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.

Revise Your Hatemail

Cormorant Run

The first third of Harmony has been revised; today’s for the second third as well as a scene or two in the gift-fic I’m doing for my writing partner. If I can get Harmony revised and proofed, I can format it, be ready to drop the cover in, and break for the hills.

The gift-fic continues apace, too. The focus is tight on just two characters, even though the story wants to sprawl through a whole city and explore the political ramifications of assassination as a tactic. I could expand it later, I suppose, but I’ve so many other plates in the air I’m reluctant.

Some fellow (and before you ask, yes, it was a man) sent me a long email about how he didn’t understand Cormorant Run and would therefore rewrite it for the “small” fee of $499. I know a lot of people were upset because the cover made them think they were getting a chicks-in-leather urban fantasy when in fact they were buying a love song to Soviet sci-fi, and the marketing did nothing to dispel that confusion, but…this is a little beyond the pale, even for my inbox.

I suppose I might even have felt insulted if the email hadn’t been stuffed full of spelling errors, typos, and grammatical sins. As it is, I read with this face:

…and promptly took to social media to anonymously roast the fellow. Responding directly would make him think I care about his opinion or his offer. (It also might tip him over some internal edge that will add him to my already-full stable of dipshit stalkers/harassers; there’s no more room there, thanks.)

I suppose I feel bad for the dude, in some ways. Imagine thinking this is a good idea, and further imagine thinking that you can get a trad-published author to give you a work already licensed to said trad publisher for you to bastardize and sell. I’m sure this guy has a bridge or two he wants to offer to a discerning buyer, too.

Anyway, folks, remember: if you’re going to send me hatemail or a terrible “offer,” make sure you get your missives spell-checked and proofed. Otherwise you’ll just get laughed at, possibly publicly. I am often tempted to correct hatemail for spelling, grammar, and other errors before returning it with an injunction to revise and resubmit, but then I remember I have real work to do, chuckle softly, and move on.

And now I should get out the door for a run. Work doesn’t stop because some random jackhat gave me a morning’s worth of amusement, more’s the pity.

Over and out.

Get It Early

The ebook version of the Roadtrip Z omnibus is almost out! You can get it early (tomorrow instead of the 9th) by buying direct on Gumroad if that’s your fancy, or preorder it through Barnes & Noble or Kobo. Amazon won’t let you list an ebook for preorder unless you use KDP, so sorry, Amazon folks–but if you need a .mobi, it comes with the .epub you purchase on Gumroad, so there’s that.

I’m considering a paper omnibus version of the first three Steelflower books too. I will not be putting Steelflower in Snow in ebook format in the foreseeable future. Every time I start thinking about it, some damn ebook pirate rears their nasty pimple-head, and I’m reminded of the feeling of utter violation those thefts force upon me.

It doesn’t help that when I mention there will not be an ebook release, I am immediately deluged by people calling me some variety of uppity because I don’t want my work stolen and and another variety of ableist because again, I don’t want my work stolen. And that just kills any desire I have to continue writing The Highlands War, too, especially since that’s a complex book requiring a lot of emotional energy.

Victory has a cost. Kaia knows that better than most, but Redfist has to learn, and it’ll take a lot of losing before he does. I know what happens, but writing it is a losing game if people are going to be so shitty to me about it. So there’s that.

In any case, it’s a Monday, the world smells like spring, and the bees are out looking for flowers. Some few of them circled my head yesterday as I was doing yard work, but they didn’t try to nest in my sloppy ponytail, thank goodness. The real test will be today’s run with Sir Boxnoggin. I’ll probably end up with a bee or two in my ears, and a few trying to crawl into my mouth besides.

It’s not like I grudge them the ride, but I really worry about inadvertently injuring one of the poor little fellows.

But before I can become a Totoro Catbus for bees, I have piano practice and the ritual shoe-tightening to perform, so I’d best get on that. I hope your Monday is gracious and kind, dear Reader.

