Ranunculi Snap

Buttercup, buttercup…

Yesterday was deeply suboptimal–I now have an injured ankle, courtesy of a dipshit who was staring at her phone instead of paying attention to the pram she was pushing, the child in the pram, or indeed any of her surroundings–but before it went cockeye I did get a snap of buttercups in the park. There was an industrial-grade mower working at the other end, so these fellows might be gone by now. But they were there, and I have proof.

Hell’s Acre is now finished for my subscribers–the ebooks will go out next week–and I am busy prepping for the next serial, which I will announce…hmmm, probably also next week? Perhaps? The schedule isn’t quite nailed down yet, there are so many moving parts. But I have a lot of shiny promo images, and I’m excited to be embarking on Something New once more.

Morning walkies are going to be a pain, since Boxnoggin is in one of his obstreperous moods. Still, even though I’m hobbling and wounded I have a large prefrontal cortex and opposable thumbs, so that’s got to count for something.

Have a lovely weekend, my friends. Treat yourselves kindly; remember to slow down and snap the ranunculi.

Modicum of Grace

It’s not even 8am and I am in a lather of impatience. Woke up in a reasonably good mood, but the bloody kitchen is a disaster and Boxnoggin–bless his poor benighted little self–had to wander around the yard twice, for nearly a half-hour the first time, before finally consenting to do his morning pee. Of course I dragged him back inside after a half-hour since it was getting excessive, but then he started trotting about and whining like he wanted to bedeck some furniture with his bladder-juice. So back outside it was, and finally he consented to unload.

No, he’s not having any health problems. He’s just easily distracted, and there were a lot of smells outside this morn. Smells–and clouds of mosquitoes, since we’re having rather a bad year for them. It’s not just me; I ran into a friend at the grocer’s the other day who bemoaned being bitten all over.

So now I am grumpy, hoping coffee will soothe me, and I figured out the scene I was beating my head on yesterday was being recalcitrant because what’s needed isn’t an argument between two adai but a somewhat passive-aggressive serving of truth from the younger one. I’ll probably have to toss out a thousand words or so, but that’s the nature of the beast. The old scene can go on the compost pile and do its work there, and I can take comfort in at least knowing what the wrong way is so the right one has a better chance of wandering into view.

And it’s June. How in the hell did that happen? There’s Hell’s Acre to wrap up; I’ll probably take this week and next to do so, then it’s straight into the Sekrit Projekt as the next serial. Can’t quite announce it yet, my beloveds…but it’s getting very close indeed.

At least the kitchen isn’t my problem, but someone in the household might need a soft word of, “Do your job, we all have to in order to make this thing work.” I do my best to be patient, certainly, yet there often comes a time when said patience has been interpreted as weakness, or as “she doesn’t really mean it”.

No. I mean it. Disregard at your peril, my fine feathered friend.

Now the coffee is half gone and I am beginning to feel a little less raspy. Brekkie, walkies, and a run should sort the other half, or at least a goodly portion of it. Part of my snarling is probably a hangover from too much social contact; the rest is stress and the persistent feeling of being taken for granted. Ameliorating all three will be a bit of a juggling act. I’ll feel a lot better once I get this scene beaten into reasonable shape and the subscription drop done up. Everything is formatted, it’s just a question of last-minute pokes and prods. This week will see the crisis in Hell’s Acre, next week will see the falling action and the revised ebooks drop, and while I wanted to take a week off after the serial ends I might not get there.

Or I might. Who knows? I never want to take a week off of subscription stuff; I always want to give my beloveds a little more than their money’s worth. Yet I–yes, even I–deserve a break once in a while. So we’ll see.

I might even decide to accelerate the schedule a bit while on this morning’s run. I’m waiting until at least the second kilometer to make any decisions, since I’m in such a blasted mood now. I’m sure standing amid swarms of small biting insects while the dog sticks his nose in every bloody fern didn’t help, but such is life with furry toddlers. He more than makes up for it by being an absolute joy 99.98% of the time, and my crankiness isn’t his fault.

Now I’ve got to get to breakfast. The world is testing me today; I hope to at least pass with a modicum of grace if not flying colors.

Onward and upward, excelsior, and all that…

Cheese Sense and Back to Work

The trees are all a-leaf. The honeysuckle is ablaze with blossom. Even the quince tree down the street is in full vigor, and I suspect there will be a bumper crop this year. The mason bees appear to have packed away their eggs for next year, and there’s a positive plague of mosquitoes–it is a very damp spring, the few 90F degree days we’ve had notwithstanding.

