Waiting for the Deluge

The prospect of rain has me positively giddy.

At first they said “Wednesday” but now the fronts appear to be arriving Friday, and I’m sure that will change too as the day gets closer. But it’s September, the rain is on its way, and soon I’ll be able to run while water falls from the sky. Puddles and grey skies and relief from incessant glare and heat–oh, I’m ready. I’m so ready.

My favorite time is almost upon us. There is a Spirit Halloween pop-up very close by; it’s the one time a year I can get decorations matching my everyday aesthetic, and at a good price too. The only thing I miss is giving out candy, but between the dogs and the plague, well, that’s going to have to wait. Some years I would put a large bowl of candy and a “take one” sign out, and while the younger kids could absolutely be trusted several parents and teenagers apparently cannot.1

The “ruin it for everyone” crowd starts small, and close to home.

I’m very sure my irritation will also smooth out as soon as the first drops are well and truly fallen. I’m looking forward to the spike in productivity rain always brings me, too. I could use it; I’ve spent the last few weeks doing formatting, forcing a certain print distro to do their bloody job or communicate with something approaching professionalism2, proofing, CEs, spot-reading–all the stuff around writing that isn’t writing.

I have finally gotten through all that (except for the proof pass which will land next week, I think, and finishing up that book will be such a relief) and it’s time for me to settle into more actual writing instead of just stealing a few minutes here and there. Of course so much in life conspires to keep me from the keyboard, and I resent a great deal of it. Just leave me alone to write, I want to howl. Leave me alone with my thoughts and the thing I was meant to do.

I don’t often close my office door–for one thing, even though the kids are grown the old habit of being on call 24/7 for them does not go away–but I’m considering it. Not to shut out anyone in the house, though the dogs will probably play some version of Rum Tum Tugger3.

No, instead it will be a signal to shut the rest of the world out, including online. My empathy has been pummeled like a speed bag, and I need time to heal. Or something, I’ll just be glad when the drubbing stops. I need a breath, even just half a breath.

Maybe my furious productivity all year to keep from sinking was a bad strategy. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I’m just tired and longing for rain. I won’t know until the first drops fall and I feel that huge, numinous relief.

Other people are hopeful in spring. I’m hopeful when the PNW turns grey and chilly, when sodden leaves clog gutters and storm drains, when the world smells like cold wet fir and mushrooms in moldering forest litter. Maybe this winter I’ll feel like baking again; I did practically no bread last year–why bake when there was no hope, or so little hope I had to reserve it for tiny spoonfuls?

…I didn’t mean to write most of this, but I think I’ll let it stand. There must be other people anticipating the advent of autumn with quiet, longing relief. Besides, there are the dogs to walk; Boxnoggin will not like the return of wet days but very much likes being toweled off when we return from soggy rambles, and also loves the office heater when I am forced to drag it out every fall.

I didn’t even have the spoons to put it away in spring. There are many little things I’ve looked at all year and just thought, “I have no energy for that, it’ll keep.”

Which turned out to be right, but every time I look at some of those small things I feel a definite draining sensation. Maybe this weekend I’ll forego the usual chores and just have a day of doing things I’ve put off. But that’s days and days from now, and I’ve writing to do.

Always, there’s writing to do. I can’t wait to get to it, so I bid you a very civil adieu, beloveds. I hope you have something pleasant to anticipate today, if not all week.

Back to Scratching Itch

blank

I’m settling down to my blog post a little late this Thursday, mostly because I’ve been fighting with print distributors. Well, fighting is a strong word. I’m simply being very clear about expectations and deadlines.

*sips tea*

I tested a new-ish print distro with four books, and have seen a 75% failure rate. Certainly not ideal by any measure, and let’s not even talk about people not bothering to read an email before they cut-and-paste a reply. To be fair, I know the reps are quite probably overworked–which is why I try to make it easy, giving all details for maximum clarity in every. single. email.

To be even more fair, the matter has finally escalated to the level where something has a chance of actually getting done, so that’s a good thing.