If it’s not, I’ll hold it down and you kick it until it becomes amenable, all right? Or vice versa…

On Formality

I am a somewhat formal creature. My emails start with “Dear Sir/Madam” most of the time, and I will never call someone by their first name until specifically asked to do so, and even then it will be Ms/Mr Firstname for a while.

This meshes somewhat uneasily with my chosen career. Generally the people I write to are glad of the formality–politeness, after all, is a plus when dealing with editors, publishers, or other writers.

But it also means that the modern slide into informality irritates the living daylights out of me. Strangers who start their missives with “Hey Lili” or “Hey Lilith” get an automatic strike, and guess what? If I haven’t deliberately told you to address me informally at least once, you’re a stranger.

I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the Saintcrow Law of Informal Address1: the informality of address by a stranger is precisely proportional to the “favor” they wish to extract from you, and their concomitant fury when denied is multiplied by each factor and then squared.

In other words, I see “Hey Lili” at the beginning of a stranger’s email and wince, knowing ahead of time that I will be asked for something and when I say “no” I’ll get a screed2 in return.

It never, ever fails. I can count the exceptions to this rule on one hand and have fingers left over, and that’s after being on the goddamn internet for decades now.

By contrast, the emails I get with formal address (including, hilariously, missives sent to an entirely nonexistent “Mr Saintcrowe”, because somehow if I’m a man the extra “e” needs to be added, don’t ask me, I just work here) are uniformly much better spelled, not to mention more reasonable in content, and when I send a gentle “I am sorry, I cannot,” the letter writer takes time to pen a short, very polite, forgiving missive to close out the interaction.

Consequently I am much more likely to use the extremely limited time allotted to correspondence to respond to a letter or email using formal address than the alternative.

I offer this insight not to complain3 but to advise. The joking informality currently in fashion might be working against you if you want people to go out of their way or read past your greeting. Especially if you’re asking a busy person for a favor.

I realize my habit of formal address is often seen as cold or standoffish, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for behaving in a decent fashion according to my own lights. I’ve never had a person call me rude for using proper address4. So, of course, your mileage may vary…

…but if you don’t get responses to your familiar, joking little emails, you might want to consider how you’re starting them out.

‘Nuff said.

If You Want More…

People have finished reading the latest Steelflower, and I’m starting to get emails. Most of them are lovely. There are the usual asshats thinking that being nasty over my decision to release first in print will somehow change my mind, but they’re few and far between, for which I am grateful.

Many of you have asked when the next Steelflower is out, including one despairing soul who pleaded, “please tell me I don’t have to wait another year!”

I…I can’t tell you that, my friends. But if you want to make it easier for me to write these things you love, there’s a few things you can do to help me out. The list starts with, of course, buying my books instead of torrenting them, since the more royalties I lose from people stealing my work, the less I can afford to work on things that don’t pay me up-front–like the Steelflower books.

If you’re one of those kind folks who does buy my books, and likes them, a few moments spent giving a review–even just a star rating–on the distribution platform (Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.) of your choice helps more than you think. Once the star ratings/reviews reach a certain threshold, the books get bumped in algorithms, and more people get to (possibly) experience the deadly lunacy that is my brain.1 And if they enjoy it and dip into my backlist, that means I get paid to write more.

I also offer a variety of subscription options, where you can get peeks at stories in progress and free ebooks of the serial-in-progress. The subscriptions give me a steadier monthly income, which frees me up to write more of those things you love but a publisher won’t (or can’t) initially invest in. Gumroad’s best, but I know a lot of you folks like Patreon, and that’s okay too.

As it is, The Highlands War has to take its place behind the epic fantasies I’m working on, and the next serial (HOOD) and maybe Dolls and Tower of Yden too. I know exactly what happens (and who dies) but getting enough paid working time down so I can afford to write more labor-of-love stories (like Steelflower) is the trick here.