I worked half the weekend, spent Sunday doing house chores and reading Dimbleby on Barbarossa–the book needs finishing so I can dive full-bore into Elric–and took a half-holiday yesterday too. Which just means I didn’t blog or do a couple other marketing things, but I got wordcount (and more!) on both Sekrit Projekt and the third Ghost Squad book, which is Tax’s story. I’ve got him talking, though he’s somewhat cagey, and of course the heroine is going to be all sorts of fun.

As for the Sekrit Project, you’ll find out about that in June. I’m very excited, and cannot wait to have it public. I even re-crafted a scene I’ve been waiting to get to for eight years or so, which is a wonderful feeling.

In other news, I woke up with a BJ Thomas song in my head. For the longest time I thought it was a cover, because the first exposure I’d ever had to the tune was Alvin and the Chipmunks–I am not kidding. Urban Chipmunk was one of the few records I was allowed to listen to before I got my own radio. (And I just found out it’s available on CD, albeit used. Good heavens, my nostalgia fastens on weird things…)

Boxnoggin has been very pleased, because our grilling for the holiday yesterday also meant Cheetos. I have never met a dog who doesn’t like those cheesy corn wonders; there was literally nothing Odd Trundles wouldn’t do for one and very little Miss B wouldn’t either. Box is almost as food-driven as Odd and significantly less intelligent than Miss B, but he still perks right up when a particular kind of crisp-bag rustles.

Of course, he is by far the most dairy-hound of our dogs; his Cheese Sense is unparalleled. Sometimes one only has to think of, say, a bit of string cheese to get through the afternoon, and there will be a mad scrabble from another room as Lord van der Sploot senses there might be solidified cow-squeezings in the near future. Then he appears, trotting along with ears perked and cuteness ready to deploy.

Today it’s back to work. There’s an interview in the morning (possibly the last bit of promo for Spring’s Arcana, I know it’s necessary but it’s also nerve-wracking) and we’ll have some folks out to take down huge dangling fir limbs in the afternoon. Between all that I have to get wordcount in on each project, and there’s dinner to think of as well. I keep meaning to do a stream on the Valentine books–I have not forgotten–but it’s got to fit around all the other stuff needing to be done.

No rest for the weary or wicked, and it’s anyone’s guess which combination of the two I am on any given day. If I’m working I’m not worrying, or at least I don’t have the time to worry much. At least the Sekrit Projekt needs another written-long-ago scene revised, which lightens the load somewhat, and I can fill stuff in around yesterday’s snappy dialogue in the Ghost Squad book. If I just get those two things done, I’ll be happy.

The coffee is down to dregs and Boxnoggin would very much like his walkies, Mum, thanks. So it’s off I go, embarking upon Tuesday.

I wish us all luck.

Two Chainsaws Enough

I should’ve known a good working day would drag a not-so-good one in its wake. That’s just the way the cookie has crumbled since, oh, about 2016 or so. It was bad before, certainly…but I think back then I still had hope.

How young I was. How wisely foolish.

It’s a clear morning, alas. The sun is still hiding behind a rather large fir in the cul-de-sac behind us, a trick of the earth’s wobble this particular time of year. Walkies shouldn’t be too bad, just bright and perhaps a little exciting if we see any other canines out exercising their humans–that’s something funny, how many dogs walk their humans rather than the other way ’round. Heaven knows it took Bailey a significant number of months before she finally absorbed that the biped was in charge and her own duties were different.

Boxnoggin, of course, gets so distracted by every little thing that he can’t possibly be in charge, only contained, corralled, and gently chided for terrible behavior. He’s such an anxious dog, poor thing.

As for said work, I made a good start on the Sekrit Projekt–it’s been revealed to patrons and newsletter subscribers, so it’s not Sooper-Sekrit, and it’ll be announced publicly in June–and also got the right opening scene for Gamble, the third Ghost Squad book. I think I’m going to enjoy the wedding planner heroine’s scenes A Lot, she seems like a hoot. A big contrast to indeed to Tax’s buttoned-down, logical, I-think-I’m-so-rational vibe. And I think I have the timeline for the book pretty solid, with only a couple moving parts involved to give me grief.

It’s so nice to be writing again, instead of revisions, proofs, or what-have-you. Two hundred measly words, poking at a fanfic while exhausted at the end of the day, just doesn’t cut it. I need a higher dosage, and a few thousand on two separate projects is just perfect. I’d like to get back to juggling at least three projects at a time, but I think I need more recovery before that’s possible. And I’m glad to be shifting between epic fantasy (there’s a clue!) and contemporary again, getting both sides of a very pleasant coin.

In order to add another project, though, I’d need to rearrange my life so there’s far more self-care and far less dealing-with-other-things, which isn’t quite possible at the moment. Ah well, juggling two chainsaws is enough. And I’m hopeful for Hell’s Acre, season one of which is hanging out with my agent to see if something can be done in that direction. If not, it’ll be choose-an-editor time.

