Keep a Straight Face

Well, I’ve made it through another weekend. Things are stressful, but I just have to keep plugging away making books, I guess. Hollywood can call me with that fantastic offer to buy movie rights any time now, is all I’m saying.

I finished the initial revise on Season One of HOOD, watched Season One of Broadchurch, and–because it delights my daughter–was introduced to anime of Black Butler, which is just so extra. I love everything about it, and now some of the jokes the kids make about it make ever so much more sense.

I mean, they explain the jokes enough that I can reference them in common conversation, but now I really get them, you know? It’s a series of exotic parenting moments. I mean, I knew that kids find out about a lot of things very quickly in school, but now there’s the internet and that’s a whole new vector. I don’t begrudge it, I’m just awfully, awfully glad that the little ones came to me while young with all sorts of anime-inspired questions that I could (fortunately) keep a straight face while I found somewhat age-appropriate answers for.

That’s the big secret of parenthood, is keeping a straight face during the whole thing.

Anyway, I’ve coffee to finish, a run to get in, and an ebook to proof. I’ll probably spend the day getting the end of HOOD‘s Season One scheduled and the preorder arrangements made. Once that’s set up, I’ll have to decide once and for all what I’m working on next. I’m enjoying the clamor of many projects for my attention; it’s the only time I feel in demand any more. Maybe tomorrow I’ll list those projects out so you can get a taste of what it’s like inside my head. (Doesn’t that sound like a threat, indeed.)

Anyway, time waits not for the weary or the wicked. I hope your weekend was as pleasant as mine, dear ones. Oh, and I should remind everyone that I’ve a new book out this month, and that you can read the first few chapters for free.

And now, Monday may begin.

Waffles and Huck

Steelflower in Snow

The Princess beat me at resurrecting this morning, so she made me coffee; also, a crow has decided that the gutter right over my office window is the premium perch for keeping an eye on the backyard. I’m most of the way through Holland’s The Allies Strike Back, too, though I’ll have to grab book one of the trilogy from the library next. I dislike reading history out of order, but there’s nothing to be done for it.

Yesterday was pure Monday, ameliorated only by the prospect of waffles for dinner1 and the fact that HOOD really isn’t a bad story. When I finished the zero of Season One, I was feeling kind of low and like I wouldn’t be able to pull the series off, but now I’m much more sanguine. There’s one more revise after this, but first I’ve got to get through the initial pass. Thankfully, layering in more details and adding things I didn’t know when I started writing is the sum of the edits; structurally, the book holds up rather well.

I’m also reading Huckleberry Finn with the Princess. I’ve halted at the point where the king and duke show up, mostly because that’s when the narrative takes a turn and I want all my faculties about me during the Nonesuch and Mary Jane bits. If I have a favorite novel, the honor must go to Jane Eyre, but Huck is definitely in the top five2. One of the best school papers I ever wrote was a monstrous (somewhere around twenty pages, single-spaced, typed on a balky old manual typewriter) examination of the Mississippi as a symbol. I’m sure the teachers were not at all prepared for what they got, but I’d found a list purporting to be the right way to write college essays and followed it to the letter. Not only did I approach every damn thing the list said, I threw in all the alternatives they had listed under the main paragraph idea breakdowns.

I was a real joy to teach, I’m sure. But I got an A on that fucking paper.

This particular critical edition has the raftsmen’s scene in it, and I can see why Twain (or his editor) excised it; I can also see why Twain would want it in. And of course the breathless racism is jarring. Every time I read the n-word it’s like a punch to the gut, and while I still admire the scene where Huck says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,”3 it doesn’t work unless Huck absolutely believes that the right thing to do is to turn Jim in. Even the right decision is suspect and provisional in a racist culture, and it’s sobering to unpick the logical consequences and knock-on effects.

And to see how little has changed since Twain wrote in the aftermath of the Civil War. I don’t quite see Huck as an answer to the war, though. Twain was struggling with endemic issues much as Dickens did (though with much more humor, it must be said) but the lacunae are huge. It makes one wonder about one’s own blind spots, swimming in different (but directly descended) cultural waters.

