Soundtrack Monday: Whispering

It’s another Soundtrack Monday! I spent the morning in bed reading, which was the right choice. There are a lot of libraries in my work–the magical nod to Robin McKinley’s Beauty in Rose & Thunder springs to mind, as well as The Demon’s Librarian, naturally.

The one I’m thinking of now is the self-healing one in Moon’s Knight, with its orrery that owes a great deal to Aughra’s (of Dark Crystal fame). The red sun in that book is partly Darkover, partly Dark Crystal, and partly Krypton, I think, with a heavy dose of my own tiredness during lockdown.

Moon’s Knight burned through me during the worst of that uncertainty. I needed an escape, and what better than a portal fantasy? I wasn’t even planning on publishing it; I just sent the first draft to beta readers hoping to provide them with a little relief from the crushing terror and agony. I don’t like thinking about that time, but thankfully the book itself doesn’t give me the willies. The response from the betas was a howl of “no, this book helped, what do you mean you’re not gonna publish it?”

So…I had to. And I’m glad I did, if only for the amusement of that one “reviewer” who didn’t like that the main character has a bone to pick with the god who would kill her best friend.

Ahem. But amusement aside, the full soundtrack is here, starting with Gin’s feelings at the funeral and ending with…well, you’d have to read to find out.

Of course the song that gave me the key to the prince in black was Alex Clare’s Whispering, which expresses him very well. He doesn’t show a lot of what he’s actually feeling–probably a function of his age–and his motivations aren’t the best in the world. And yet, the story is what the story is. Since I was writing only for myself, I didn’t have to coax him into being anything else. He is as he is, and so is Ginevra and the rest of that world.

Anyway, Boxnoggin needs his walkies, and since I spent a few hours later in bed the rest of today’s work will no doubt be a boondoggle. But I regret nothing. Sometimes one just has to say “fuck it” and refuse to let the piddly little fact of dawn interfere with one’s plans. It’s been a while since I wrote solely to please myself, and I think I will soonish, once I get a few other things cleared.

I’m looking forward to it.

Eggs, Bitter, Wondrous

My dreams have been somewhat feverish of late, but not in a fun way–the kind that I can glean bits of stories and imagery from. Instead, it’s more like mental housecleaning, my brain packing things up tidily and storing them in color-coded bins. Most of the time the interior of my skull is more of a heap, or Barliman’s lumber-room, thing wanted often buried. It’s nice to know someone’s taking an interest in cleanliness; yet I can’t help thinking that Kondo-ing my head is a bad idea.

If only for the monsters which lie sleeping therein, and the risks of disturbing them.

At the same time, it’s been a long while since I’ve had a spate of nocturnal mental activity like this. I’m choosing to view it as some sort of healing (or pandemic trauma) or adjustment (to the state of STILL being in a fucking pandemic), or both. Porque no los dos, and all that. There’s probably a healthy serving of Twitter detox in there; I am now pretty much fully divorced from the site that took up a great deal of my time and social energy since 2009.

After the acute phase of detoxification, there’s a longer period of settling in and finding what one needs elsewhere. I’m glad I set up my Mastodon instance in ’17, and had enough time to get comfortable there; I’m also super glad I kept my Tumblr. The practice of never putting all one’s eggs in a single basket does bear fruit; unfortunately, the fruit tends to be a bit bitter since one never thinks about it until the pinch comes.

Speaking of a pinch coming, my friend Skyla has a post up detailing some more Amazon fuckery. Bezos’s princedom is not a friend to authors, in any way, shape, or form.

Now, a lot of readers ask, “does it help if I buy your books elsewhere,” and sometimes it does. But honestly, my beloveds, buy wherever you please and wherever is best for you, and if that happens to be Amazon that’s fine. Authors just prefer you to buy the books instead of stealing them (remember, kids, e-piracy is theft plain and simple) and we understand our readers have finite supplies of money and reading time. Buy wherever you gotta–and before you ask, libraries count! We love libraries, they pay a fair price for the books they lend and no author dislikes that.