It’s good to have options.

I suppose I should finish the coffee, open my office window, and get Boxnoggin started on the Anticipatory Walkies Dance. It is a very silly dance, but he loves it and I am not going to pass up an opportunity to laugh until my sides hurt. Such things might not keep one young, but they certainly make life easier to endure. And I need to plan out the scars-in-the-sauna scene, where a couple characters are asking one very tired sellsword about past battles, so that it ends on precisely the right note. Today’s ramble will fix that in my head; I already have the next scene for Gamble, which will probably involve someone being menaced with a frying pan.

…I do love my job, after all.

Over and out.

Bespoke and Human-Made

This is one of the worst parts of recovery. After a huge project finishes, there’s a few days of the brain being like porridge, then there’s the mounting desire to get back to work while body and mind both rebel against the notion in the strongest possible terms. It takes three times as long as one thinks to get through this bit, and each time I hate, hate, HATE it.

The only cure is to get enough rest, but I want to be writing. And not just poking out 200-word days on fallow projects, weeding and arranging. I want to be back doing what I do, fa cry-eye, and the longer I’m barred from it the more antsy, nervous, dissatisfied, and short-tempered I become. Of course the case could be made that I’m wound too tightly as a matter of course and recovery phases are just a different flavor of the usual.

One might even win that argument, because I certainly wouldn’t disagree.

…I might have had other things to say this morning, but I ran across a news article about ChatGPT scraping Omegaverse fanfic without permission and good gods, what a time to be alive. The only thing that’s going to stop these gluttonous plagiarizers–because that’s all ChatGPT and its ilk are, giant plagiarizers using microprocessors to reach an economy of scale in theft–is consequences. While the legal challenges are getting underway they’re going to merrily keep stealing the work of people overwhelmingly below the poverty line, because they can. It’s the same as the giant grift that is bitcoin–finding a way to steal with techniques or technology that hasn’t been fully regulated yet and hoping like hell you’re one of the first grifters to get there, so you can grab cash, smash windows, and leave before regulators arrive.

If they were stealing from rich people it would already be tightly regulated. But all these folk who are trumpeting about how AI and “machine learning” are “game-changing” and “not plagiarism” are grifters looking to take what they can from already struggling writers and artists. It’s fucking hard enough to make a living with ebook thieves and trad publishing’s mounting exploitation, but now there’s this to deal with as well.

Why do I even do this, again? I mean, I’ll write all my life, but some days leaving publishing for good and finding some other way to pay the mortgage sounds incredibly appetizing. Although it is kind of funny to watch certain sectors of the world find out all about knotting.

On a brighter note, I spent part of yesterday answering some fanmail hanging fire in the ol’ inbox. I normally don’t get to answer very many missives due to volume, but whenever I’ve some time I try to get at least a short reply to as many as possible. Hearing that a book saved someone–even in the most ordinary of ways–is enough to keep me going for a while longer. And there are plenty of subscribers writing to me in excitement about the next serial (I’ll announce it officially in June), so that’s exceedingly pleasant.

I should find some way to slap a “100% bespoke human-made content, no AI” sticker on all my books. I know some writers are using those tools for various publishing tasks, but…I just can’t. Not until they’re regulated to a fare-thee-well, and probably not even then. I already have enough people stealing my work, I don’t need more. And I’m too…well, “control freak” might be a good way to put it, about my writing. So, no AI will have permission to touch my work–not now, and most probably not in the future. If there is any of my work in those plagiarism holes, you’ll know it’s been stolen.

In short, I just can’t even today. I’m only halfway through coffee but I’m gonna get started on the pre-walkies process early. Boxnoggin is enjoying the cooler weather and is eager to get out the door; at least that pleasure can’t be taken from us. If I can only please one creature on earth today it’ll most likely be the dog, since heaven knows even I am in a Mood and won’t even be able to please myself.

See you around.

Soundtrack Monday: Victorian Vigilante

It’s another Soundtrack Monday!

I just finished the massive revise on both seasons of Hell’s Acre, getting the books polished from zero level–finished, steaming, just having slid free–to submittable draft. The first book’s with the agent now, and we’ll see what she says. If a publisher doesn’t want to get in on the action, it’ll go out through the self-pub pipeline. Either way there’s several more edits, copyediting, and proofing to get through. But the raw creation and first polish is done.

In celebration, here’s Abney Park’s Victorian Vigilante, which a particular fan (thanks, Tal!) suggested very early in the serial’s first few chapters. It’s rather evocative, and is definitely playing when Avery waltzes into the Marauders’ pub to kill McNeiss. I even gave the Rook a malacca cane during the fight, which was all sorts of fun.