Or at least, it should, and if it doesn’t you should make it.

I tend not to halt to allow fellow readers to catch up while book-clubbing. Instead, I swallow the book whole, and if my fellow clubbers fall behind I go back and read certain bits to keep my memory fresh. So we’ll see how it goes. The Princess has the same edition I do, and wants to read critically, so it’s much slower for her than for me. I have about twenty years’ worth of skill she doesn’t, but on the other hand, she sees things I don’t, so I’m really looking forward to her analysis.

For a little while, after finishing Poison Prince revisions, I crawled into a movie or TV show at the end of the day, just stuffing my head with visuals to get my brain to stop chewing at itself. Now I’m in the secondary phase of recovery, where I’m stuffing text in; I’m crawling to the couch with a book instead. The kids are somewhat downcast, because watching movies with Mum is apparently pretty hilarious, but they’ll bring their Switches out and play quietly while I read, and every once in a while someone will say something amusing and we’ll all laugh. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.

I just have to get a full day’s work in before I can get there, which means I need to get out the damn door and run. Breakfast hasn’t quite settled but at least I’m pretty sure I won’t lose my coffee if I head out, and that’s the important thing.

Over and out, my dears.

Hives and HARMONY

I got out for a run while it was still cool this morning, or at least, cool-ish. Still, I couldn’t take the dogs; the poor things do even worse with heat than I do. They’re unhappy, but it’s better than them getting prostrated by the damn temperature.

They may also be cranky because I’m cranky, having awakened covered with hives. Last night I made the distinct mistake of drinking some red wine–a completely forgivable error, you know–and watching the Assassin’s Creed movie. Frankly, it would have been a lot better if the whole movie had been alt-history instead of alt-historical and modern uneasily bolted together. I could very much have watched a dirty Fassbender lisping Castilian all the way through, thank you and amen.

It still might have turned out all right, except the heat was really bad last night. Normally, up here in the PNW, the heat breaks in the evening and we get relatively cool nights. When that doesn’t happen, the cumulative stress makes my skin try to eat itself.

But it’s all good. I got out for a run and sweated out the worst of the stress, and have rinsed the rest off and made coffee. Even the bees were giving me somewhat of a wide berth today, bumbling over my hands and shoulders instead of nesting in my hair or trying to crawl into my mouth. Maybe they could smell the irritation coming off me in waves.

At least I’m back at work, revising HOOD‘s Season One. We’re coming up on the end of that, and I’ve got so much fun planned for Season Two, you just don’t even know. It’s going to be so much fun, and I have the last season in my head as well. It took longer than I liked to recover from revisions on The Poison Prince, but at least I have an answer for one of the knottiest plot problems in the third book of that series.

Said answer occurred to me quite naturally as I woke up this morning, my skin itching like a hive and my temper frayed almost past bearing. I had consigned it to the great engines beneath the floor of my conscious self, pretty sure that the Muse had an answer she’d give in due time.

Fellow writers often say you never learn how to write books more easily, you just learn how to write this one specific book you’re working on. That’s true as far as it goes, but one of the things an experienced writer can learn is when to consign a question to the great engines and leave it alone until the solution bursts forth, full-fledged, from said writer’s forehead. After a while you can feel the things working beneath the floorboards, chewing and grinding, and can even sense with something’s going to swell and burst.

It’s a particular type of relaxed concentration married to the willingness to keep yourself distracted with other work, with a large dash of learning to trust the Muse. I know I anthropomorphize the creative process, but it helps if I think I’m consigning the problem to her rather than to something impersonal.

So much of this career is learning how to game yourself. How to get the wild thing inside your head that’s fucking up your life and snap the traces on to put it to plow.

