Trim and Holes

Flying hair
© Cherrymerry | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Got out the door for a run before the heat spiked. Apparently, after a few days of reasonable temperatures, we’re going to be roughly the surface of the sun for a while.

I hate hot weather. Snow, cold, rain I can handle, but I just…I hate sweating, unless I’m running or dancing. You can always put another layer on, but you can’t take off your skin and cool down that way.1 Not that I’d want to, with all the pet hair around. Having that stick to one’s raw muscles would be suboptimal.

Anyway, B and I got out for a run, and my knees didn’t hurt at the end, which is a sure sign that I needed new trainers. The new socks are pretty spiffy too; the old ones have so many holes they’re not much use against blistering anymore. Poor things, I tend to wear them until they’re more hole than sock. Considering a sock is just a hole you put your foot in, maybe they don’t mind.

Once home, I trimmed my hair so I don’t have to do it again for six months, and while wielding the shears, I suddenly knew how the last assassination attempt in The Maiden’s Blade happens. Or at least, most of it. After sweating over it all through my run and coming up blank, it was like a gift. Pikes are the traditional defense against horsemen, after all. Once I have that scene, it’s a straight shot to the end of the scaffolding, and then I’ll have a (very rough, full of holes) zero draft. I’d like more time to polish it into a reasonable first, but since the book I was supposed to write died on the vine, this one has moved into its space and created a time crunch.

At least the corpse will be whole once I get even a scaffold-zero down. It’s comforting; if I have little faith in my ability to finish at this point in every book, I know I have a great deal of ability when it comes to revision.

It’s just…that first step is a lulu.

Time to get the pikemen into position, and a main character messily murdered. I hope your Tuesday is as…uh, I was about to type “pleasant,” but that’s not the right word, is it? Nor is “eventful.”

I suppose I should simply stop while I’m ahead. Over and out.

Changing Paths

Roaring lioness
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Attempting new things, because the old way isn’t working. Sometimes old ways work for a while but peter out, or everything around the path changes and you have to change the path to suit.

So, the big change is moving my run to before morning blogging. Getting out the door is difficult even on good days. I mean, I roll out of bed and into my running clothes, but peeling myself out of the house is another animal altogether. Attacking the run while relatively fresh is a good idea, and now I can use blogging as a chance to prime the pump and get words flowing from my fingers.

The weekend was…nice. I got out of the house for a hot date with a girlfriend; we went to see Deadpool 2. Matinee tickets, so I would have left as soon as the fridging occurred, but I had to stay. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Domino (wish the movie had been about her instead) and Cable (Josh Brolin is distressingly sexy, even after all these years1) and the Rob Liefeld jokes (dear God, and Shatterstar in the helicopter blades) were well worth the price of admission. Still…can we just not have fridging and manpain as narrative fuel in superhero movies? It’s old, it’s tired, I’m done with it.

I also braved the depths of a beauty store and emerged victorious, carrying a few shades of eyeliner that aren’t black2 and–are you ready? LIPSTICK. I know, I love Russian Red lipstick, but a dark purple-red actually suits me better. When I came home bearing my prizes (and several things for the children, since the beauty store is near an import shop full of neat things) I was told I looked like a pissed-off Wednesday Addams. An awesome compliment, to be sure, especially since Wednesday is merely unamused and rarely deigns to get actually angry.

The comparisons just write themselves.

Anyway, today I crowbar’d my way out of the house, finished my run, and rolled into jeans, a hoodie, lipstick, and my favorite Sarto heels. They’re not my Capezios; I can run and fight in the latter, but I’d have to kick the Sartos off to run. Which makes them suboptimal, but I’m not leaving the house and I think I can relax enough to wear non-running shoes in my office. And yes, those are my requirements for any piece of clothing. Can I run in it, and can I fight in it? All other considerations are secondary.

It feels good to be braced for the day like this. Next comes getting back into The Maiden’s Blade and putting more pieces together. I’ve decided to do dialogue-heavy scenes first, and layer in the color and scenery on the next pass. I was trying to do both at once and banging my head on the slooooooooowness. I need scaffolding before I can make the fabric of this book hang correctly. A certain king needs to give the go-ahead for his daughter to be assassinated and there’s a day at the races with two princes to write as well. If I can get both of those scaffolded, I’ll count today a win.