It does help, however, if you also leave a rating or review wherever you buy. We’re all forced to deal with the algorithm these days, in one way or another. Living in the future is endlessly wondrous, and some bits of it suck.

Oh! Before I forget, I have another sale to highlight. If you like HOOD, the Complete Serial ebook is 25% off at Kobo, with the code “25JAN” entered at checkout, from January 19-30. The rest of the month’s sales can be found here.

I like highlighting monthly sales, though it’s a lot of work and I might take February off. What with two massive projects to finish and other chainsaws in the air, I might not have time. Ah well. There’s always April.

…I can’t believe I just typed that. We’re in 2023 already, fa cry-eye. I keep muttering that time has no meaning, but honestly, the amount of psychic (and other) trauma that has attacked our (always very subjective) sense of time passing is nontrivial. And I’m sure it’ll become worse before it gets better.

On that cheerful note, it’s time to embark upon Tuesday. The apocalypse is shambling to Bethlehem apace, but Boxnoggin still needs walkies and the stories must still be told. I am grateful (I suppose that’s the word?) for such things to focus on. It’s better than any number of alternatives I can think of, some swirling through my dreams at night.

Though never moving quite hard enough to trigger a story, alas. It’s not like I have any shortage, though.

See you around.

Past the Crest

I’m choosing to find more things hilarious these days. It’s a welcome change, even if the laughter has somewhat of a scream-y edge. As a coping mechanism, it’s better than many others.

Not much work got done yesterday, but correspondence and a video meeting were dealt with, so there’s that. I might be doing a livestream reading of The Eye of Argon in the near future. (Blame Curtis for this one. HE’S RESPONSIBLE, IT’S NOT MY FAULT.) I know of the novella, certainly, but I’ve never read it before. So I’d be doing it completely cold, until I can’t go on or the story is finished. It sounds like a good bit of fun, and I’ll keep the recording up for a couple weeks. I might even ask Eustace the sock monkey (my newsletter readers know all about him) or Clara the rubber vulture for help during it. (Harlowe, Eustace’s best friend, isn’t interested.) So there’s that.

I also got the most hilarious review late yesterday evening. Normally I don’t look at reviews, but I happened to glance at a certain werelion book‘s page while updating some info and…well, apparently picking a VC Andrews-esque cover, crafting breathlessly purple copy to go with it, and OPENLY saying “this book is an homage to the wonderful nuttery that the writer of Flowers in the Attic was known for” wasn’t enough to warn some people, and they might be…shocked. Or startled.

Good. I don’t know how to signal any more clearly “there are nutbar hijinks in this book”–one would have thought the shamelessly brazen pseudonym alone would give it away–but here we are. Do not get me wrong–it’s a fabulous review, it shows that I did exactly what I set out to do, and I am utterly grateful for this particular Reader, not to mention all the others. I’m absolutely chuffed. I could not have asked for better feedback, and I am still giggling like a mad chipmunk this morning every time I think about it.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing one not only understood the assignment, but knocked it out of the park.

Also, it smelled like rain this morning. There won’t be any, we’re still in the dog days and the sky is that pale shade presaging a very dry, warm afternoon. But we’re past the crest of summer and it’s all downhill toward autumn’s damp from here, and I’m ready. So, so ready. The first real rains will probably trigger a great burst of productivity from me, which is grand. I need it.

It’s probably over a month away, too, but at least I can look forward to the event.

My coffee has cooled, Boxnoggin cleaned his breakfast bowl for once (the dab of bacon grease in the bottom might have something to do with it), and there is a cool draught from my office window. The birds are calling every once in a while, readying themselves for the day, and the birdbath has seen a great deal of action already to judge by the peanut shells littering its bottom. I’ll clean that out before I go on a run.

I wish you a pleasant day, my beloveds. Try to laugh a bit, if you can. Everything is absurd and we’re all locked in the same room for a while.