Had I been in publishing less than almost two decades (my, how the time has flown) I would probably just have given up on all four editions, but I know when to be stubborn by now. I have been treading the edge of Karen as this thing wears on, because by the gods, I will not be undone by a bureaucracy.

I will say the irritation was great fuel for the morning’s run. I woke up with grandson’s “Oh No!!!” in my head at high volume, so that was on repeat for a nontrivial number of kilometers. I’m still a bit sore (and dotted with various bruises) from the swift and complete moving job we did for a friend Tuesday, too. Stretching, a tonne of hydration, and going to bed early tonight will probably make me right as rain.

Today I get a burrito for lunch, some fun subscription stuff drops for my beloveds, the dogs are relatively calm, and while very warm the weather is not overly awful. And I get to throw both a heroine and her suitor into a Very Dangerous Situation, with bullets flying.

It feels good to be writing again, instead of dealing with distribution hassles, formatting, edits, or proofs. Just scratching the itch for twenty minutes or so on a day when I’m exhausted juggling other chainsaws is not optional. For the rest of this month I’m back to producing new words instead of dealing with the ones I’ve already written, and it is marvelous.

I wish you a lovely Thursday, my friends. May we all get a chance to do something we like today, instead of enduring what we must.

Over and out.

Puzzled By Cruelty

blank

Yesterday was all about line edits; Sons of Ymre #1 is inching that much closer to publication. (Yes, as soon as there’s preorder information, I will absolutely let my beloved Readers know.) I was up what passes for relatively late last night–the dogs went to bed without me, and are bright-eyed and fresh this morning while I drag.

I am a night owl by temperament, but years of having to get the kids ready for and delivered to school have left a mark. Now that’s over, the dogs are still on a schedule and creatures of habit who view All Change as Very Very Bad do not take kindly to schedules shifting. Left to my druthers I’d be up around 1pm, work until 3-4am, and fall into bed around 4-5am, depending.

Alas, it is not possible, and my body’s protests must be listened to though they change not a whit of what must be. Ah well.

The news from Texas yesterday put a dent in me, as well. I know a certain proportion of people just plain enjoy cruelty; it is a fact of existence on this planet, like gravity or nitrogen. Still, it’s puzzling. Why spend all your time being a racist, misogynist asshat when there’s a literal infinity of other things to fill one’s earthly time with? These people could go touch grass, learn how to unicycle, write songs, watch some movies, or even just take a goddamn walk.

Instead, they apparently want to be nasty little fascist dipshits. Why spend that kind of effort? It’s absolutely and literally easier to just…not, to simply be kind or at the very least leave other people alone.

I suppose that’s part of why I write. Not deepest, most overarching reason–I am, quite frankly, unable to stop, and have been ever since second grade–but an important one nonetheless. The addiction of some people to cruelty has baffled me literally all my life, starting with childhood caregivers who hurt me apparently just for funsies. It made no sense to Child Me and makes even less to Adult Me. (For whatever value of “adult”, I suppose.)

I wish I knew why. Attempting to understand might be the writer’s curse or just a function of empathy, I haven’t decided. Yes, I’ve written villains; I’ve even written characters who enjoy cruelty for its own sake–Perry in the Kismet series, for example, or a few of the antagonists in Afterwar, not to mention Summer in Gallow & Ragged.

Now that I think about it, “comfortable with cruelty” is a hallmark of many of my villains or antagonists. Yet those characters, foul as they are, cannot hold a candle to the petty, nasty, apparently endless brutality and mendaciousness of real-life authoritarians. Even Perry, and he was dead set on killing the entire world if it got him what he wanted from Jill.

Fiction has to make sense on some level. Real life, alas, does not.

I wish I understood. It’s long been my fervent belief that understanding breeds compassion, and while I’m fully aware sociopaths and narcissists view compassion as weakness it’s still integral to me, I will keep it that way, and it doesn’t mean I’m unprepared to enforce my boundaries. I can even view the understanding as a way of anticipating the behavior of those who like cruelty for its own sake, so I can protect me and mine from their depredations.