See you around the bend, darlings.

*throws kisses, vanishes in a puff of smoke*

Panic, But No Disco

The Bear and the Beehive
© cc0images | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yesterday was cool, cloudy, and utterly exhausting. Not only is The Maiden’s Blade fighting me like a rabid weasel, but I’m also getting paralyzed by the fact that its deadline is approaching and I seriously doubt I’ll finish even a zero on time. It’s my own fault, since the previous book I was supposed to do for this publisher died on the vine and we had to shift to this one. So of course, when I said, “you can have ANY OF THESE OTHER BOOKS” they picked the longest, most complex one.

I don’t blame them, I kind of suspected it, and it’s nice to be working at full capacity again trying something new and even more complex than usual. But the scrabbling performance anxiety is unpleasant. A certain feature of deadlines is the almost-paralysis as one draws near, and I tend to push myself hard at the end of a zero draft anyway. It’s a double whammy.

Also, yesterday I went to a doctor’s appointment with a friend of mine. Being a calm, steadying patient advocate is something I’m apparently good at, and while I’m focusing on that I’m not thinking about other things. Unfortunately, the cumulative stress and worry smacked me with a panic attack once the appointment was over and I was heading for the grocer’s. I suppose I’ve been somewhat spoiled, since the meds brought me down from half a dozen-plus attacks daily to long stretches of weeks and months without. Apparently the habit of just focusing to get through them and not let anyone see vulnerability is still strong, since nobody even glanced twice at me all through the store. Finding out that I can still perform that feat isn’t comforting at all; I would gladly get rid of that talent born of practice if it meant I wouldn’t have panic attacks for the rest of my life.

Because they’re flat-out terrifying. Palms sweating, tunnel vision, rushing in the ears, heart pounding like a hummingbird’s wings about to explode, taste of copper, a tremor in the arms and legs one has to conceal so as not to appear weak or distracted, intensifying in random waves so one can’t brace for the next one…yeah.

Anyway, I got home without incident, the kids unloaded the groceries, and the Princess took over dinner. Just frozen pizzas, really, but it was one thing I didn’t have to do, so that was welcome. Dinner, a lot of deep breathing and some emergency meds later, I staggered to bed and collapsed.

At least the meds mean I can sleep, and not linger in a twitching twilight insomnia.

Today is for a run to work off whatever stress chemicals are still swilling around in my bloodstream, and some serious work on Maiden’s Blade. I can collapse the last two assassination attempts and torment the lady in waiting with a failure, and once I bring that arc to a close I can go back and see where the fabric of the book is hanging too slack or too taut and tweak the other arcs, adding some and reining in others, so it presents a unified fabric. Or at least, close to one, and the editor will be able to see flaws I can’t.

That’s the plan, at least. I should also leave the office window open, since Odd Trundles is upset that I won’t let him lick light sockets and has settled with his hindquarters pointed directly at me, and I know what that means. I don’t have a gas mask, so an open window it is. The poor fellow swallows so much air and it has to escape somehow, especially when he’s in a bad mood.

Hopefully your Thursday will be less…fragrant, my friends.

Over and out.

Insulation, Burning

I’d rather be writing Robin Hood in Space or the kind-of-angel romance, but instead, this epic fantasy won’t bloody end. I keep stabbing it and stabbing it, and it just won’t die. I know I’m on the downhill slope, I know it will be finished, I just…I’m tired. I’d rather be revising Jozzie & Sugar Belle, even, and I’m pretty sure that damn novella won’t get any sales traction, ever.

I know, I know. Here I am complaining about a book under contract, one with the perfect editor, one I’m so close to finishing. I can find anything to bitch about, really.

This morning is cloudy and cool; I want to get out and run before the layer of insulation burns off my nerves and the sky. First I’ll have to find some socks, and that seems a difficult if not insurmountable task at the moment. I keep hoping that when the espresso hits I’ll feel less like I’m using concrete blocks for feet.1

I know the exhaustion is normal at this point in the writing process. I know plenty of it is the fact that I wasn’t completely recovered from Afterwar; I wasn’t even close to recovered. I know it’s a grueling endurance race and the June 1 deadline can be moved a bit. I know, intellectually, that I’m not letting the editor down if I need more time, especially with a giant sprawling cast-of-thousands2 book.

