Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.

Not Quite Vacay

It’s raining, and I woke up with Rain’s Sad Tango playing in my head. Which isn’t bad on either count. I get to run while water is falling from the sky, and there’s also a catchy groove to do it to.

I meant to take this week as a vacation, at least from serial writing. Unfortunately life has other ideas. Cold North is still going great guns; the elementalist has left that world’s variation on Nargothrond and is heading for a hill topped with red foliage. (Turin Turambar fans are going to get a kick out of this part of the tale.) I’m also getting plenty of progress in on Hell’s Acre, which has a scaffolding somewhat resembling an outline–though anything approaching an outline gets thrown out about two-thirds of the way through any work.

I just can’t stick to directions when it comes to a story. It has to take its own organic shape, and though I can often predict said shape, the execution is always much different than the projection.

…I just took the first gulp of today’s coffee, and my gods is it ever welcome.

I’m having to switch back to tea in the afternoons, since sleeping is becoming difficult again. On the one hand, I could just get up and work when insomnia strikes. On the other, I’m getting older (surprise, surprise) and the very thought of pulling all-nighters the way I used to makes me even more tired. I might as well give my body all the help I can. Besides, tea is stuffed full of anti-depressive chemicals, and that’s always a bonus.

I’m also ready to open up my Discord server for a new round of members, so come on in, the water’s fine! The invite link will last for a week, unless we get an influx of bad actors. (Which sometimes happens, this being the internet and all.) Patreon and Gumroad folks get special access on the server, and I’m kicking around the idea of doing some voice chats with subscribers–an AMA or two sounds like a good time, especially with a cuppa. The server has a living room, a place to discuss the books of Yours Truly, a place to discuss other authors’ books, a hellhole where politics are discussed, and more.

I’m slowly working my way through coffee. It’s a nice quiet grey morning, and after listening to Sad Tango on repeat I figure I’ll shift to the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack, look over the day’s work, and finish said java before taking the dogs on walkies. Boxnoggin will be extremely put out that it’s damp, but B will be just the same–she’s all-weather, all the time.

OH! I almost forgot. The Princess informed me yesterday that the Yankee Squirrel Flipper is doing its duty, and a squirrel has been flung at least once into the Venerable Fir. Sadly, I did not get to witness the occasion, but I have to admit to a bit of evil laughter, especially since the damn arboreal rodents have been digging up my seedling trays to bury their bloody peanuts.

Yes, someone in the neighborhood is still feeding them. I don’t even know.

That’s the news that’s fit to print, I suppose. There are rumbles in the distance, both concerning Cold North and Moon’s Knight, but nothing definitive yet. And come June 1, not only will Hell’s Acre be live, but I’ll have to shift engines to do revisions on Sons of Ymre, which should be out later this year (but will probably be retitled, so stay tuned).

My goodness, that’s a lot. I started this post thinking there was very little if any news, but apparently I was wrong. It’s a good thing I don’t mind being wrong. I even enjoy it, in some cases.

This vacation is turning out busier than many regular work weeks, but that’s my own fault…

…as usual. Onwards, upwards, and inwards to Thursday, beloveds.

Rest Aggressively

There’s so much to do, and yet the power to do any of it seems beyond me today.

This particular fatigue is definitely not from the vaccine, but it’s still deep and wide. The relief is so huge I think I need another twenty-four hours or so for things to settle. I’ll be doing as much work as I can today, but…that’s not going to be much at all.

I’ve been reduced to Barba Streisand’s Broadway album. That’s how ragged my nerves are, unreeling in sheer relief. I’m trying to aggressively rest, if there is such a thing–there are seedlings to start, and laurel volunteers to put along the back fence in case the fellow living over it gets another wild hare and tries to take out the rest of the cedars.

The dogs need walking, though Boxnoggin’s tummy is a little unsettled this fine morn. I suspect the weather change, as well as humans leaving the house not once but twice on Saturday, has made him briefly nervous. I thought he was excited to get out the door and see a squirrel or two this morning, but he was on a beeline to a particular place near the fence to vomit.