Anyway, I should remind you that if you want to read the first bit of Harmony for free, you can do so right here. Also, I’m hearing that some readers are experiencing quality issues with the Amazon-bought paperbacks of that book; if you are, please contact Amazon customer service. When Amazon folded CreateSpace in, the quality of their printing took a steep dive; this is something I have no control over. I did choose to offer the Harmony trade paperback through KDP instead of IngramSpark’s extended distribution for reader convenience, but if it’s going to mean this sort of hassle I won’t ever do so again.

I suppose I should finish my coffee, check the focaccia dough–of course, it’s going to be umpty-scrump degrees outside and I’m baking, because I lack all sorts of smarts–and get the subscriber perks for the week out the door. That, along with revisions, should keep me busy enough to stay out of trouble.

At least, for a little while. Over and out.

Fire Bad, Books Pretty

Rattlesnake Wind

I finished first-draft revisions of The Poison Prince on Saturday, and spent the rest of the weekend almost nonverbal and staring. I was afraid I’d busted my word-makers, because Saturday night I pointed at a packet of bread and could not, for the life of me, figure out what the motherfucker was called. The kids stepped in, of course, and were highly amused at having to do so. I felt like a three-year-old, pointing and making helpless sounds until someone supplied the word.

It’s much better now, though I found myself staring at the plastic bin I keep my morning gruel mix in (thank you, Bob’s Red Mill, for being awesome) and thinking, milk bits? No, that’s not it…plant bits? Ground-up…Wheaties…what the fuck?, before I finally got to “SEVEN GRAIN CEREAL WITH FLAXSEED,” which I bellowed loudly enough (in tones of complete triumph) to give both dogs somewhat of a turn.

At least I knew what to call coffee. Whether it’s “java” or “precious life-giving fluid that makes the murder retreat,” it’s named correctly, amen and thank you.

So Poison Prince is safely with the editor, and I can return to HOOD. I’m not going to push myself too hard today, since I’m out of the office (and consequently not answering anything even remotely close to work emails or calls) through tomorrow, I figure I’ll just poke at Season Two and also poke around to see what I want to finish next. There’s the storm-god-and-the-witch tale, or the sort-of-Assassin’s-Creed Victorian one, or the profiler-and-the-codependent, or the vampire reaper. It’s the last that interests me the most. I’ve been writing healers for a while, it feels like I need to go back to kickass bitches, and there’s not much more kickass than the woman they call in for supernatural law enforcement. I’m fascinated by the thought of what a society of near-immortals would consider as consisting of law enforcement or capital punishment, and how they would treat the members responsible for dispensing such.

Like, what happens when you’re a relatively young superhuman thing, who remembers your human days but are so gifted you’ve been tapped to basically commit state-sanctioned murder on a regular basis? What would that do to a person? What kind of person would survive that, and how would they get through it–especially if they run across something or someone most of their society would kill to own? Like, say, a young kid with the power to let a Reaper walk in the daylight?

It might not go anywhere, but it’s been a while since I wrote a protector instead of a healer, and I think I’d like to do it again. I’d have to put some deep thought into the rules of the world, especially the engagement with mortal beings. Which sounds like a pleasant way to spend my days off, along with reading.

I finished Max Hasting’s Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy over the weekend, which focused largely on the American experience. Then again, the subtitle makes it clear it’s 1945-1975, and America was the elephant stamping around most during that time, and Hastings is clear upon the point that Vietnamese archives and other primary sources are beyond the reach of most if not all Western scholars, so there are good reasons for the lacunae. Still, my heart aches.

In any case, it’s a warm morning, and I’ve got to get out before it gets worse. At least I have a little time to breath before the next project heats up. I can almost feel the wrapping going back onto my exposed nerves; pushing myself at white heat for two projects in a row will only be a choice worth castigating myself for if I don’t pay attention to recovery time.

Remember to treat yourself gently between projects, my dears. It saves you from lost time and crappy creative choices down the road, an outcome devoutly to be wished for. And, now that I’ve given you that advice, I’m going to go try and take it myself.

Over and out.