I enjoyed writing Avery a great deal. He doesn’t hesitate, he doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and he doesn’t dither about what he wants. The instant he sees Gemma he makes up his mind, and though he’s a product of his environment he doesn’t ever belittle her, or think of her as lesser. Every time some new dimension of her talents shows, he’s just as pleased as if he’d discovered them in himself. Out of all my heroes he’s probably one of the least problematic, even with his, erm, habit of murdering evildoers.

He also has a great sense of style. The cane–snatched from a Dickens reference–appealed to him a great deal, and the instant he saw the wrist crossbow in Rook’s Rose he was like, “I’ll just be taking that, mate, thanks.”

He’s also profoundly lonely when the serial starts. One rather gets the idea he was just waiting to find a lifelong cause rather more solid than mere vengeance, and Gemma happened along at just the right time. Both of them shift names and identities, though Avery is far more practiced. I think he has a more solid core of who he is, which makes it easier for him, but little Beth was raised Respectable and has a wee bit more trouble.

The rest of the serial’s soundtrack can be found here. I think it’s in its final fighting form now, just like the books themselves. Well, that’s not quite precise since the books will have edits and so on, but…oh, you know what I mean. I’m recovering from this round of revision, and my brain is porridge.


Serials and Recovery

Finished the top-to-bottom revise of Hell’s Acre late Saturday evening, so I’m in recovery again. (How many is that this year? I’ve lost count.) It wasn’t until the second third of Rook’s Rose (the second season) that I started feeling good about the duology, which is…instructive. Swimming against the tide of pandemic and other stuff–this serial officially began way back in June 2021, can you believe it–means I just had to trust that the work and the characters were doing what they needed to, since I was entirely occupied with the problem of Not Drowning.

Trusting the work has never led me wrong before, and it didn’t this time either. I’ve figured out where the persistent, nagging feeling of “there’s a hole in this book” came from, too.

I wanted to do something sort of video game-y. Right in the middle of Rook’s Rose I realized that Avery is the most traditional “player character” in the books. He’s the dude with the shadowy past, the dude with the Hellion training, and he even gets a wrist-crossbow, literally “leveling up” near the end of the “game”. But he’s not the protagonist. The story belongs to the character who changes the most, and that’s Gemma–who would be an NPC love interest in a regular ol’ video game. Plus, at the end neither of them gets the…

…whoops, almost gave away a spoiler there. But anyway, that was the persistent sense of “somethin’ ain’t right in this book” I kept feeling. I hadn’t realized just what the Muse was interested in doing. Now, naturally, I’m slapping myself on the forehead and going, “Of course, of bloody course.” She’s just as interested in subverting tropes and expectations as I am. (That’s a lie. She’s way more invested in it than I could ever hope to be.)

So, I’m relieved to say I will be putting these books out for wider publication. A lot will depend on what my agent says; they may snag some publisher interest. But if not, it’s into the self-pub pipeline they go. It’s good to have that decision made; Christ knows it’s been waffling around in my head for about a year.

All of this means I go straight into writing the next serial–which subscribers, both of the patron and newsletter variety, have already heard about. The official announcement will happen sometime in June, right here on the blog and on social media as well. So my working time for the foreseeable future will be spent between Shiny New Serial and Gamble, the third in the Ghost Squad series. The latter’s gonna be a lot of fun, since it’s the medic of the team (Tax) and a wedding planner, in Vegas for the demolition man’s wedding. I’ve been aching to write something contemporary since I’ve been head-down in epic and alt-historical fantasy for a while now; the last contemporary thing I did was Sons of Ymre #2–which is in line edits, I think, and should be out sometime later this year too.

I’ve even got the unedited ebook of Rook’s Rose cut for subscribers, though it won’t drop until somewhere around June 1. It’s been a long strange ride with this serial, and while I’ve loved it I’m also glad it’s over–there’s a weird sense of almost-mourning, too, because writing it was so bound up in the crisis-feeling of getting through one more day. Some ropes hurt one’s hands even as they save one’s life, and while one doesn’t want to complain one can still wince a bit. Having to make the subscription drop each week, come hell high water or whatever-the-fuck in the news cycle, was good practice.

So it’s a recovery Monday. I have some administrivia to do, perhaps a Soundtrack Monday post to write–because I do love doing those–and a little bit of gardening planned while it’s a reasonable temperature outside. That’s on top of Boxnoggin’s walkies and running my own weary corpse, albeit both will probably occur at a far slower pace than usual. I’ve almost absorbed the last of the coffee, so it’s probably time to bid you a civil adieu and get started.

See you around.