Get your excitement where you can, I guess. He’s absolutely fine, sometimes he just has a day where his tummy decides not to go with the program. By dinner he’ll be right as rain.

We were supposed to get rain, as a matter of fact, but everything is suspiciously dry. It may be time to turn the sprinklers on, but I know as soon as I do there will be a deluge. Fool me twice, and all that.

I’ll be starting mugwort and comfrey and moonflower datura seedlings, and probably a few other things. There’s a whole tray of nasturtiums, just waiting for the seeds to crack their tiny brown heads and release broad peppery green fans. The eensy grow light I bought is going to do so much work this summer; I might even get a second one for the violets proper.

I’m also looking at the next few years’ worth of work and feeling vaguely hopeful. Having to face the fact of my own survival is…odd. There’s been a few times in my life I’ve been genuinely surprised to find myself alive, and this year seems to be one of them. I was absolutely convinced the last administration’s malignant, aggressive incompetence was going to somehow snatch away the vaccine at the last minute. Now, home and safe, I’m looking at the damage and groaning slightly.

Cleanup is the worst part of any disaster. At least, for survivors.

It bothers me that we–the whole country, natch–haven’t had a reckoning, and probably won’t for a long while since *waves hands* all this is ongoing. The grief is going to be a real lulu, and that’s only the first step.

There are seeds to plant, dogs to walk (gently, at more of an amble than our usual brisk pace) and books to schedule. I’m hopeful to hear about Moon’s Knight soon, and if the answer is good, great! If the answer is not so good, well, I’ll need to pull together a cover from somewhere.

That won’t be bad. I’m surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing.

We’ve gone from bright sunshine to dark clouds while I’ve typed this; volatile spring weather, except it’s not dropping any real rain. Maybe I’ll just think really hard about the sprinklers, and that will fool the meteorological gods.

It’s worth a shot. Let’s see if it works…

Outlandish Dread

I keep thinking Cold North is going to slow down, but apparently Viking werewolves don’t know how to “relax.” I mean, they’re under a centuries-long siege from basically-a-god, and even though the elementalist is telling them “I’m not the girl for you,” they still insist on thinking she’s the solution to the endless warfare.

It’s, uh, not going to end well. At least not for two and a half more books. Even then the ending’s going to be more “right” than “happy”, and I’m sure that will upset some people.

I have coffee sinking in, trying to make sense of everything. I’m listening to RJD2’s Ghostwriter on repeat, and I should really be doing some reformatting instead of sinking 80% of my working time into Cold North, which after all hasn’t even sold yet.

But…I can’t stop, and might as well strike while the iron is hot.

Yesterday was very social, with video meetings and mentoring. Consequently, this wee introvert is withdrawing into a cave for a few days to recharge–and Saturday is the second and final vaccine poke for both the Prince and my own sweet self. I’m scheduling a couple days of very low intensity work after that in case the side effects (physiological or otherwise) stage a comeback.

I’m sure the feeling of relief will be so deep as to completely wreck me. It did the first time around, naturally, and this wave will only be more intense. Maybe I’ll finish a zero draft in a blaze of inspiration, and finally get some of this book’s possession-grip loosened.

There’s also Hell’s Acre to work on, and the said reformatting, not to mention I should stick a third writing project in the queue just to keep myself producing at a reasonable rate. I normally have at least one romance going at a time, and the editor for Sons of Ymre wants Jake’s story. (I’m thinking it will involve a vet tech and Jake getting his ass bitten by not only regular animals but also chthonic horrors; if ever a character deserved it he does.)

But that decision’s for after the second jab. Until then I’ll be useless for anything but the Viking elementalist, werewolves, and elves banding together to reach a hidden city after one of the elvish strongholds in the North has undergone a sudden, dragon-assisted change of inhabitants and contours. If I’m focusing on their problems I’m not brooding over the million things that could go wrong before we get to the mass vaccination site in a few days’ time.

