Nervousness and Fanfic

We’re at less than 48 hours until adults are in charge again, and I can’t settle. I can barely breathe for the anxiety. I’m braced for more terrible fascist violence. I expect a good hard run today will help shake some of that out, but the nervousness is going to mount until the actual event.

Quite possibly beyond, too. Already I can’t even sit still.

The dogs don’t know why I’m so nervy, of course, and I’m content to have it so. The last thing they need is politics swamping their tiny doggy brains. Still, they’re both very concerned and sticking to me like velcro, attempting to soothe whatever invisible thing is tormenting their human.

Tormenting me is their job, and they don’t like being superseded.

I was supposed to take the weekend off, and am also not allowed to work today. Burnout is awful. I want to work, not least because it’s how I escape *waves hands* All That. I might–might–be allowed to write some fanfic; the only question there is what kind.

There was a bit of a dustup on social media over the weekend about fanfic. Someone just had to get shitty over it, which is about par for the course and happens with depressing regularity. I was heartened to see everyone whose opinion I respect weighing in on the side of “Fanfic is glorious, stfu”; it let me know I’m following the right people.

You can’t get better as a writer without, well, actually writing. (And reading, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Fanfic is great practice; it can be training wheels, fuel, and bowling bumpers all at once. It’s also a deep compliment to the original writer–I love your characters/world so much, I can’t let go of either.

I have strong and very definite feelings about writing–I believe in writing every day. (Burnout, of course, means only about 200 words a day on something that won’t ever be published, but it’s keeping the habit that matters.) But as for what that daily writing can be? It doesn’t matter if it’s fanfic, drabbles, original, dialogue sparks, or what-have-you.

A writer isn’t a writer without a lot of reading; it doesn’t matter what you read. It matters that you read, and likewise, it doesn’t matter what you write. It matters that you write.

It matters that you get in the habit of prioritizing your writing, that you reserve some of your daily energy for it, that you practice. It matters that you do. Writers write, it’s the nature of the beast.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people will be upset at the “write every day” thing, but you’re here on my site and I’m telling you what I think, so deal. The fact remains that fanfic is a gift, a great practice, plus it strengthens a writer’s grasp of characterization, structure, plot, timing, and craft. I suspect the “writer” of that silly thread touching all this off is just annoyed that nobody likes her characters enough to write ficlets about them.

I can’t, of course, read any fanfic of my own work, for fear of poisoning the well or possible legal ramifications. But you bet your bippy any time I’m told someone loved my stories enough to want to write in those universes, I get a deep warm feeling and can’t help but grin. I consider it a huge high compliment that the characters in my head have also made themselves at home inside someone else’s. It’s a beautiful, joyous, loving gift, even if the fanfic writer was mad at me for an ending or a character’s fate.

Love or hate of my work is fine. The job of a writer is to provoke an emotional reaction, and either is acceptable. The very worst reaction to one’s work is lukewarm boredom; I don’t even mind the hatemail or the how could you emails, because those mean I’ve done my damn job.

So. In case there was any confusion about where I stand on fanfic, let me reiterate: Fanfiction is GREAT. It’s awesome, I love it, and it makes writers better. Do it all you want. It doesn’t matter what you write, it matters only that you write.

And now I go walk the dogs, not to mention run myself ragged, and try to distract myself from dread and anxiety. And later today I’m probably going to write some Madalorian fanfic. Sure, only 200 words or so, but it’ll keep my hand in, and it’s my own personal fuck you to the idea that fanfic writers are somehow lesser creatures.

Over and out.

Of Many Minds

This morning I peered at the internet, said “what in the Sam Hill…” and immediately thought of Stonehenge. It’s pretty certain the saying was around before Hill built it, but I never let that get in the way of a good free-association.

Yes. Hello. Good morning, it’s Tuesday, my brain is twenty-four coked-up monkeys partying inside a skull full of breakable things and odd ends, and that’s even before coffee. Once caffeine gets in there, it’s going to be a real party.

Yesterday was spent on the first third of Black God’s Heart, which needed trimming and shaping in light of the finished arc of the book. It’ll get easier as I go along, since the more I wrote the more of it I could see, and I eventually arrived (in a series of oscillations) right where Book One needed to halt.

Or… maybe not. I’m of two (more) minds about the ending, which has never happened to me before. I think I’ve the right one, though it’s counterintuitive; I would prefer the book to end a different way but a story does as it does.

Which means the ending’s a question for a different day. Today is for revision now that I see the shape and have a whole corpse, even if the fringe at the toes may need a slightly different trim once I finish this pass. My urge to pack a lunch, get in the car, and drive up the Gorge to see the ol’ Henge again probably has something to do with avoiding work and wanting to sink into a good long drive where I can dream and build new stories.

