Soundtrack Monday: Boy With a Coin

Welcome back to Soundtrack Monday! This week’s track is Beth Orton’s beautiful, driving She Cries Your Name, which I listened to over and over whenever I needed to get into Robin Ragged’s head. Robin grew up in a trailer park, and Orton’s voice reliably brought her into focus for me. (The soundtrack for the entire trilogy is here.)

The Bannon & Clare books weren’t doing as well as the publisher liked, so my editor (my very favorite editor ever, actually) asked what else I had. As I recall it we were mid-contract, and normally I would have insisted that we stick with the last three books planned in that series (the trilogy where Emma and Archibald go to their world’s versions of China, America, and India, respectively) but…I trusted her.

That trust is one of the most valuable things a writer has. So, I said, “…all right, I’ve got this other thing. It has to do with the fae.”

And my editor said, “Great. Gimme.”

So I began writing about Jeremy Gallow, who hated himself far more than he did anyone else, and Robin Ragged, whose kindness was always used against her. Alastair Crenn showed up later; I only had a faint intimation of his presence while writing the first book. Sometimes characters surprise you like that, and every time I had to write Crenn I had to listen to another song…

…but that’s another Soundtrack Monday post, my beloveds, and this one appears to be done. Enjoy!

COVER REVEAL: The Salt-Black Tree

“But Lili,” I hear you say. “You just did a cover reveal not too long ago.” And yes, you are absolutely correct–but the two books of The Dead God’s Heart will be out within months of each other, so the publisher’s getting ducks-in-a-row now. It will be nice, since readers won’t have to wait too long for the series to be “finished”, per se. Two whole years’ worth of work will pay off…next year.

That’s publishing, baby. Anyway, are you ready?


Isn’t it pretty?

Since the series features American divinities and one hell of a roadtrip, of course there are cars–Dima Konets’s low black sports car, Maria Drozdova’s old Léon-Bollée, a Cadillac driven by a certain Coyote, and more. I’m also pleased about the snake, which is kind of a vehicle all its own.

There’s a burst of furious activity happening behind the scenes right now–copyedits, page proofs, queries on said page proofs–so everything is in place for the release of Spring’s Arcana next May. Considering that I wrote these books during lockdown and other assorted pandemic foolishness, it’s feeling rather strange to see them inching towards their debut.

The wind is up, and I’ve much more to do today. I just had to share the loveliness, though. Happy Thursday, my friends. We’re almost through the week…

Candy Scrabble

Might even be a bingo!

Our bowl of Halloween candy (just visible near the top of the photo) contained bite-size Snickers. Naturally, right about the time the first sugar rush hit I got a bright idea, started fishing them out and made a whole word. My daughter groaned–the game was afoot–then started digging. My son gave a chortle and dove in to help.

We’d’ve gotten more if we hadn’t been dipping into the bowl all afternoon. Still, the shout of joy each time we finished a word was inordinately satisfying. Four and three-quarters isn’t a bad score for this game, and we celebrated with pizza and another delicious, delicious sugar rush.

It’s been a helluva week, my friends. We’re on the downhill slide, and there might even be some candy left. Chin up, machetes out, chocolate on our chins–we’re ready.

Onward!

Welcome, Great Pumpkin

Happy Samhain, my beloveds. It’s the first and last day of the witch’s year, and there’s already a bowl of candy on the kitchen table. I did roll out of bed and straight into eight complex tasks I had to accomplish before I was allowed to make coffee–one of which was taking Boxnoggin outside for his usual wake-up loo break. He is Quite Put Out that it’s so damp outside, and the wind flirting with the cedars also touched his rump, at which he gave a startled leap and looked at me as if I were responsible.

To him, I am a near-incomprehensible all-powerful goddess, so clearly the weather is some kind of terrible chthonic joke I’m playing on the world. I wish I had even a sliver of the might this poor dog attributes to me; I could do so much with it.

But the heat pump has been turned on, the bed made, Boxnoggin’s brekkie (ignored for the moment, until I head to the toaster) set out, a multitude of other preparations finished, and I can sit to absorb some caffeine for a few moments. Poor Lord van der Sploot is going to despise walkies today, despite begging for them the instant I finish my coffee. He’s going to give me so many reproachful looks, I can just tell, and when we get back home he’ll need a towel and a treat to mollify him.

Last night I finished absorbing an ancient battered paperback of Dick Gregory’s No More Lies, which was a well-written, engaging, truthful, and difficult read. Engaging with American history–cavalcade of genocide, enslavement, and robber-baron enrichment that it is–pretty much always nauseates. If you have any empathy, that is. Nothing in it was a surprise, though I did learn a few details about some specific events I hadn’t known before, and in Chapter VII, I came across one of the best passages I’ve ever read in a history book.

Although repression is a futile solution, it is a legitimate reaction. All men have the basic right to be afraid, regardless of how wrong, how degenerate, or how insane they are.