Might as well enjoy it.

Choice and Ambiguity

One step forward, half a step back.

I shambled to bed early last night, my head caving in. The sudden changes in barometric pressure kicked off one of my infrequent but very bad headaches–not quite a migraine, just close enough to rob me of any chance at working for the day. I managed to stay up through dinner and feeding the dogs, then downed a couple homemade edibles and slithered into bed. The dogs were not averse to this, since it meant I was flat on my back somewhere they could supervise and “help” me; Boxnoggin in particular wanted to lick my temples since I was clutching at my head and obviously in distress.

Miss B settled for lying across my knees; when I tried to tell her that was not helpful she gave me a look of such wide-eyed doggy surprise I meekly reclined and shut up, attempting to breathe through the pain until relief kicked in. Once it did and I clearly wasn’t going anywhere else she condescended to move aside, taking up half the bed as is her usual wont. She likes a particular space so I can simply throw an arm over her in the middle of the night, mistaking her for a giant teddy bear.

This morning, I’m shaky and nauseous but much better. Even a gentle run isn’t out of the question, and that should shake off any remaining pain though I’ll have trembling fits for the rest of the day as my body tries to sort itself out.

Some people have deliberately consumed and worship nothing but whitebread American sitcoms, and it shows. Playing with other narrative structures or character types often raises a howl of protest from such creatures, who want their familiar line-line-“joke”-canned audience laughter and they want it now, with everything tied up neatly at the end of a half-hour and any female main character safely shackled to their problematic, highly abusive fave. The idea of female characters who prioritize themselves, or prefer people who don’t try to manipulate them, is treated as a deadly insult, as is any ambiguity. I understand these dull, banal elves.

I am simply not the writer for them.

Seriously, folks. There are two men–count ’em, two–in Hostage to Empire who don’t try to manipulate, use, or use-and-kill Komor Yala. One ends up an Emperor and the other…well, that would be telling. But the idea that Yala could finally go against the strictures of her class and culture after an apocalyptic battle in which she literally sacrifices both her life and honor, that she can go on to choose someone who doesn’t lie to her, manipulate her, or attempt to use her as a political game-piece seems to drive some readers into a particular type of baffled fury, much as Dru Anderson‘s refusal to select a boyfriend from the frankly not-so-great options on offer or Robin Ragged‘s preference for freedom seemed to.

Cultural misogyny is a helluva drug.

Perhaps I’m simply tired; my patience for such malignant, deliberate idiocy is at an all-time low. Frankly, my patience for a whole lot of things has been exhausted, partly as a function of hitting my mid-forties and partly from surviving the neverending hell of 2020 and its knock-on years.

Monday’s Tea with Lili was about character names and selecting good writing groups, with bonus knitting. I should talk a little more about good groups and the like on Friday, if I remember it. My performance anxiety over being on camera is not abating, so I’ll give this another month to shake out and then see if I want to continue.

I’m up relatively early but the dogs are certain this only means I will be having breakfast toast early as well, which means they will get crusts. So they are both expectantly crowding my office chair though I haven’t even worked halfway through my coffee yet. Hope springs eternal in the heart of dog, and all that. A heavy grey cloud just covered the newly risen sun, but the birds aren’t fooled–they’ve already sung the dawn chorus and won’t be tempted into encore.

I suppose I should finish my coffee and do some stretching. The dogs will attempt to supervise and “help”, eager to rush me through the morning so they can get to crusts and walkies. I’m pretty sure Boxnoggin will knock me over at one point or another, so I have to be ready to fall the right way, avoiding further injury. It’s good training, at least.

Happy Tuesday, my beloveds. Revel in ambiguity, do not be afraid to choose yourself. It’s nice to have other people along on the ride of life, but it’s not a set-in-stone necessity.

I promise.

March, Semi-Madness


It’s about time for a new sale, isn’t it? This month Season One of HOOD–my now-finished Robin Hood in SPACE serial–is $2.99USD across ebook platforms. (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google Play, and direct through Payhip.) I figure a little space opera might help get us through the month.