It’s so uncharacteristic of me to want to leave the house at all, let alone for a car journey, that I’m a little weirded out. I’ll ascribe it to pandemic stress and the urge towards solitude; I haven’t had the house to myself in months. Not that it’s bad–I have doors to close should I need it, and can always go for a rambling walk in the park(s). I know I’m lucky. And yet if even I’m feeling the urge to flee, well, I can imagine how bad it is for others who don’t have my luck.

*sigh* So it’s back to revision today. Yesterday’s work was not all I’d hoped for, but it will get easier as I go on. I’m waiting for the point where The Gangster in the story finally clicked into place and I saw his motivations clearly, plus once I’ve salted in a few more mentions of the Big Bad (not the garden-variety bad) the entire fabric of the book will hang much more smoothly.

At least I know what has to be done. Which is far better than just wandering around in the dark with a machete and a cord, looking for a socket or a monster, whichever happens first.

The coffee is half done. The monkeys have noticed I’m imbibing it. The dogs are waiting for their walk. And yet I linger here, glancing at the cedars out the window every once in a while, waiting to hear their whispers.

Sooner or later, they say.

Sooner… or later, you’ll be free.

I just have to work a bit first, that’s all.

Last Monday, 2020 Edition

It’s the last Monday in 2020. I just read John Scalzi’s reflection on the year–my own is closely parallel. On paper, it wasn’t a massively bad trip around the sun. Our day to day life didn’t change much with lockdown, except for my son not going into the building for his last year of school. (Frankly, he likes home learning better. So would I, in his shoes.) I have a new agent, I sold some books. We’re largely still healthy here.

But that’s on paper. Out here where the rest of me lives, 2020’s been almost as stressful as buying the house, or the terrible Divorce Year. At least during Divorce Year and house-buying I had some kind of goal, I knew things would Get Better.

2020 has given me no such assurance. I’m forced to regard simply surviving the year as a badge of honor, and even if 2021 is worse we can be proud of surviving its predecessor.

At least, so I think.

I spent Boxing Day through the weekend doing what I could to refill the creative well, including a little bit on the Viking werewolf gothic story. It may turn out less “gothic” and more epic, but for right now I’m just playing, using it as a break from HOOD and Black God’s Heart. It’s always good to have an unsold book to make other projects jealous of.

Christmas was… difficult. There are good years and bad years, and this particular year was dragged over bare wires, the insulation stripped free.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be in-office before the official end of the year. I just want to hide in my closet, preferably with a bag of edibles, until 2020 is gone. I’m not the girl in a horror movie who comes out when she thinks it’s quiet, oh no. I’m staying in the bloody hiding spot until well after the credits. A final chase through the house might be in the script, but they’re gonna have to get another girl for that. I’m done.

The dogs don’t care about such things as calendars, and it’s a good thing, too. They know only that the Time of Ham (a blessed time that always happens in winter, its lore passed down from one dog to the next) is almost past and the Time of Running While Swearing At All These New People On The Road is about to begin. Things won’t calm down and get back to normal until the first week of March or so, when all the people who are going to continue running have found their routes and the rest have decided–probably wisely–to stay home. By then Boxnoggin will be used to running on my right side, and hopefully we’ll have less gravel to pick out of my skin.

Hopefully.

I have grand plans of wordcount today, but I’m not sure I’ll get there. I might celebrate it being the last Monday by continuing to poke at the Viking story. The protagonist has a very strong voice in that one, and I’m sure there might be a troll or two. In other words, big fun.

We’re in the home stretch. Be careful and hydrate, my friends. I’d hate to lose you now. If we’re trudging for the end of the year, at least we’re not doing it alone.

*wanders away muttering about standing stones*

Supposed To, Should, Maybe

I’m supposed to be resting today.

I did line edits, then a final revise on a submittable manuscript, back to back. The big scab on my forehead from Boxnoggin’s antics has fallen free, though the ones on my hands and knees are still clinging for all they’re worth. (I know, you really wanted to hear about that, you’re welcome.) I feel just generally run-down and like my body’s fighting off a cold, though it could just be my immune system screaming “COME AT ME, MOTHERFUCKERS, I GOT ENOUGH AMMO FOR ALLA YOUSE.”

…my immune system, she is just like me.

Yes, I should be resting today. Instead I’m considering a Viking fantasy gothic werewolf book1, and looking at my production schedule for next year to see where I could ram one in. Bonus if it turns out that I can do the Rebecca-from-vampire-Mrs-Danvers-POV novella2 as well, since that’s been boiling in the back of my head.