I still feel that hitch of uncertainty in my chest whenever I glance at the calendar and notice just how close I am to the drop-dead date. And the fact that the editor’s going to see the zero instead of a draft I’ve had time to let marinate is anxiety-producing as well.

The only way out is through, as usual. I’ve upped my running mileage as much as I dare to try and work off some of the cortisol and assorted stress chemicals. Deep breathing is always acceptable, but curling up in the corners is only useful in short doses. Miss B is nosing at me, ready to get out the door and work even though the weather means fewer people out with their canine buddies.

Guess I should find some socks and get over myself. All I have to do is keep writing. Sooner or later this book will finish like all the rest.

Over and out.

Energy

Electricity, Light, Energy, Technology
© Publicdomainphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I was going to write about Afterwar today, but I took an internal vote on my energy level and decided I’m maybe not quite recovered enough from the process of getting the book through publication.

I wanted to talk about how pretty much everything the Firsters do in the book is based on historical precedent, and also say a word about the Great Burn, but…yeah. Energy level. I’ll feel better after a run, but it’s blogging first and running after for the foreseeable future. It’s cloudy today, with spatters of rain, which means Miss B and I might avoid People Who Let Their Dogs Roam Unleashed, always a joy. I don’t mind the dogs, who are just dying to make B’s acquaintance, but I do mind the goddamn owners who want to talk to me after interrupting a working session with me and my beloved running partner.

…I may also be a bit cranky today. The coffee is soaking in. It’s glorious to have coffee without nausea, so I should probably be in a better mood. I finally got the lady in waiting kidnapped, which means The Maiden’s Blade can move into its final third. The next scene is the princess worrying over her lady in waiting while attending a banquet, having to smile and act gracious while sick with stress and dreading the worst for her friend and companion; the one after that is the actual rescue, I think, which I am going to make bloody as fuck to drive home just how much the prince involved is Not A Good Guy Even Though He Does Good Things. Then it’s back to assassinations, imprisonment, a wife to murder and someone to frame for it.

I’m swamped. *cue Prince Humperdinck face*

I should mention that the light therapy seems to be working. A fifteen-minute shot of BRIGHT OMG EYES WATERING while I blog or take care of correspondence in the morning seems to ameliorate the 3pm doldrums. I might add another session near 3pm just to see if I can get an afternoon zing, but I’m afraid of it messing with my sleep patterns. I never, ever want to go back to perpetual insomnia. I don’t even want to get close to the edge of that particular abyss.

There’s some exciting stuff landing in my inbox, like cover mockups for the planned Roadtrip Z omnibus and kicking around ideas for Jozzie & Sugar Belle. I may just sell the latter through Gumroad as a curiosity, I don’t think many people will want to read the Nutless Kangaroo Shifter Teams Up With Stripper Witch zaniness. But it’s fun, and it’ll be out there for the people who are interested.

Time to get out into the grey rain and sweat a bit, even though all I want to do is write the banquet scene. It will be better for the planning I put in while my feet are pounding, and I’ll have more energy after running. Funny how that works.

Over and out.

RELEASE DAY: Afterwar

That’s right, my dears! The book I’ve been agonizing over for multiple years is now out in the world.


They say the war’s over when the surrender is signed. It’s a lie.

America’s bloody Second Civil War lasted for years. When the surrender is signed, it’s supposed to be over; refugees flood the highways, trying to get back home. For Swann’s Riders-especially their newest addition Lara Nelson, snatched from certain death in the Firster kamp system-there’s no such thing as a home to return to.

Swann and his crew of partisans work for the Federal Army now, hunting through the wreckage for war criminals and kamp officials. Their next quarry is carrying something explosive, something that can level the nascent Federal government and turn the entire continent into a hellscape- well, more than it already is.

Across America, working against time and chaos, Swann’s Riders are back in the fight. And Lara, whose secrets may well end up consuming her too, has a vengeance of her own to deliver…


I finished the zero draft of Afterwar in March 2017. The book itself was brutal to write, for obvious reasons. Then, things started going wrong. Orphaned twice1 and delayed at every production step, last-minute proofing hassles, payment snafus…I joked to Kevin Sonney that if the printers didn’t catch fire and sink into a swamp, I would be surprised. There was just that much bad luck during the publication process. Every once in a while a book gets a perfect storm of Shit Happens, I guess I was due for one anyway, and the fact that it came on the heels of finishing what was probably the most emotionally difficult story I’ve ever written was just icing on a terrifying anxiety-laden cake.