It’s no secret I started writing HOOD because I found Richard Armitage’s Guy of Gisbourne fascinating. But more than that, I know many veterans and listening to them talk about “coming home” breaks my heart sometimes. Not to mention I was interested in how a society shaped by centuries on generation ships in a great fleet might alter once it reached its destination, not to mention the time afterward. The Robin Hood mythos doesn’t really work without a semi-feudal oppression, and whether that oppression is corporate oligarchy or hereditary royalty the problems are similar.

Maid Marian also gets to fly several spaceships, so there’s that. And if you’re interested in the music that fueled the serial, you can find it here.

The Society

Not only that, but the publisher has put The Society (book one in the Society series, which I put underground bases in because I love X-Men) on sale for $.99USD until the end of the month at AmazonBarnes & NobleApple, and Kobo, too.

And the third and last Hostage to Empire book is due to drop near the end of March. (ETA: It’s dropped!) You guys are gonna love it, it’s a real dilly.

Goodness, that is rather a lot, isn’t it? Just yesterday I was feeling rather down on myself since I haven’t made the amount of wordcount I’d like lately, but with all this going on it’s no wonder. Whew. I hope the month gets a little less frantic…

…but I’m not betting on it.

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.

The Very (Dog) Pink

NaNoWriMo continues apace. I’m doing writing sprints on my Discord in the afternoons; sometimes I even dust off my old gaming headphones and you can hear me softly swearing in the ChitChat audio channel–if, that is, you like that sort of thing.

Plus, we’re a really fun crew; we just instituted a Pet Tax channel, and the pics of everyone’s fluffy, furry, feathered, scaled, or other companions are wonderful. Between that and the Bob Ross birthday marathon on YouTube, I’m feeling much more balanced. Not quite better, and not anywhere close to recovered, but less unsteady.

I’ll take it.

Many of you were a bit concerned about Miss B. Don’t worry, she’s just an elderly statesdog. Sometimes she decides to snub her breakfast, especially if there’s not enough bacon grease or something similarly high-value in it, and that can lead to weird things even if she condescends to eat her dinner the same day. Sometimes her tummy just decides, “nope, we’re not doing this,” and that leads to a night of her producing some bile, needing to go outside to clear the other end, and just generally resetting her poor ol’ digestive system.

This is normal in some elderly dogs. The vet isn’t concerned unless other danger signs are present. As long as B’s well-hydrated and the tummy stuff doesn’t last more then 24hrs or so, she’s fine and there’s no need to disrupt routine and drag her to the pet ER. In fact, breaking routine and stressing her when there’s no need could disturb the delicate equilibrium of an old dog, so I’m under orders to just keep calm and carry on when she does this, while watching for true danger signs.

Boxnoggin, of course, is in the very pink of health. His largest problem is that after nights when B and Mum are up and down, neither of us are very bouncy during morning walkies, and he is forced to go at a somewhat more sedate pace than he would otherwise choose. On those days, the kids play with him as soon as they’re home from school/work or have resurrected from the lethargy of a morning lie-in. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of squeaks from plush toys, and while B and I hide in the office to escape the rampage, we can still hear the fun and eventually Boxnoggin is exhausted.

Tired dogs are well-behaved dogs. Mostly.

Today is subscription day. This week in Hell’s Acre, a gentleman is asked twice; in She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, which my Crow’s Nest patrons are seeing me write almost in realtime, there’s murder, arson, and soup. Big fun.

It’s going to be a great Thursday. Miss B spent last night resting comfortably, and aside from the piles of baking soda around my bedroom (cleanup, it’s always cleanup) there’s no indication she was ever feeling poorly. I may even get to run my poor old corpse, which will do me no end of good.

I’d best get started. These books won’t write themselves, more’s the pity. Steady on, my beloveds. Eventually we’ll get there.