Running, an Inch

Steelflower in Snow

This morning, I was in a bit of a mood. Out the door with two fractious dogs into cold rain, one dog unfazed and the other wanting to pull ahead to finish the damn deed so he could go home and dry off, my patience was all but exhausted.

And yet, while my feet pound and my breath comes high and hard, I realize, this is not who I want to be. The irritation falls away; I leave it like a discarded skin and run into the future of who I do want to be.


Years ago, the stark grief of a broken heart pushed me further, faster. I ran until I couldn’t, without dog, bee, or any other companion, and when I stopped and closed my eyes, all that touched me was sunshine, dust, and the knowledge that I had done what was necessary. It still hurt.

It hurt.

And yet, when I opened my eyes, there was nothing to do but keep moving. I had to get home, after all. Sitting in the middle of a street and waiting for the rest of my life is not who I want to be.

So I chose differently. And kept going.


I began running because it was something I could do on a treadmill in the solarium. A single mother can’t leave her babies unprotected; besides, my body had become a stranger. I ran at first because it was the best of several bad options, then I kept running because the endorphins had me hooked, then I ran because it had become a habit.

Now I run because it soothes me, because it is still the only time I have to be truly alone. Despite the company of dogs, it is while running that my soul expands a little. The rest of the world falls away and I can see who I’ve been, and more importantly, who I want to be.


Irritated? I write. Happy? I write. Sad? I write. I do it because it’s what I was meant and made for, what I was designed to do. I am helpless to stop writing.

But running is a choice. The static vanishes. Physical motion, the thunder of my pulse, dripping sweat–all reminders that I can choose. There is only an inch allotted to us, a small, separate piece caught in the net of circumstance, privilege, physics, and obligation. They can take every inch of me–they have certainly tried, all my life–but one.

That small piece keeps me human. It is the part where I choose.


The dogs don’t like it when I run alone. Boxnoggin is protective; Miss B simply thinks it’s her duty to crawl under my skin and stay there. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, whether because of injury, weather, or other considerations, I find myself solitary.

I am alone, but I am never lonely while that small inch of me remains.


B slows near the end of even short runs now. She doesn’t want to, but she is becoming elderly, and her body does not do as she wishes. It doesn’t matter. Speed isn’t the issue. Looking down and seeing her grin as she paces me, in her accustomed place and all right with her world despite our slowness, fills me with aching love. I have so little time left with her; I slow as much as she needs.

Boxnoggin doesn’t quite have the rhythm down yet. He’s young, and though it’s been months, he learns at his own pace. Above all, he wants to protect his pack; the constant changing of our route during runs to make it easy for him to behave and get accustomed to the fact that when I need him to snap or growl I’ll let him know takes a lot of bandwidth. Still, we persevere. Eventually he’ll learn, and I will have become the person who gave him the space for that teaching to sink in.


When I was a child, my primary female caregiver wanted me to become a doctor. It was her own unfinished dream, and I was responsible for seeing it through. The knowledge loomed on the horizon like a mountain at the end of a sea journey, just a smear at first and for a long time neither larger nor smaller no matter how fast one sails. Suddenly, it begins to grow, and the shadow of expectation pressed on me from crown to soles. I couldn’t breathe.

I chose passive resistance to her dreams all my young life. But when I left that house, I had no idea how to find out what I wanted to be–or even who I was. I’ve spent decades trying to unravel the mystery, making false starts, drowning in other people’s needs, pouring myself into black holes, lighting myself on fire to keep others warm.

And then I began to run.


“I can tell you haven’t run today,” the kids say.

“I can tell you haven’t run today,” my writing partner says.

I can tell I haven’t run that day, and I close my eyes, imagine my feet hitting pavement and the wind making that low sweet sound in my ears. Even when I don’t run I can choose who I want to be. Running only reminds me. It shakes me, and while everything is whirling inside my skin I realize there are some things nailed down, some handholds I can trust on my internal cliff-face.

There is a me who can decide. I just have to give her an inch.