I suppose the only hope is to keep writing. There’s finicky little changes to go over in Ymre now that the bulk of the line edits are done, I just approved a shiny hardback for Moon’s Knight, and today is subscription day. The next major project is revisions on The Black God’s Heart diptych, but there’s a fellow writer’s book to beta read and an article to copyedit for another friend in the queue, so those will be loaded to the cannon first.

Not to mention walkies with a pair of excited, bratty, furry toddlers and a run to get in. The latter, at least, will help me concentrate and get through the rest of the day. I will mull over the mystery of why some people are cruel goddamn dipshits during both, I’m sure, and arrive at no answer other than, “They like it, and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.”

It is not a satisfying explanation, but at least it grants some succor. It will, as I often say, have to be enough.

Over and out.

Tuesday, With Questions

blank

I have coffee, and it’s finally not feeling like a Monday anymore. Small mercies, silver linings, and all that.

It struck me this morning, waiting for Horace de Brassiere (my espresso machine, who is a cousin to Phillip, the great French patent thief) to finish his burbling, that if I had to be dealing with these kinds of historical events, I am probably at the best age for it. I’m 45 this year, and all my fucks are gone. As a matter of fact, the number of fucks given in a room automatically drops when I walk in. Not only do I not have any more fucks to give, but I am operating on a fucks-to-give deficit and will automatically cancel out a few when I get within a certain radius.

It’s a nice feeling.

I’ve had a couple questions pop up from more than one person lately, so let me answer them here.


Is there a sequel to The Marked?

I do have the sequel in my head. What I don’t have, sadly, is the time, energy, and cash to write it just at the moment, especially since the e-pirates are getting kind of active lately. If I do manage to finish Oracle–the sequel’s working title–I’ll let you guys know, I promise. As it is, Jude and Press’s first adventure does end at a natural resting-point if it has to be a standalone.

Is there a site or format that provides you the best return on reader purchases? Does purchasing through the Gumroad store net you more proceeds than from Amazon, for example?

I answered this in comments, but I’ll answer it here too: The short answer is, it honestly doesn’t matter. Amazon, for example, tries relentlessly not to pay writers, but the discoverability and the bumping of their algorithm with sales of a particular book can aggregate over time. Other large distro platforms have their pluses and minuses, and direct selling like Gumroad does hand over a larger share of the proceeds but has a tightly scoped-in audience so not a lot of people end up buying there.

The best answer, from a writer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t matter where you bought the book but THAT you bought/checked out the book–torrenting and pirating doesn’t count.

Another thing that’s really helpful is rating/reviewing the book, wherever you bought it. Algorithms tend to bump rated/reviewed books more, so that does good things for a writer’s backlist.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter, it’s all about what’s more convenient for the Reader.

What’s happening with The Highlands War?

A lot of people are writing me about Steelflower lately. This remains my most-stolen series; it’s difficult to write against that current. If you wish I’d write more of Kaia’s adventures, and more quickly, the reason I can’t is because people keep torrenting/pirating/stealing them. It’s not a compliment, it’s a theft, and it feels so much like a violation I have trouble going back to the books even if I had the time and income to write them.

That said, I am considering writing The Highlands War as a serial once Hell’s Acre is finished. We’re at the start of Season One of Hell’s Acre, and there are two seasons planned–so that will take a while, and by the time it’s over I’ll see if people have stopped stealing Kaia’s books. If they have, I’ll probably be able to use the serial slot to at least bring the adventures of Steelflower and the Gang in the North to their conclusion.

I originally planned another, subsequent trilogy dealing with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan, but that’s a lot of epic fantasy to write for little-to-no return and a bunch of people stealing it in the bargain.

I know most of you reading this will say, “But I paid for my Kaia books!” And if you did I am very glad and grateful; you (and Skyla Dawn Cameron) are the reason why Steelflower at Sea and Steelflower in Snow are published at all. I thank you kindly, and I’m very sorry other people are behaving so badly. I wish they weren’t.


I’ve been getting some other questions (more like comments, alas) in the mailbag (and other places) lately, but these are the most common. And now that I’ve finished absorbing coffee, some brekkie is called for before the dogs drag me around the block.

