consciousness in the form of Robin’s blisters from digging privy ditches. Retreating to the woods to harry the oppressor requires iron will, craftiness, and an undying commitment to sanitation so half (or more) of your small force doesn’t succumb to parasites and sickness. Along with Jennifer Roberson’s Lady of the Forest, which centers on Marian’s position as a Saxon noblewoman faced with Norman invaders and institutional misogyny, Outlaws showed me that the real story wasn’t with Robin’s derring-do or Errol Flynn exploits.

Of course, myths survive because they are protean; they change their shape to suit our needs and deep desires. Right now, at this particular point in history and time, Robin Hood is a complex story about trauma, responsibility, the misuse of power, revolution and its habit of eating its young, and more–at least to me.

And of course, I’ve tossed in lightsabers, land speeders, faster-than-light travel and communications, Will Scarlet as a synthetic a la Aliens, generation ships, dualistic religion, the fact that human nature destroys the best ideological edifice, and more. Every writer is a magpie.


In any case, the first season is about to take me in its jaws and gallop for the finish line. I’m sure my version of Robin Hood says more about me and my current historical moment than anything else…

…but any story told by any human being is the same. We are fixed in time and space for a few brief moments, and we do what we can to mark the occasion.

See you in a bit, chickadees.

Hurt, Beautiful

This is the empty container for the antibacterial soap we found worked best for Odd Trundles’s yeasty paws. I…couldn’t toss it just yet. So it sits in the windowsill, where I see it while I do dishes and I think about that little fellow and how much I love him still.

The cracks in my heart make it bigger, make it easier for that beast to expand. But oh, sometimes…they ache.

And this is Sir Boxnoggin, Lord van der Sploot, who has put on several pounds and a layer of gloss to his coat and is hoping very much that you are bringing pets or a treat for a Very Good Boy. He has lost his shyness and become the goofball I suspected he was under all the trembling uncertainty.

So many things hurt. So many things are beautiful, too. Some days I can’t tell the two apart. I would not trade the pain to make the beauty more, or trade the beauty to make the pain less. It’s not the ache I dread, but going numb.

It’s been a long week, chickadees. Let’s all have a bit of a reward for getting through it in still-breathing fashion. Be kind to yourselves this weekend, please.

Over and out.

Safety, Sudden Ice

The cherry tree down the street is still attempting to bloom, in dribs and drabs. I’ve noticed some volunteer nasturtiums, too. Plenty of crocuses have poked their heads up, their hoods swelling with color that will eventually be flowers.

I want to grab all of them and say, softly but with great force, “Don’t. You don’t know what could happen, it’s only January, please, keep yourself safe.”

They don’t listen to me, of course, their knowledge is deeper than my fear.

My children are sixteen and twenty now. They are beautiful, caring, empathetic human beings–and I worry about predators and sick systems who prey upon such. I hope I’ve given them enough tools to spot the douchewads and jerks, I hope I have loved them so deeply and flagrantly that they know, no matter what, that they are worthy of such love and the predators who would convince them otherwise won’t find a purchase.

I know I can’t protect them from everything, much less sudden frosts. Yet the desire to keep them safe turns my hands into fists and my eyes into lamps, searching the dark waves past the safe harbor I’ve painfully assembled during the course of living.

I don’t understand those who see the vulnerable, the beautiful, and only wish to mar. I don’t understand people who see an expanse of unbroken snow and can’t rest until there are footprints or stains. I know they exist–I saw them, even as children, stripping leaves from branches not even hanging in their way, kicking the helpless and breaking ice on puddles just to hear the shattering, growing up to maim all those in their orbit one way or another.

There is no understanding to be reached, I suppose, only defense.

I know the cherry tree will survive and the crocuses will rise triumphant even if the ice comes. My Princess and Little Prince will meet terrible things in their lifetimes despite all my best efforts to protect and insulate. I have to trust that the tree, the flower, the young ones I carried in my own body have at least a fighting chance.

Spring is coming. One year it will pass me by…but not this year. I’m still here, searching the waters, calling out when the storm edges close. I am still longing to wrap the cherry tree in enough love to keep the frost at bay, to whisper to the crocuses you’re doing so well, to hug my almost-grown-up children and repeat the truth under all truths.