2020 taught me to twitch-worry at everything. I mean, I already did so before, but last year was like an Olympic masterclass. Absolutely nothing is too outlandish for me to dread.

And yet the dogs still need their walk, and someone’s running a leaf blower.

Yesterday it was some kind of grinding or cutting metal, from around 8am to about 4pm. It was coming from the direction of Mike’s Deck1 but there was no accompanying crashing or shouting, so I’m cautiously hopeful everything, er, went well. Of course, I can’t see anything, so it might be another house entirely.

The leaf blower is coming from an entirely different direction, and it’s just close enough to drag the noise over my nerves like a sawblade. Which means putting in earbuds, walking the dogs, and running my weary carcass will be not only good for said physical carcass but also my temper.

Said dogs are waiting patiently for me to stop staring at the glowing box and muttering imprecations upon leaf-moving devices yea unto the seventh generation, so I’d best get started.

Over and out.

Retrenchment

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue blogging. It’s not that I want to stop–I enjoy it, which is a good enough reason for continuing. And it’s not quite a journal or diary, because those are separate and private. I suppose it’s always been a way of shouting into the void, even during the ol’ LJ days.

Man. Livejournal. That takes me back.

Every once in a while I look to see if I want to keep doing it. I used to have more post ideas–there were Soundtrack Mondays and Friday Writing posts, for example. But then 2020 hit, and kept hitting.

And kept hitting, and kept hitting. And kicked for good measure.

I know everything changes. Still, I miss telling backyard stories. (There was a squirrel on the deck while we were having dinner just the other day, and the quick movement when all three of us involuntarily checked for footwear was hilarious.) Norbert the Gargoyle is in a new home–I never did tell you guys how that turned out–and the gnomes, from Emphysema Joe on down, are their usual cranky selves. We have a new crop of squirrels, though–the old ones have either changed their territories or moved on.

Brief is the life of a garden squirrel.

In short, there’s a lot going on, but getting it all down is the difficult part. There’s been so much else to talk about. Plague, war, fascist coup–all of it’s exhausting.

There’s no ringing conclusion or grand decision today. I’m just…looking at things. And I don’t think I want to make any hard and fast resolutions until there’s been at least a short period of calm. The news cycle hasn’t been pummeling me like it did last year, for which I am devoutly grateful, and yet the hole we were cast into is just so deep, getting out is an epic in and of itself.

Speaking of which, how am I writing two epics at once? There’s Hell’s Acre (which premieres in June) and Cold North, both massive undertakings. But then, I’m not really myself if I’m not juggling slightly1 more than I think I can manage. I’ve edits coming down the pike too–a final look at The Bloody Throne, revision on the second half of The Black God’s Heart, and today I hear from an editor about Sons of Ymre.

Publishing is such a delayed-gratification game. It’s unreal. By the time a book hits shelves, I’m already two years farther down the road. Also, Moon’s Knight is resting with a certain other editor now, and if they don’t take it, I’ll be looking for a cover. Because dammit, my beta readers deserve to see that book out in the wild, sooner or later.

The amount of work I managed to get done last year is somewhat shocking. I didn’t think I’d done anything at all. Looking back and realizing “no, Lili, you kept working frantically because the alternative was sinking in quicksand” is…well, not quite uncomfortable, but not pleasant either.

I suppose it’s a measure of hope that I keep going, both with the books and with blogging. I’ve always hoped that seeing the life of a working writer a little closer–though not intimately, I save that for other spaces–might help other writers feel a little less alone. This kind of career is both achingly lonely (when there’s nothing but you and the blank page) and shockingly crowded (when one deals with agent, editors, marketing, production staff, and all the other quality-control staff). The dichotomy can drive one mad.

I mean, if one isn’t already mad just contemplating this kind of work. It does tend to rattle one’s bolts.