Boxnoggin in particular is in fine form today–he’s not called Baron von Titzpunch for nothing, the dog outright demanded snuggles this morning. Miss B, of course, has her rigid schedule to adhere to, but she also plundered his breakfast bowl this morning since there was bacon grease and the Baron wasn’t quite off the mark quick enough.

Never a dull moment chez Saintcrow, alas and hallelujah. At least the week of Mondays seems over, and the weather is holding.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Half Off Monday

blank

Last week was full of Mondays. Every damn day felt like one.

Consequently, I have made the executive decision that this week, I am taking Monday half-off. I’ll get in a chapter of Hell’s Acre and maybe some line edits today, but I’m knocking off early and not going to spend eighteen hours wrestling with print distro problems.

I should probably just open my own publishing house. You know the old joke–the easy way to make a million dollars in publishing is to spend two million.

Still, I’m practically a cottage industry. I work quickly; I can’t help it. The stories, like the spice, must flow.

I did get HOOD‘s Season Three all prepped for distribution. It lands September 21; preorders are live everywhere except Amazon, which doesn’t let you do ebook preorders if you’re not using KDP. (They really, REALLY want writers locked into their proprietary systems, but I am unwilling.) Which is why I also stock .mobi versions in my Gumroad store. The omnibus–all three seasons of HOOD in one nifty volume–will probably be out December-ish, depending on the cover artist’s schedule.

And that’s one series put to bed. Whew. Writing the bulk of Season Three during last year was…not unpleasant, because work kept me from walking into the sea. But still, I had a lot of difficulty on the editing and proofing passes because certain passages reminded me very strongly of 2020’s weeds and thickets.

Now that is a year I would not care to revisit. 2021’s got some lulus, yes, but on the whole I feel a lot better about it than I did about the four preceding years. I’m sure I’m just being set up for some scorching disappointment, true, but in the meantime I’m going to take a damn breath.

Not to mention walk the dogs. They don’t care what we’ve named the days of the week, all they know is that brekkie has been inspected (not eaten, except for the bacon grease) and Mum has finished her coffee, therefore it’s time to drag the biped around the block. I may even need a jacket today; it’s a lovely temperature.

I suppose it’s time to dance out the door. Miss B is under my desk, balefully tapping me with her nose every once in a while. (Once a herding dog, always a herding dog.) Boxnoggin is probably on my unmade bed since I left my bedroom door open, belly-up and snoring but with an ear cocked lest I somehow attempt to leave the house without him. Any move I make down the hall will precipitate a mad scramble on his part, I’m sure.

I should tell you guys about the Fork-Tailed Squirrel, but that can wait for another post. Monday awaits, and needs to be driven back into its cave.

See you around, beloveds.

Week of Mondays

blank

Someone in the neighborhood has been roofing since Monday. Or several someones. The nail guns and staple guns are going like a fusillade. I’ve just made my peace with the fact that Monday’s happening all week.

And it’s been kind of a dilly so far, frankly. Maybe just considering every day Monday is how it’s gonna be from now on, I dunno. But I’ve had a new release, line edits for Sons of Ymre #1 landed, I still have the HOOD omnibus to fold in proofreader changes on, the Black God’s Heart diptych has edits lingering, plus there’s a lot of Hell’s Acre to write.

And Guilder to frame for it, as usual. I’m swamped.

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve crossed off my weekly to-do list–CEs for The Bloody Throne, a contract for some new Ghost Squad books, arguing over the phone with an insurance company (always big fun), and fixing the (not so pleasant) results of the print distribution experiment for Moon’s Knight, not to mention the release day proper for the latter. (For the curious, the print edition is currently available through Amazon; other channels will have it in due time. I have pretty hardback plans, too.)

Yet I feel like I’ve done nothing, and it makes me want to weep.

The only cure is putting my head down and working like a demon though the weekend. Revisions won’t get accomplished, of course–but I think it’s very likely I can get the omnibus proof sorted this weekend and Season Three prepped for September release, which is just within the schedule I set earlier. Which means the omnibus can get sorted for October-November.

That’s the thing about book releases. By the time they happen, the book’s already probably a year (if not multiple years) old. I’m already juggling a brand-new set of chainsaws, and flinching every time I look at the old one(s).