It’s… nice, I suppose? To feel books jostling inside my head again, and to feel like I might, if I budget carefully, have the energy to finish another one? I’ve spent most of 2020 feeling down in the dumps because my productivity has taken hit after massive hit. I have a lot of Tolkien to read too, and I should be planning nothing more taxing than a day on the couch with a stack of Unfinished Tales and History of Middle-Earth, drinking tea and chortling while I make notes for Fall of Gondolin fanfic.

I am making the supreme sacrifice–no run today, because I rolled over in bed this morning and my body informed me that if I suit up for one, it will have some Strong Words for the management. I figure I’ve put my faithful old corpse through enough lately, so it’ll be ibuprofen and just a gentle ramble with both dogs. Miss B’s hind leg is bothering her a bit, so we keep our pace almost glacial, which drives Boxnoggin almost to distraction. Still, the two of them wrestle with abandon after lunch and dinner, so they get plenty of exercise and Boxnoggin’s “Gawd, will you just come on,” dance burns a lot of energy as well. Or so I hope.

Maybe I’ll yell some more about the Silmarillion or related things3 later this week. If I do–I’m not saying it’s a given, mind you–is there anything in particular you guys want me to cover? I don’t think I’m up to Children of Hurin4 but other stuff is fair game. I kind of wish ol’ JRR had novelized the Kingdom of the North, but that could be because I’m a total Witch King of Angmar fangirl.

…anyway, the dogs want their walkies and the coffee is down to dregs, so I suppose me and the faithful carcass that’s been hauling me around since birth should get a gentle ramble in. Then it’ll be time for ibuprofen and tea.

A writer’s life is full of excitement, kiddos.

Over and out.

What Weekend?

I spent the weekend on line edits for an upcoming romance (you guys are gonna love this one) and crashed pretty hard Sunday afternoon. Every wound and swelling left over from Boxnoggin trying to murder me via pavement was speaking up, and I had a headache so bad I was thinking “brain bleed, Lili, you’re gonna die.”

So I made dinner and went to bed early, figuring if I was going to shuffle off the mortal coil I might as well be snuggled under comforters when it happens. There were confused dreams of the fall of Gondolin mixed with a bank-heist caper and a Shannara-style wishsong sequence through a city overgrown with giant sentient tentacles, too.

It was fun inside my skull last night.

In any case, the headache is gone as if it never existed, I feel a thousand percent better, and the swelling has gone down dramatically. Of course I just needed rest, and was unwilling to take it because there was work to be done, dammit.

I also learned a new word this past weekend: Irisu. Apparently it’s Japanese for “not answering the doorbell even though you’re home.” It pleases me there’s an actual term for it.

I don’t know if this is exactly accurate–if a native or educated speaker is reading this, feel free to correct in the comments–but it’s a concept I love. The doorbell, like the telephone, is a convenience, not an obligation, and in a world where we’re expected to be “on” all the time it feels delicious to carve out a little space for oneself. (Especially when it’s employers expecting us to cater to corporate whims 24/7.)

In any case the line edits are sent off–my editor is a bloody saint, I love her, and she is available for hire if that NaNo novel of yours wants a shot at rising to the top of the query or slush pile–and today I take a short easy run and a whirl through the portal fantasy one last time before it goes out the door and on submission. That should eat up half the day, and maybe if I play my cards just right I’ll be able to take half Monday off in recompense for working all damn weekend.

I don’t want to relax too much, though. For one thing, the sudden release of pressure might cause the bends.

Boxnoggin feels pretty bad about the murder-by-pavement thing; I might not take him on a run for a while just in case. His stomach seems a little nervous, probably because I was not my usual self this weekend, being mostly nonverbal and stare-y. He keeps trying to lick at my healing wounds, his big brown eyes full of pleading when I flinch and say “ow, kiddo, maybe not that.” Miss B, of course, has decided to show her concern by relentlessly bossing and herding both of us. Boxnoggin will break off playing with her to trot back to the office and check on me, his head cocked at an anxious and inquisitive angle; she will race down the hall and skid into said office to give a sharp, half-muffled bark (since I will snap “don’t take that tone in my office, woman” at her) and nips and herds him out to the living room to play some more.

It’s a good thing they have each other to keep occupied. Just thinking about amusing either of them for a stretch makes me tired.

And now it’s time to get out the door, since I’ve already crossed off a few things on the to-do list. Retreating to the couch with Unfinished Tales sounds like a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and might even give me more fuel for yelling about Tolkien™ at a later date. Which I’m sure you’re in breathless anticipation of, my dears. (I have a lot to say about Feanor, but who doesn’t?)

Anyway. Happy Monday, beloveds, we’re on the downward slope of 2020 and it looks like the coup might have failed this time (of course, they’ll just try again harder in 2024, I’m sure) but the damage is deep enough to satisfy even the worst sociopaths in office.