I love you so much. Please be careful, please be safe.

Safety may be an illusion in a cold, uncaring universe. Still I maintain the harbor for my beloveds, as long as I endure.

If the cold comes, it will find me ready.

Break to Fight Again

I’m drained today, my friends. The news is so awful, the fight seems so hopeless, nothing seems worth it. Part of the problem is I’ve been on Twitter a lot, and the firehose of bad news takes a toll. And then I feel weak, because I am relatively privileged and so many people are dealing with so much worse than I could ever dream of–and I can dream of a lot, as we well know.

I don’t mind admitting I feel sad, vulnerable, and broken right now. I know there’s no choice but to keep going, if only to make the defeat less severe for those with less advantage than myself. I feel like the job of telling stories is an important one, but I’m not up to the task and just fooling myself thinking I can make any difference at all.

I’m going to keep fighting–accepting defeat is not an option–but I could really use a break.

There are dogs to pet and walk, there are children to raise, there is coffee, and there is work to be done. Today the work might be all about renewing my will to fight, to keep putting one word after another, one foot before another.

I hope you’re doing better, chickadees, and if you’re not, at least we’re in the boat together. I’m holding the line as best I can, and I won’t let go no matter how the rope cuts.

Over and out.

Getting Through to New Year’s

Tomorrow is Yule proper, the longest night and the celebration of light returning–or at least, the hope of such. Today is the absolute earliest day I will allow Christmas music in the house; however, the Princess and Little Prince rarely want it. It saturates all public spaces; this is, by contrast, our refuge.

The dogs sense my tension. Boxnoggin is determined to fix whatever has my tail tied in a knot; Miss B dimly suspects this has happened before and is more sanguine. Come the morning of the 25th, when the cooking begins, both of them will be excited and anticipatory. I wonder what Boxnoggin’s other Christmases have been like. No doubt he’ll calm down once he’s stuffed full of ham, belly-scrubbings, and treats.

Growing up, this time of year was inevitably one of mounting unease culminating in explosion. I used to try to decide which was worse: several small fires or the menacingly quiet build-up to a terrifying conflagration. On the one hand, the several small rages and punishments kept me in a state of low-level terror until after New Year’s, on the other, the tension leading up to the huge explosion made me sick with anticipation and I eventually feared for my life during the inevitable culmination. Year after year it was a roulette.

The first time I spent a quiet Christmas just by myself was revelatory. Nobody was screaming, breaking plates or my toys; nobody was hissing that I didn’t deserve presents or that I was a selfish child for having been born; the day passed quietly without me sneaking away to hide under my bed or vomit hopelessly behind a locked bathroom door that could still be screwdriver-opened at any moment. I wasn’t dragged out to “participate”, I wasn’t glared at while I opened presents and tried to guess which ones would be taken away after extended family went home and the war I’d never signed up for returned.

It was wonderful.

When my children arrived, their obvious and visible joy in the holiday frightened me. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to live up to their expectations, I worried that they secretly felt as awful as I had during the whole thing and were suffering trying to hide it, I worried that I wasn’t providing enough gifts, enough “traditions”, enough of anything, especially on Christmases where the budget didn’t permit much in the way of presents. It’s kind of funny now–both kids tell me they’ve always loved the holiday and I’ve always made it special for them. They don’t really understand my unease, since it’s always been a time of joy for them, a time to roll around in evidence that their Mum indeed loves them fiercely, completely, utterly.

I still can’t decide which was worse, the ongoing small fires or the huge explosion. The latter generally cleared the air for a while, but the absolute unremitting fear for my life during it seems a high price to pay. On the other hand, the grinding tension of several small pokes, slaps, pinches, nasty comments, glares, tiny humiliations occurring in clusters before a relatively smaller eruption turned me into a big-eyed, quivering wreck, afraid to even breathe deeply.

There’s really nothing to recommend either.

The kids, of course, are oblivious, looking forward to tree-decorating and a glut of good food. Presents? Well, they have everything they want, really, but I was able to afford some small things this year, and it pleases me to think of their joy when the Glorious Morn rolls around.

Among my friends this year, I feel like I’m the strong one. I just want to get everyone through to New Year’s with a minimum of damage. I feel like I’m clinging grimly to a lifeboat’s sides, making sure everyone has their vests secured and rationing our shipboard biscuits while we wait for rescue, comforting who i can and soothing as far as I am able.