Today it was raining. The dogs were both tetchy, their fidgets not quite worked out yesterday. It took twenty damn minutes for the red cloud of irritation around me to blow away. Both beasts needed constant reminding and redirecting. Before I snapped, I took a deep breath, slowed my pace, untangled both of them, and swallowed the unkind things I might have muttered at their poor, silly, excited selves.

Unkind is not who I want to be.

The carapace falls away and I am damp and new, slowing to a walk and petting the canines who depend upon me. I tell them they are good, and they believe me. Sometimes–not very often–I slow enough to listen to them tell me I am good, and I try to believe them, too.

We walk home. Because we choose to.


I have kept a single inch to myself, one thing I have never mortgaged, sold, smothered to please someone else. I have fed others from my broken body and kept a single crust from the feast despite those who tell me it is selfish treachery to avoid subsuming myself completely. The world is hungry, abusers are famished; they will take even that last inch and leave for other tables while your bones rot.

I hid that inch so successfully it took running to find it again. And, over and over again, it expands to fill me while I write.

Running doesn’t fill me. It strips away the noise, the constant pressure, the weight of people who sold their inch or never found it, who want to crack my bones and eat my marrow to fill their own unending hunger where that small space used to be.

I learn, over and over again, that I choose who and what I am. There is an inch of me beyond reach, a table in the presence of mine enemies, and every time I lace up and buckle the dogs in, reach the end of warmup and pitch forward to take the first few steps into the uncertain future, I realize again that I am not lonely.

How can I be, while I run?

Coal Seam Impression

Spent the weekend watching Turkish serials, which was the best use of my internet connection since finding streaming Kdrama. Now it’s Monday and I’m back at work, which is going exactly how you’d think it would, especially since the dogs are In a Mood. Their morning run was full of bad behavior, probably because I didn’t take them out Saturday and Sunday is our rest day. I always get to feeling like my skin is full of itchy ants whenever I take a rest day, and it’s ever so much more worse for them, I suppose.

It was nice to have the time off. I did get recognized in the wild by a librarian last week, and had a pleasant chat. And I am currently typing on a keyboard presented to me by the Princess, because I ended up dumping thirty-two ounces of lemon water over the old one and the spare just wasn’t optimal.

So there are good things this week, but it’s hard to get back in the groove. I looked at the news this morning and absolutely should not have. I never thought I was the type to develop an ulcer about world events, so congratulations, I guess?

I know you guys are going to ask, so my favorite set of clips from a Turkish serial this weekend was Black White Love. Holy cow, can Ibrahim Celikkol smoulder. The man does a great impression of a coal seam burning for years until oxygen hits an exposed surface and WHAM. Lord, there was my narrative crack all over

Why, yes, I was scribbling notes on the smoulder the entire time, why do you ask? I have a type, and it’s repressed bad boy. Nice to watch, certainly, but very bad to be involved with. That’s part of the glory of being in my forties: I can enjoy the vibe without getting caught in it.

I am mildly amused it took me this long to learn, but oh well.

I have to decide if I want to do a fantasy or a vampire hitman for my next gift book–oh, what’s a gift book, you ask? It’s a book I write for someone. For example, I know my agent likes my YA stuff, so I wrote Harmony1 for her; I was in a generous mood so I wrote Jozzie & Sugar Belle for my Evil Ladies.2 I like taking a character or a situation that a friend gives me, spinning it out in my own inimitable fashion, and presenting it wrapped up in a bow. It’s one of the weird ways I show affection, like being willing to bring a tarp and a shovel at a moment’s notice or fussing at you to eat.

Right now the vampire hitman is winning out. I think it would be fun to write him, once I finish figuring out exactly what makes him tick.

…I’m sure I had something interesting to say when I started out, but it’s gone by the wayside as I’ve had to get up and deal with dogs and laundry. Time to put the headphones on and plan the day’s work, and if I’m very good, I’ll reward myself with a vampire priest hitman chapter or two.

Man, I have the best job.

Grab your weapons, chickadees. Let’s take Monday by storm.

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.