Case in point: When I started this post, I was thinking solely about whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I’ve ended up amazed at the amount of work I did last year under some harsh conditions, and am bracing myself for another glut of revisions to fall on my head.

So it goes, I guess. And through it all, the dogs need walking and I need caffeine–the withdrawal headaches are no fun at all. So I bid you a fond adieu, beloved Reader.

But only for a short while. I think I’ll keep blogging after all.

Over and out.

Safely in Springtime

I survived another release day, and made it through the weekend after finishing yet another awfully hard revise. Now I can go back to actual creation, for some short while.

Unless, of course, I want to proof an omnibus. It’s gotta happen, and yet I have a deep and severe case of the Don’t Wannas. All I wanna do is write, dammit, preferably with some video game music going in the background.

I was real, real close to paying for a month or so of WoW this weekend too, but Borderlands scratched the itch. I’m still not sure if Blizzard deserves my cash. Until my conscience is easy on that account, I’m going to have to refrain.

Although listening to Darnassus music on loop is good for certain kinds of writing. Video game soundtracks are designed to be immersive and easily looped, which makes them great for wrestling with plot problems.

Anyway, I should send off the revision today and take the dogs for a walk. I’m slow and logy this morning, probably because of the wild weather sweeping through. My writing partner reported big fat wet snowflakes (someone’s shaking Baba Yaga’s counterpane) this morning, though they didn’t stick; my sinuses warm me there will be barometric fluctuations. Fortunately I’ve written with atmospheric pressure changes sending spikes through my skull before.

It might even add something to a combat scene. Who knows?

Anyway, the wild weather and plum blossoms have us safely in springtime. The dogs are gleeful and we did a lot of cleaning this past weekend. There was even mopping, which is one of my Least Favorite Things, especially since I didn’t have the damn spoons for it all last year. Bit by bit, the rebuilding continues.

Time to throw another hoodie on and get out the door. I mean, the dogs could technically walk themselves, but they don’t make good choices. It’s best I go along to keep them from chasing something they shouldn’t.

*wanders away, humming about manic Mondays*

RELEASE DAY: Damage

Good morning, everyone! We’ll get to the Friday photo in a bit. It’s a release day! That’s right, today Damage is out in the world.


Damage

Keeping her safe will be his hardest assignment yet. . .

Reeling from trauma and divorce, Cara Halperin takes what should be a simple job with an expensive agency. As a nanny to rich children, she shouldn’t have much to worry about, and her job is just complex enough to keep her from brooding. Unfortunately, the agency’s sent her into a trap.

Vincent Desmarais wants to go back into the field, but instead, he’s put on leave. The diagnosis? PTSD. No problem–he can pick up security work on the side to keep himself sharp–that is, if the side work isn’t just as dangerous as the bloody places he’s longing to get back to.

When the lights go out, Cara and her young charge have only one option: to trust the new security guy. Vincent finds himself unwilling to abandon them to fate or let them out of his sight. If the trio wants to stay alive, they’ve got to trust each other. . .

. . .but that may just be what their enemies are counting on.

Now available from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Amazon, and Kobo.


It’s strange to see stuff I worked on during lockdown (not the book itself, but the publication and production process) reach release. Publication takes a long time, which means we’ve been in lockdown for what seems like bloody well forever. But the book–my love song to a particular movie starring Matthias Schoenaerts–is out now, it’s live, and I’m going to be spending most of the day roaming the house and twitching from release-day nerves.

You’d think it would get easier after so many titles. Alas.

As for the Friday photo, get a load of this guy.



Yep, that’s Boxnoggin attempting to disembowel one of my favorite couch pillows. I gather–and this is my translation, so it might be a little blurry–that it “looked at him funny.” Fortunately he didn’t manage to eat much of the stuffing, so that was all right. And I had another slightly less wounded pillow to stuff into the case too. Small mercies.

Have a good weekend, everyone. I’ll be trying to recover from release day and revisions at once. Multitasking self-care saves time, right?

Right? (If I’m not right, don’t tell me…)

Over and out.