Always Tomorrow

I was going to talk about the hatemail I’ve received about Afterwar, but I’m a bit cranky this morning. On the bright side, it cooled off overnight and Odd Trundles slept all the way through so I don’t have to worry about his fuzzy ass nearly as much.

It was a busy weekend–we got some concrete laid, and I managed to get a layer of sealant on the freshly-washed deck floor. Of course daubing all the railings will be time-consuming, but the kids can help with that. The big thing was getting at least one layer of sealant on freshly pressure-washed wood. I also caught up on some reading. I’m finally old enough to read Faulkner, I guess–I tore through As I Lay Dying, my heart in my throat, waiting for the next damn thing to happen. I also attempted a translation of Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which was difficult to finish, not least because the misogyny. I also have serious questions about the economics of Cossack raiding as portrayed in that particular romance. After a while, you’d think there was nothing else for them to steal and nobody left to murder.

In any case, I’m glad I read both, and I am setting out my plan of attack for more Faulkner once I finish Jesus the Magician (highly readable) and work through a few books on The Tale of Genji1 and some on classical Chinese literature. Both are research reading for the epic fantasy. I need plenty of material inside the well before I start on book 2.

I also finished Harmony revisions and sent them off, which means I can focus on writing HOOD and getting the scripts for Blood Terraform2 done. Plus, I really want to go back to Imprint, which is just-plain-vampire-erotica. It will be nice to be writing instead of revising for a while. I do need to sit down and think about Blood Terraform, since comic book scripts are different than novels. It’s been a while since I wrote one–I think the last was Serafim? Once that’s out of the way, revisions on the next Steelflower can commence. I’m still on track to release the first half of Kaia’s adventures in Skaialan later in the year.

But first, I think, a run, and eventually I do need to leave the house and pick up more sealant for the deck. It’s always something, and I can always write about the hatemail tomorrow. It’s not like the hatred’s going anywhere, I guess.

Over and out.

On AFTERWAR: Publication

Afterwar So I’ve talked a little bit about the research involved in Afterwar. I finished the zero in March 2017, promptly burst into tears, and hoped the worst was over.

Generally, when you finish a zero, it is. Revisions might be hell, the publication process frustrating, but generally the worst, most damaging, draining, and difficult work, is behind me.

That was not so this time.

There are various bad-luck things that can strike during the publication process, and in my thirteen-plus years in the industry, I’ve seen pretty much all of them. “Orphaned” when your editor moves to a new house? Been there. Payment snafus? Oh, yeah. Copyeditor decides they want to rewrite instead of, well, copyediting? Yep. Issues with the proof pass? Oh, yeah, we’ve done that. On, and on, and on. Normally a book will only have one or at most two big problems during the pub process.

Afterwar, being an overachiever, had them ALL. The only boxes it didn’t check on the Pub Problem Bingo Card were “revenge editing”1 and “cover woes”2. Orphaned twice, under time-crunches for everything, Muphy’s Law laughing every time I thought “this shouldn’t be a problem, we’ve done this for ten fucking years together, it’s gonna be fine…”, and then there was the CE and afterward the proof pass and I ended up calling my agent in tears, saying, “THEY CAN HAVE THE MONEY, JUST GIVE ME THE BOOK BACK. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE.”

My agent managed to talk me down from the ledge each time, because for over a decade I’ve been able to rely upon her judgment when she tells me I’m overreacting. This time, she said, “You’re not overreacting. This looks really bad from your point of view, and it’s hella stressful, but it’s not personal. It’s things that are out of everyone’s control, including yours.” Just having that validation made me more inclined to work through the problems. And each new editor I was handed to was someone I knew and trusted, since I’ve been with that publisher for so long.

To be absolutely fair, even though everything went wrong at every step of the process, the other people involved–art department, head publisher, every editor, the long-suffering production folks who, I’m sure, more than once wanted to strangle me–hit home runs and pulled out a miracle every time. It got so bad that whenever I saw a New York area code pop up on my phone or an email from agent or publisher in my inbox I almost had a panic attack thinking “what the fuck next?