…yeah, I’m not very optimistic today. Maybe it’s the scabs and the residual swelling.

Over and out.

RELEASE DAY: The Poison Prince

I told you there was a release day coming up, didn’t I? I’ve been writing epic fantasy under the name S. C. Emmett for a while now.

I do not intend to stop.


The Poison Prince

The crown princess has been assassinated, reigniting tensions between her native Khir and the great Zhaon empire. Now her lady-in-waiting, Komor Yala, is alone in a foreign court, a pawn for imperial schemes. To survive and avenge her princess, Yala will have to rely on unlikely allies — the sly Third Prince Garan Takshin and the war-hardened general Zakkar Kai who sacked her homeland.

But as the Emperor lies upon his deathbed, the palace is more dangerous than ever before — for there are six princes… and only one throne.

And now, the killing begins…

Now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and independent bookstores.


This is book 2 of a trilogy, dear Readers, and it’s a meaty one. Intrigue, court ceremony, assassination, armies, barbarians, tea, lovely dresses, more assassinations–it’s all here, and I’ve had a helluva time. Book 3 has been written and is resting with the editor now; believe me, finishing the third of a great sweeping epic in 2020 has been a task.

I wasn’t sure, even up to the finish line, that I’d make it.

Many of my books are love stories–for example, Cormorant Run was my love story to Soviet-era sci-fi, and the Romances of Arquitaine a love song to chivalric epics I swallowed whole as a teenager. Hostage to Empire (my own personal name for this series) is no different; I’ll let readers find out in their own way who I’m singing to, and why. It’s been a very long bumpy ride, but I don’t think I’ve done too badly.

Of course, the editor will tell me, probably after the holidays, if I have or not.

In the meantime, here’s Book 2, and I hope you like it. It holds several scenes I’ve been just dying to share–mostly Yala’s Ride, but also a few others. My heart was in my throat and my entire body tingling while I wrote most of it, and I can only hope some of that excitement comes through.

What a sorcery it is, little ink-marks on a page (hopefully) transmitting my joy and enthusiasm to you. I’m very grateful to have this job, my beloveds; you can’t know how grateful.

I hope you like what I’ve done with it. And now, as is usual on a release day, I’m going to go stick my head in a bucket and have some nerves. You’d think I’d be used to releasing books by now, but each time, I am a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, as my grandfather used to say.

Off I go.

Revisions and Frost

I thought my coffee was taking too long this morning. It was, because I had failed to turn the stove burner on.

Also, I just had to get up and walk out into the kitchen to make sure I’d turned it off, and I am dead cold sober, for God’s sake. Probably going to have to check more than once today, too.

I spent yesterday eyeball deep in revisions on Damage, which isn’t a bad little story. At least, I have enough distance to see if for the trees now, even if I’m reading it as a relic. There’s not a mask or social distancing to be found in the entire thing. Of course, it’s a love song to a particular Matthias Schoenaerts movie, so it was a pleasant respite from the state of the world.

Another day should see the revision done; then there’s two more to get off the plate and the finish for HOOD to write, not to mention The Black God’s Heart. But for the moment, Chopin is playing and I have my coffee.

There was frost last night. The dogs are attempting to sleep under me, which isn’t a change, but it’s better than summer when they try it and shed heat everywhere. Waking up with Boxnoggin’s nose in my ear is disconcerting, but no more so than seeing a toddler loom by the bedside in the middle of the night.

There are Post-its festooning my entire desktop. Quotes, lists, reminders; it’s almost time for a harvest. The trouble is there’s so little energy to address the reminders, because keeping my head above water is taking the lion’s share. I’m tired, dispirited, and long to walk into the sea.

But the dogs need their walk, and the kids need the house. There’s no choice but to continue. I have often been in the position where no surrender or retreat is possible; I don’t like it. I’m sure nobody does, no matter the concomitant relaxation–after all, if one has no choice, one finds oneself doing difficult things as a matter of course.

I’m also watching videos about Civil and Napoleonic War battles while thinking a lot about the Silmarillion and the Fall of Gondolin. I’m not quite sure what that will give rise to, but it’s what the Muse wants and as long as she’s demanding food, it means she hasn’t abandoned me yet.

At least there’s that small mercy.

So we brace ourselves for Tuesday, my beloveds. One more day should see me through Damage, and then it’s HOOD and going through The Bloody Throne to look for bracket notes. Heaven knows there’s a lot of those, and I’m going to be cursing my past self with a vengeance each time I trip over another one.

If I’m working, I’m not weeping. Another small mercy, I suppose, the only kind granted these days.

Stay strong. Survival is victory. You’re probably tired of hearing me say it, but I have to.

If I repeat it enough, I might even believe it myself. And I need that today.