I’m sure I’ll be inundated (again) by the usual trolls telling me that I shouldn’t write for the money, that I’m a sellout, and that it’s their gods-given right to steal my work. But for the non-trolls, these are the things that will help free up more of my time so I can tell you what happens to Kaia, Darik, Redfist, and the troupe in a brutal winter insurgency, and how that all shakes out. Funny thing, I’ve always known Kaia’s story is a trilogy, but it ended up that the last book was so massive I had to split it in half, which is why Steelflower in Snow ends where it does.

Anyway, more than one person has asked about The Highlands War, and that’s the answer. I’ll be moderating replies pretty thoroughly to weed out the bloody trolls–you’d think these people would have something better to do, my gods–but as long as you’re not yelling at me for not being a vending machine, your comment will get through. It just may take me a little while to weed through the queue.

Now I’ve got to run the dogs, and settle into the day’s work.

Over and out.

Mail Call

Man Reading his Mail
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Reader mail has picked up again, and so has my energy level. So I’m thinking about doing a weekly “from the mailbag” post. Or biweekly, depending on the volume of actual reasonable mail to hatemail.

Some days, the proportions are a bit bent.

Anyway! Let’s grab a few from the mailbag and take a look, shall we? First up is Reader E.P.:

I’m reading the Dante Valentine omnibus for the sixth time, I am simply drawn back to read it again and again, and I was wondering about Japhrimel’s feelings throughout the books. You do give us a brief insight into his feelings especially when he kneels before Dante and speaks to her of his failure. In numerous points in the books Dante notices his attention on her and I can’t help but wish to know more of what and how he is feeling, such as when he waits for Dante while she rides the slicboard or when he watches her spar with Jace. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love these books and will continue to enjoy them over and over, and I know the story is from Dante’s point of view, but more from Japh would be amazing, maybe his side of the story about his fall and how he deals with the infuriating Dante even though he loves her?

Sometimes I think about writing Japh’s POV. The problems with it are numerous–for one thing, he thinks in demon, not in English or even Dante’s Merican, so the translation is a bit…difficult. There’s also the fact that I dislike him so intensely. The key to Japh, for me, was my writing partner’s throwaway comment about demons destroying what they love. And to Japh, his love is intimately bound up in the idea of controlling the environment and everything around Dante in order to “protect” her. He’s not human, he wasn’t ever human, and his priorities, morals, and ethics are not human either. So…I don’t have any plans yet, though there are the books dealing with Gabe’s daughter (who is a Magi) and also the short story featuring Danny, Selene, Nikolai, and Japh all working together that have been bubbling in my head for a while…

Next up is Reader D.W.:

I’m currently reading your second Roadtrip Z book. I’m a little confused as to where Cotton Crossing is located. I thought it was maybe in Florida, but there is way too much snow and ice for that area. It would really help me enjoy the book more if I wasn’t constantly trying to figure out where they are. I’ve tried looking online for the answer, but couldn’t find it. Thanks!

About all I can say is that Cotton Crossing is not on any map, though Lee tells me it’s somewhere in Missouri.

It’s been a month for people asking me about the Valentine series, I guess. Next comes this, from Reader S.F.:

Hello, thank you for writing the Dante Valentine series. It was very enjoyable. I was wondering, however, do you think you will you ever write about Lucas Villalobos? Your afterward said that Dante and Japhrimel’s story is over, but I am curious about the Deathless and would love to read more about him.

Lucas is…difficult. (He’s always been difficult.) He doesn’t talk about where he comes from, and can disappear for long periods of time if you press. I can say that if you read Coming Home in The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, you’ll find out some of what happens to Lucas after the events of the Valentine series, and that it involves Gabe and Eddie’s daughter.

If you’ve got a question, you can use the form on my Contact page. I cannot answer even a quarter of the missives I receive, but you never know–if I start doing mail calls biweekly or weekly, you just may see your question here.

Now it’s time to go for a run. Over and out.