Then, once the proof disasters had been fixed and the my nerves were starting to regrow a protective sheath, a book died on me. Flat-out died. I spent months trying to resurrect it, and heaving into my office wastebasket each time I tried to work on it. That’s only happened once before3 and eventually I was able to resurrect that book; I hold out no hope it will happen a second time.

In short, everything that could go wrong did, and I still feel a strange flutter every time I see Afterwar‘s cover. It’s a goddamn good thing it wasn’t my first experience with publishing, because I would have left the industry and never looked back. I am super-grateful that at least I had enough experience to know the difficulties were not normal, just bad luck.

I joked more than once that if the printers didn’t burn and sink into a marsh, or if the entire production run didn’t sink into the sea during shipment, I would count it a win.

It wasn’t really a joke.

Anyway, release day came, and crushing, malignant stress retreated for a day or two. I was too busy with my usual round of release day rituals.

And then, as I knew would happen inevitably, the hate mail began to arrive.

To be continued…

ETA: You know, I was going to talk about the hatemail, but it makes me tired. I’ll continue at some other time.

On AFTERWAR: Research

Afterwar I began gathering supplementary materials1 for Afterwar in late 2015; work commenced on the book in earnest in March-April 2016. I knew I was going to write it, but not how it would be received or even if it would ever be sold. It’s too outlandish, I thought. I’ve been saying this is where Fox News and the like is going to end up for a decade and a half, I thought.

Much to my surprise, my editor at Orbit wanted the book with a white-hot passion, and since I trusted her implicitly to have my back–to let me write the book that needed to be written without committee interference from internal groups that would want it watered down–I went for broke. I tore my heart out, and ate the bitter organ whole, retched it free and did it again.

And I pestered. Goodness, how I pestered. Knowing more than a few vets, I bought drinks, bought lunches, went to coffee, peppered them with questions. “So…if you were running an insurgency in the American Southwest…okay, so how successful is asymmetric force really when you’re the boots on the ground…look, I need to know how far a Humvee can actually go in offroad conditions without refueling…so, what did it smell like? Really?…what’s the one thing you were always short of, in combat…?” You get the idea. I’d start out with questions, and then I did what any writer who wants to learn does.

I shut up.

Once people know you’re sincerely interested in them and their lives, they will talk endlessly, and with active listening you will find out more than you ever dreamed. At that point it was simply a question of who had the better bladder, since a loo trip not only breaks conversation but also breaks “the seal” and you have to pee every five seconds afterward. (Or so it seems.)

None of them asked what my book was actually about. Most of the time I had introductions from other people they’d served with, and once word got out that I was trustworthy, gentle, and genuinely interested in their experience I had more contacts than I could ever plumb and the social credit to spend on slightly more outr√© questions. “Say you’re behind enemy lines and on your period, what’s the planning for that?2 How common is diarrhea in combat?3 If you could only take two weapons with you to operate in unfriendly territory, which would you? What kind of coping mechanisms have you seen others use under combat stress?4

My other research was not so nice or so enjoyable. I’ve spent years reading about the Eastern Front in WWII, and about the occupations of Ukraine and Poland by several successive totalitarian waves. It’s been an interest of mine since reading Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad because, I thought, there was no way I would ever write about something so brutal and horrific. Having something to read that, even though awful, wasn’t grist for the story-mill, was necessary in order to give my brain a break.

Perhaps the Muse was precognitive, and prepared me well beforehand. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes follow the same damn playbook, with only small adjustments for culture and territory. Plus, I had taken a bath in American Civil War history, and still picked up logistical and other studies, just on the principle that it’s always good to know how an army will feed itself on your home territory.

Everything I’d been reading and thinking about for years crystallized. Afterwar took on a life of its own.