–Dick Gregory, No More Lies: The Myth and the Reality of American History

It’s very kind to attribute cruelty, bigotry, and misogyny to fear instead of just sheer sociopathic cruelty. I think fear is always a component to varying degrees, though most of it is simply that many people are comfortable with being cruel and even enjoy it when there are no consequences. A steady, swift application of social disapprobation and financial penalties for being a bigoted dickwad would do a great deal to correct and deter most fascist fellow-travelers; unfortunately, our entire society is set up to reward such behavior instead.

The level of espresso in my mug is dropping, and my tissues are soaking up the caffeine like dry earth gratefully swallowing the autumn rains. I suppose it’s time to think about brekkie, drop the leftover toast crusts in Boxnoggin’s bowl, get out the trench coat, and go for a damp ramble with the dog. I’ll be cooking all day, except for if/when I manage to squeeze in an extra livestream–I think I might read Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart to you madcaps, since it’s my favorite of his short stories and I haven’t cracked open my Compleat Edgar Allen for a hot minute. (I’ll probably hit Twitch this afternoon.)

Rain on the roof, all the high-fructose corn syrup we can handle, a day completely off because for godsake I’m not working on Samhain, and tonight we’ll burn wishes for the upcoming year on perfumed joss paper…my dance card is full.

I hope you have a blessed day, my dears. I wish you a pleasant holiday.

Boulders in Finery

A green velvet robe.

A week ago these rocks were covered in shaggy, drought-crackling grey. Now, they’re lush with soft growth. You can see traces of the dry time in brown patches, but the balance has tipped and now they are wearing their winter coats.

My soul has been expanding with the regular autumnal rains. (Finally, my gods.) All the smoke is washed out of the air, though I’m still coughing a bit. Boxnoggin is annoyed with the damp upon his delicate paws, but he’s all in favor of the longer rambles since I can finally breathe while we’re outside.

All in all, it’s beautiful–and my favorite holiday of all is coming up. There are a lot of less-than-ideal things going on right now, certainly. But at least there is moss on the boulders, rain in the air, spooky decorations everywhere, and the peace of knowing the season’s finally turned.

The witch’s year is almost done; we’ve survived another turning. We all deserve a pat on the back–and maybe a bit of our favorite candy.

Happy Halloween weekend, my beloveds. I hope you have a grand one.

Back to Reading

Spent yesterday doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work–you know, the type of effort that’s necessary to prepare for forward movement, yet at the end of the day leaves one feeling rather like nothing’s moved at all. As a result, I went to bed feeling rather tetchy.

But it’s a new day, and I have exciting things to report. People seem to like Reading with Lili, and I’ve received a lot of requests–mostly polite, thank goodness–for more straightforward readings without the commentary and footnotes as well. The commentary seems to attract one set of viewers/listeners, but there are those who like a more truncated experience, or who would like to hear some of the text en clair, so to speak. So! I’ve started a Great Chapters playlist, where I’ll take the text I’ve dissected in a Reading with Lili session (or something else from the same book/work) and just…read it, straight through. I’ve started with the first chapter of Moby-Dick.

I did a lot of narration and video editing yesterday, so between now and Samhain there’ll be a new Great Chapters video daily to bring us up to speed. Then I’ll shift to doing a Reading with Lili stream at the usual time and shortly thereafter both the livestream and the “just-the-text-ma’am” will go up on YouTube. This feels like a good way to handle things for the foreseeable future.

This week’s Reading with Lili will be an examination of Robert Chambers’s The King in Yellow, which is a fascinating collection, and I might even read a whole short story from it for the Great Chapters segment in honor of this year’s spoopytimes. (I also need to get out to the store and grab a few bags of candy for home consumption, hurrah.)

I only got about two hundred words apiece on both current writing projects, alas, but with everything else out of the way I can spend a little time with Hell’s Acre today, and a whole lot of time with The Fall of Waterstone, which may end up being titled The Elder Jewel. Not so sure about how it’ll eventually be named, which is usual at this point in the process. Getting my Viking elementalist to the throne room, where she will be called upon to give a message to an elvish king and might even pass out from despair, is the name of today’s game.

I’m also able to give more braincycles to just-plain-reading, which is a blessing. I finished Wilson’s The Thirty Years War, which felt like it took almost as long as the hostilities lasted to read, just last week. Last night I knocked off the final bit of Katharine Gerbner’s Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, which was absolutely illuminating. The connections between Protestantism and white supremacy are deep, especially once the former crossed the Atlantic. One of the points Gerbner relentlessly makes and bolsters with fact is that originally, the term for “free” in the sugar islands (and on the American continents) was “Christian”; once a few transported and enslaved Africans converted and also gained legal manumission the process of creating whiteness as the category meaning “free” instead was kick-started. She also explains, patiently and in detail, how literacy was used by the enslaved to claw back some measure of freedom–with predictably violent responses from planters and enslavers, not to mention a complete abdication of responsibility by European missionaries. All in all, it was a fascinating read and answered a lot of questions about just why current white supremacy finds such a congenial home in evangelical (and even bog-standard) Christianity.