Sometimes I long for the brief period in my life where I could let this entire time of year pass without decoration or remark, safely curled up inside my shell. I only participate for others, and some years I wish I didn’t have to.

All the same, participating for the joy of others is exponentially better than the conflagration or the wilderness of small random fires. It’s even quite beautiful in its own way, and I’m happy to bring joy to the people I care for. It gives me a deep satisfaction that helps battle the residual stress, the way Christmas decorations or the collection of holiday smells make my stomach clench with pained panic. I often feel that being incapable of enjoying the damn holiday season detracts from the joy of people I love, and worry that it indeed makes me the selfish brat I was accused since birth of being.

For me, even the best Christmas isn’t as good as a regular day spent working. It’s a gauntlet to run through, something to endure, and I’m always deeply glad when it’s over.

I’m buckled in and buckled down, prepared to see it through. Let’s hope we all reach the New Year with the minimum of damage, my friends.

Over and out.

COVER REVEAL: Rattlesnake Wind

There are some books that live very close to the writer’s heart, and this is one of mine.

When I was much younger than today, we moved from Great Britain to Wyoming, and the culture shock was immense. The only thing to love about the place was the wind coming over vast sweeps of long grass and whispering secrets into my aching ears. When we left again, this time to move to the Pacific Northwest, I cried as quietly as I could in the car, telling the plains and the wind I’d be back.

It took many a year, but I finally returned. Not physically, but I’m not sure it matters.

Fireside was the only publisher willing to take a chance on this book, for a variety of reasons, and the only publisher I felt comfortable trusting its bloody beating heart to; this beautiful cover was made by Eleanor Chuah. I’m proud and honored to invite you into this book, my dear Readers, and I hope you enjoy it…

The first night we spent in that ancient mobile home, the wind mouthed its corners with a low whispering almost like words from another room.

Desiree Sarpe and her family–minus their domineering, abusive patriarch–have settled on the Wyoming plains, where the wind speaks, the grass whispers, and power comes in the strangest, most ordinary of forms. Unfortunately, the past and its terrors can’t be easily shaken, and Dez is about to find out how brutal, bloody, and costly magic really is…

Coming in December 2018; now available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent retailers.

Die Hard and Ham

They’re about to start playing Yule music everywhere you go. Honestly, they started even before Samhain; pretty soon the consumerism ramp-up will begin in July. I despise Yule music with a passion; it partakes of my feelings around the entire holiday. Especially my feelings from when I worked retail and saw overstimulated children dragged around by tired, snappish parents. The world might be better off if we stopped this ridiculousness, but as long as there’s money to be made we won’t.

Which is pretty par for the course with humanity, really.

You can probably tell I’m in a Monday mood. I’m sure lots of people really like Yule, but it was always such a source of stress and tension growing up I am allergic to the very mention. I’ve always seen it as a great pretense–people pretending to love their family get-togethers, people pretending they have the cash to spend on unwelcome gifts, you get the idea. Add in the fact that no gift I received as a child was permanently given or free1 and you can see why I just want to cancel the whole thing.

Fortunately, my kids feel the exact opposite way. To them, Yule has always been a soft, relaxing time, full of good food and happiness. It makes me feel good to see their joy; indeed, it’s the only reason I participate in the holiday anymore. But even so, I’d really like it if the whole thing didn’t send its tentacles creeping out to strangle other holidays I like better.

…it’s over a month away and already I’m done with the bullshit, it’s going to be a long holiday season.

In any case, there is a gentle jog to accomplish on my strained ankle, possibly while a dog or two tries to re-injure me, and there’s work to be done. There’s always work to be done, and perhaps I can work straight through all the foolishness and only start decorating on the solstice.

It’s worth a shot.

At least there will be Die Hard and ham, and a ham bone means split-pea soup. Which the kids despise, even after I christened it Dragon Snot Soup, so there’s more for me. It requires fresh bread, too, and that’s always a fun task. Now that I’ve finished my yearly complaining, I’ll be turning on my “ignore” blinkers and moving ahead.

Just kidding. I’ll complain more in the weeks to come. It’s a holiday tradition, after all.

*snork* Over and out.