And then, the election happened.5

I saw the beginning stages of my private nightmares playing out in realtime. I don’t think I’ve quite recovered from that, but I had other problems as well.

Not content to reflect current events, Afterwar was about to get blindsided by publication woes as well.

To be continued…

Color and Form Again

Jozzie & Sugar Belle We’re about a week away from the release of Jozzie & Sugar Belle, also known as Scrotum Search (I couldn’t use that as a title, though God knows I wanted to) and “that damn nutless kangaroo shifter story”. The print edition is available, ebook all set and pretty for release on the tenth, and I am quietly giggling each time I think about it.

I wish I was better at writing humor. I’d love to be able to consistently write comic stuff; it’s way harder than angst and I’m just generally not a funny person. The things I find hilarious tend to be somewhat macabre, which is, I’m sure, a drawback.

Last week was somewhat terrible. Finishing several large projects one-after-another caused a sort of blowback; I thought I was going to get Harmony revisions done and also get serious wordcount on HOOD. Neither happened. Instead a black hole threatened to swallow me, and I was on the event horizon (everything turned grey, light struggling to escape) for a while, skating around and grabbing for handholds. Both kids reminded me it was okay to feel tired, and we talked a lot about how managing your own energy and self-care are sometimes the most difficult things. It’s good to be able to discuss adult coping skills with both of them, and show them that it’s a process rather than a destination.

I used to think it was bad for them to see me struggle, but as they’ve gotten older, it’s opened up chances to talk about things like burnout and respecting your own limits. Both kids seem to have healthy boundaries, so perhaps my own struggle to acquire some was useful not just to me.

In any case, I got enough sleep and woke up at a reasonable time this morning. There’s a run to accomplish today, and it’s back into Harmony revisions. I suppose I’m just annoyed at the thought of ripping apart the last third of the book and drawing out the crisis for a few more chapters. I think when I was finishing the zero I got tired, and who wouldn’t after 100K words? Part of revision is to fix that very thing. It just seemed insurmountable last week, though I knew exactly what needed to be done.

So I’m back on the horse, and the world has color and form again. Odd Trundles is sprawled in his bed, snoring with a vengeance to make up for lost sleep, since he was (the horror!) bathed as is usual every weekend and it set his nap schedule back something awful. B is sleeping too, but her nose is resting on my left shoe so she cannot possibly miss me standing up and moving away to go on a run. She’s determined not to be left behind today–poor thing, as she gets older she can only go on short, slow runs. I work a lot more of those into my schedule so she gets the exercise she needs without going overboard.

I suppose I should wake her up and get going. Recovery is okay–I got a lot of reading done–but now it’s time for work again.

Over and out.

Work, Work, Complain, Work

Jozzie & Sugar Belle The paperback edition of Jozzie & Sugar Belle is now available! I wish it was possible to do preorders for paper, but oh well. Preorders are live on the ebook editions, it will have to do.

In other news, the Amazing Stories submissions system seems to be fixed, but I wouldn’t submit to them after this whole folderol. Sanford’s Genre Gossip column is a fabulous resource, and Amazing‘s Steve Davidson’s response to his reporting was…well, let’s be charitable and call it “ill-considered”. I wouldn’t trust my work to an editor who behaved that way, frankly. I would, however, recommend Sanford’s column to anyone interested in selling to genre markets, and would even go so far as to recommend dropping some cash in his Patreon.

Anyway. It’s a bright day; there won’t be any rain while running this particular morning. Which is a shame, summer downpours are fun. I suspect, however, there will be bees. Lots of bees. They seem to find my hair as enticing as ever.

Today is also for more Rattlesnake Wind revisions. If I can get those done before the end of the month I’ll count June a win. After that, Harmony revisions need to be done, serious work on comic book scripts and serious wordcount on HOOD as well, and once I get the Harmony stuff crossed off I can shift to prepping Atlanta Bound for publication in October-November and beginning revisions on the next Steelflower book.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, I look at that mountain and want to crawl into a hole. The avoidance stage, added to bottoming out over the past few weeks, is upon me. The lists break everything up into manageable chunks, and I should just put my head down for a while and work. The trouble is, I keep wanting to glance at what’s upcoming so I can plan, though the plan is already in place, and the paralysis of so. much. to. do. overwhelms me.