Every book deserves acknowledgements, and I don’t usually do them on release day, but this is a somewhat special case. I want to take a moment and thank Devi Pillai and Miriam Kriss, who believed I could do something bigger and were there to encourage and help me when I (frequently) doubted, Lindsey Hall, who had to deal with me at my very-most-frazzled, Mel Sterling for support above and beyond even the call of Best Friend Duty, Lauren Panepinto for not strangling me when I became difficult and for a great cover, the Deadline Dames and the MurderFriends for a constant mutter of support, cat gifs, and zaniness, Sarah Guan for taking the book through the home stretch and soothing a Very Tired Writer, and my children, who I wrote this for. I should also add thanks to the many service members, in various branches of the armed forces, who answered my bizarre questions with patience and good humor, especially Jeff Davis.

I’m very tired, having spent a restless night, and the release day anxiety is particularly bad. I can barely believe the book made it out into the world, and am at once relieved and scared almost witless. Waiting for another shoe to drop, as it were. So I’m going to go and spend this day the way I spend other release days–shaking, soaking my head in a bucket, and writing. (One of those options may not be quite feasible; I doubt I have a bucket clean enough after the recent stomach flu.)

Come back on Thursday, and I’ll tell you some more about Afterwar. In the meantime, I have a Fanchat Discord you can join; just be sure to mark your spoilers.

Over and out.

Old Decrepit Me

Last week the stomach flu tore through our household like a hot knife through the solidified fat of your choice. I’m still a little weak-kneed, but I have an easy run scheduled for today and both B and I need the work. She was up and down with me the entire time; the only difference between a toddler and a dog watching you puke is that the dog wants to get their nose in the loo bowl.

It’s kind of exotic, the kids being old enough to want to puke on their own. Neither of them wanted me in the loo with them while they heaved. I mean, I don’t blame them, I hate vomiting more than just about anything else, but it’s kind of strange when your kids don’t want you to hold their hair, rub their back, and make soothing sounds. I contented myself with washing sheets, running bowls, and reassurance. Thank goodness we got sick round-robin instead of all at once; the Princess brought home a megaton of saltines and I had some PediaLyte stashed, and we had quite a few “get your own dinner” nights. All three of us sitting glassy-eyed at the table, staring at bowls holding minuscule portions of something bland, and every once in a while laughing because none of us could finish a damn portion.

Anyway, we’re all much better now. The kids, still young, chewy, and bendy, bounced back much more quickly than old, decrepit me. *sigh*

So today it’s that gentle run, with a few walking stops to make Miss B work at heel and distance, and a regular day’s work–revising a chapter of Atlanta Bound from zero to first draft status, then wordcount on The Maiden’s Blade. I’ve finally gotten to the part where I can do the kidnapping, so most of the run today will be thinking about that and putting the pieces together inside my head. Several breaks for water and stretching will have to result, too, because heaving (go figure) fucks up your back and being unable to stretch without retching is Not Fun. Even my intercostals ache, and my abdominals haven’t had this much of a workout since my dancing days.

Also, tomorrow is release day for Afterwar. Which, I’m sure, is a component of the leftover nausea. Release days are always high-stress, and this particular book had so. much. go. wrong. with the publishing process. I’m amazed the printers didn’t blow up and sink into a swamp, I’m still waiting for Yet Another Piece of Bad News and unsettled when none arrives.

On the bright side, the new dishwasher works wonders, and I was able to make rice noodles last night. I was stirring said noodles in a pot when I realized I wasn’t dreading cleanup and I was actually, finally, cooking again. So much of my identity is bound up in motherhood and feeding the kids, I feel somewhat at sea when I’m not performing that function daily.

And this morning a squirrel fell out of a fir tree, through an apple tree, and just narrowly escaped a wandering Siamese cat. The laurel bush the squirrel eventually took shelter in is suspiciously quiet, though the Siamese ran away with a bottle-brush tail. I suspect things are about to get very interesting in the New Kingdom of Backyard…