Next on my TBR pile is an ancient paperback of Dick Gregory’s No More Lies, which I’m really looking forward to. You’d think the pandemic would have given me more time to read, but the associated stress simply meant I couldn’t concentrate worth a damn and had to save all my resources for work. The plague isn’t over yet–far from–but I seem to have adjusted, to some degree. (Probably as a function of giving up any hope that people as a whole will Do the Right Thing, ever, unless and until they are forced by a lack of other options.) So I’m getting back into reading a few chapters of something not work-related before turning off the light, and it’s such a huge bloody relief.

I plan on getting Boxnoggin out for early walkies. The timing and the change in weather means we’ll probably miss any other dog walkers (thank the gods) though I’m sure plenty of cats, rabbits, and other prey animals will be out in force, which will mean dropping my center of gravity when the fool dog lunges. I have been half thinking of taking him on easy, gentle runs now that there’s absolutely no danger of him being too young for that sort of exercise, but I can’t trust him the way I did Bailey. He’s simply too reactive, still. Maybe another six months’ worth of patient training during walkies will ameliorate, I don’t know. And certainly the long rambles to wear him out are good for my health as well.

We had a terribly dry autumn, but that seems to be washed away now. About damn time; I hope the rain is reaching the local forest fires. I’m just glad not to be breathing smoke anymore. Of course next summer will probably be dreadful, but I’ve enough to worry about here-and-now without adding that anticipation to my poor frayed nerves. Suppose I’ll just deal with it when the time comes, like everything else.

And that’s my Thursday, beloveds. It’s time for some toast, and for getting the day moving in some approximation of the right direction.

I wish us both the very best of luck…

Ink Cedars and Work

Rain! Cold, glorious, beautiful, life-giving, drenching, forest-fire quenching, tapping, slithering, chilly on the nape RAIN! Can you tell I’m pleased? I’m able to go running today too, after long walkies in the wet with Boxnoggin, and that will bring me back to zen in a hot hurry.

I won’t be able to run very far or fast, since injury and weather conditions mean I haven’t hit the pavement in a while. Slow and steady is the name of the game; I’m just fine with that. And the sidewalks will be deserted–there’ll be a distinct dearth of men wanting to stop me and chat about whatever-the-hell when it’s perfectly clear I’m exercising and have no ding-dang time to service strangers’ emotional needs.

Ahem. Anyway.

Last week’s Reading with Lili was about Frankenstein and the UTTERLY BONKERS life Mary Shelley led; it’s now up on YouTube. Also, I did a bonus stream on (of all things) Twilight, and that’s up too. There are a small proportion of people who dislike the commentary and backstory (though most of my Readers, and now dear Viewers, are enthusiastic about both), so I’m considering doing just-straight-readings and putting them up, too. We’ll see if I can squeeze time into the schedule. The erotica readings hit a snag (not gonna talk about that) but I got a lot of useful experience turning text readings into videos, so we’ll see.

But that can only happen in whatever spare time I’ve got lying about. It’s back to work for Yours Truly, and with a vengeance since the revision on Cold North is (finally) firmly in the past and I have other things to focus on now. Hell’s Acre needs a great deal of attention before I lunge for the finish of Book 2, the second Tolkien Viking Werewolves is my NaNoWriMo book, and the second Sons of Ymre needs a massive revise before I can turn it in to my long-suffering editor. So I’ve got my marching orders, and now I can settle to an autumn’s worth of work. (There’s a lot of sales going on this month, too.)

It’s lovely. The cedars are inky shadows outside my office window; it’s damp and cold and the sun cannot manage to struggle past the cloud cover. I am positively chuffed. Best of all, there’s no more smoke in the air. Despite some lingering rasp in the throat, I’m feeling ever so much better. Practically fidgeting with impatience to get out the door, as a matter of fact.

Boxnoggin, while he is thrilled at the prospect of walkies, is still in his usual two-week adjustment period. Every fall he acts like he’s outright forgotten what rain is, and expects me to fix whatever’s leaking on his dainty paws, not to mention the rest of him. Poor fellow. He’ll get used to it, and even begin to like some aspects of winter–like attempting to drink from muddy, parasite-laden puddles, for example.

This dog, you guys. I don’t even know.

I’m just so thrilled we finally have decent, reasonable weather. The smoke wasn’t as bad as last year (or the year before, my gods, 2020 was awful), but it was bad enough. Now it’s washed away, the evacuation orders have been rescinded, and I’m not coughing like Doc Holliday in a Dodge City saloon. Small mercies, yes–but I’ll take ’em.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. It’s time to get to work.