The writing is good. it’s the other parts of the process that exhaust me. Except for when a zero draft spikes for the finish and the writing wrings me out like a dishrag. One can’t ever win.

Don’t mind me, I’m just complaining into the wind. There are children to hug, dogs to pet, a run to get in, enchiladas to make tonight, and plenty of work to do. It’s like heaven, and here I am bitching. Sometimes, though, a little bit of bitching makes you appreciate just how good things really are.

And with that, dear Readers, I’m off for a run.

Swim, Surface

Humpback Whale in Body of Water
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Last week was rough. I feel like I’ve just breached the surface of a very dark ocean, and am holding myself in tension, taking great gulps of air and hoping not to sink again. I can tell it was bad because I’m slightly shaky, a thin imperceptible tremor running through my marrow. Pouring myself into work to get from one shore to the next always carries the risk of waking mid-current to find myself in a boat made of spellcraft and driftwood (oh, Ged the magician, I’m thinking of you often these days, but mostly Tenar), licking salt-cracked lips and hoping my voice holds out to sing me to dry land.

Mostly, it does. Sometimes, though, the holes widen, and I sink. I don’t even know I’m sinking until I notice the bubbles are rising.

I suppose it was good that least week also involved some enforced rest, sitting in a library and simply reading for a few hours at a time while waiting. “Her days were as long and wide as a child’s…” Nancy Price, in Sleeping With the Enemy, which I reread often, wrote about Sarah reading to distract herself from hunger.

Hunger. Such a funny word, and mistaken for virtue, just like every other socially sanctioned pain to make a woman conform.

…yeah, you can tell I’m not fit for human company right now. I need a run and a book, in that order, but there are revisions due before the end of the month and I’m behind on the comic scripts. The sunscreen has soaked in, I can barely sit still, and my shoes need to be laced.

May we all find the surface today. And may we all swim for the joy of it, instead of struggling to reach land.

Summer, Overwhelmed

The Summer Queen is in her full array, and last night was almost too warm for sleeping. Poor Odd Trundles doesn’t like it when it’s warm, and his breathing kept me awake for a long while. I mean, his breathing is always audible, because of his poor compromised airways, but last night it was particularly stentorian. I’m sure it informed my dreams, which included astronauts, pregnancy, and murder. (Sort of a cross between that ST:TNG episode where Troi gets knocked up by a tiny shimmering alien and that Charlize Theron movie, The Astronaut’s Wife.) Poor Trundles, summer means all his crevices need to be greased daily and his preferred napping spot is on cold hardwood or tile instead of comfy carpet.

Also, revisions for Rattlesnake Wind have landed, so I’m in the “running around like a headless chicken” phase. I have to revise both Rattlesnake and Harmony, when I’d rather be writing HOOD. Late mornings always make me feel overwhelmed, and that goes double for revisions. I should also leave the house to fetch kibble for the four-legged carnivores I live with, and perhaps for the two-legged omnivores as well.

But first I have to run, which will be just fabulous in the sticky humidity. All signs point to an exceedingly uncomfortable day. I should just get on with it instead of sitting and staring blankly at my desktop screen.

Oh, hey! There’s an interview with me over on Unreliable Narrators today. The Princess listened to it and thought it was aces, so perhaps I didn’t sound as uninteresting and silly as I often feel while being recorded.

I don’t mind summer, but this one is turning out to be particularly…moist. And now it’s time to hit the pavement before it gets any worse outside. Thankfully, most of today’s run-route is shaded, and it’s a tempo run, so it will be over quickly.

Stay frosty out there, my friends.

*disappears in a cloud of steam*