But it’s a nice cloudy morning, it smells like rain though I think that’s a polite petrichor fiction, and the chattering of roofing equipment isn’t quite soothing but it does (hopefully) mean someone’s getting paid for their work on a relatively pleasant day. The heat seems to have retreated a bit, and we’re no longer miserably sheltering in any AC we can find. There might even be tomatoes in a short while, because the plants are looking very happy indeed.

Of course, I probably won’t get out to harvest them, being head-down in a whirlwind of work being my preferred state. I suppose a week’s worth of Mondays is a small price to pay for getting a new book out into the world and making a dent in the massive to-do list. I guess all that frantic work I did during lockdown is sort of paying off? At the time, I was just trying to keep my head above water.

Whomst among us in 2020 wasn’t, though. *sigh*

All right. Thursday also means subscription stuff to get out the door, and I suppose I should start the proof changes today if I’m going to work through the weekend. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and a writer definitely qualifies as both.

Or maybe just this particular writer does.

See you around, beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, mask up, get your shot(s), and keep holding on.

Even a week of Mondays has to end sometime.

RELEASE DAY: Moon’s Knight

It’s a Tuesday, which generally means new books. And what do you know, this Tuesday it means a new Lili book.

The portal fantasy I wrote last year (during the very bleakest part of that lockdown) was originally going to stay on my hard drive, unread by anyone other than me. My beta readers, however, were going through rough patch (who wasn’t, at that moment) so I said, “All right, here. Have this portal fantasy. It’s not much, but–“

I couldn’t even finish the sentence. They figuratively snatched it out of my hands, read it, then all three promptly informed me that I had to publish it. I sent it to my agent, who cursed me for making her like a portal fantasy, and so, resisting all the way, I was brought to the sticking-post.

So…here it is, for your delectation as well, dear Reader.


blank

Drunk and disoriented after her best friend’s funeral, Ginevra Bennet stumbles through a door in an ivy-covered wall…and finds herself in a dry wasteland under a dying crimson sun, the only possible shelter a giant stone castle.

If it’s a hallucination, it’s a deadly one; the Keep is full of beauty, luxury, courtly manners–and monsters. The inhabitants rejoice in her arrival, dress her in white, and call her a queen. Greenery returns to their gardens, and the prince of the realm, with his silver-ringed eyes, seems very interested in Gin indeed. It should be the answer to every lonely young woman’s dreams.

But nothing in Gin’s life has ever been what it’s seemed. Not her best friend, not her upbringing, and most especially not her nightmares. Drowning, violent death, a stone roof, and the hallucinatory prince have filled her nights, and Gin hopes she’s going mad–because the alternative is just too scary to contemplate.

Caught in a web of manners, intrigue, and betrayal, Gin has to depend on her sorely tested wits and uncertain sanity. There are Gates at the edge of the wasteland, and if she can escape the castle and its beautiful, terrifying inhabitants, she might just find a few answers and be able to get home.

Assuming, of course, home is where she really wants to be…

Available from Barnes & NobleAmazonKoboAppleGoogle Play, and direct; print edition also available here.


I was trying out a new print distribution service for the paper edition, figuring it was a great time to experiment. The experiment did not go well, so I’m making other plans. So yes, the paper edition is forthcoming–it was supposed to drop a full week before the ebook, but like I said, the experiment didn’t go well. (Translation: I will not be recommending that particular print distro to my publishing friends.) So I’m sort of scrambling to get the rest put together, and I’ll tell you when the paper edition goes live. [ETA: It’s live! You can find it here.]

I suppose today is a release day, though I intended to just quietly drop this book with no warning and no fanfare. Best-laid plans, and all that.

So, uh, I wrote a book. Here it is. You might like it, though I kept telling the beta readers, “It’s very slight. There’s not a lot of action. It…dammit, I’m still talking, why are you walking away and reading at the same time? THAT’S DANGEROUS!”

I suspect I am a trial to my poor beta readers as well as everyone else, most days. So I’ll just go stick my head in a bucket like usual on release days, and let the world do as it will. Maybe now this story will leave me alone.

Happy Tuesday!