Gotta Run, Gotta Dance

This morning’s walk was sunny, and full of other dogs–thankfully all leashed, and all moving away from us. Boxnoggin is slowly coming to the realization that he doesn’t get what he wants when he lunges to the end of the leash and sings The Song of His People to strange dogs.

Slowly. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but I have hope.

It was also highly fragrant. Most of the fir pollen has been washed out of the air, so it’s not difficult to breathe anymore. The dogwoods are blooming, the gallery of chestnut trees smells like pipe tobacco, the lilacs have come out in force, and dandelions with their bitter greenness have reappeared. In the park behind the elementary school, English daisies are going great guns, some with that pink halo to their petals.

It irks me to be upping my running mileage so slowly, but pushing it will only lead to injury. I’ll run for longer if I slow down now. Boxnoggin didn’t come with me today, because I’m staggering his runs–training him will go even more slowly than retraining myself. I’ll risk my own health, but not his.

A five-book series appeared in my head over the weekend, and wouldn’t go away until I’d written down the skeleton. Ideas are cheap and easy, you can find them in every junk drawer. They crowd the air like dust, or like that fir pollen collecting in golden drifts. What’s rare is the time and effort spent to bring them to fruition. So I might not ever write this series, but it’s there, and accreting. I’ve gone so far as to pick out a couple songs for the book soundtrack, but that’s more in the nature of procrastination than real work.

Also, copyedits for The Poison Prince have landed, so there’s that to look at. I suppose “vomiting from stress and running through the house screaming” isn’t a good way to handle ongoing work, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m awful tempted.

Another paid Haggard Feathers post drops today, about how to deal with burnout. Last month was Marketing March, this month is Self-Care April. I’m not quite sure what to do for May yet. Of course, not every month needs a theme. I could just hop around and do what seems juicy on any given week.

Today’s office jam is Portugal. The Man’s Feel It Still. Super kicky and catchy, and if I don’t listen to the lyrics I can bounce around the office without guilt. Dancing represses the urge to stress-vomit, at least while I’m moving. You’d think the running would work off all the stress chemicals, but these are extraordinary times we’re living in and I’d probably have to do a couple marathons to get it all out of my system, right before dropping dead at the finish line. Which, while it might be amusing, is not how I want to go out.

So it’s tea and deep breathing, maybe a few rounds with Latin to sharpen my brain (such as it is), and a to-do list, because otherwise nothing will get done today.

What a week, and it’s only Tuesday. I hope you’re well, chickadees, and that you and your loved ones remain that way.

Over and out.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.

One Now, The Next

I wish you a very bright, kind morning, my dears. It’s sunny here, the dogs need taking out, and I woke up earwormed by an absolutely new band.

Well, Imagine Dragons aren’t new, but being earwormed by them is.

I spent my breakfast (or at least, the broth and coffee I can manage this morning, the stress nausea is very bad) with my daily Latin lesson, and I think I’m almost ready to get back to Pliny. I want to finish the damn encyclopedia by the time I’m fifty; it’s a bucket-list thing. I suspect it would go much more quickly if I just read the translation, but that’s not the point, I want the practice reading it in Latin.

Maybe I should finish Caesar first. He’s generally held to be a good introduction; his Latin is relatively simple and direct. Pliny is a recondite ass sometimes.

ANYWAY. I’m gearing up for the release of HOOD‘s Season Two next week; Season Three is now well underway. I’m already feeling the release-day nerves, added to a scrambling sensation because current events have put a dent in my work schedule liek woah, as we used to say on LJ.

It’s not a surprise that this month’s Haggard Feathers subject is self-care for writers. Also, last week’s and this week’s posts are unlocked for everyone, not just paid subscribers. Today’s post, dropping at 11am PST, will be about physical self-care.

I’m still looking at my Gumroad store to figure out what to offer for free or “pay what you want.” We’re going to be here a while, and when the first wave of cool stuff for free passes we’re going to need a second/third wave. I could say I planned it that way, but the truth is, I’m overwhelmed.

Interesting times to live in, I guess. Someone wished upon the Monkey’s Paw, or maybe the planets have aligned. (I’ve taken this quarantine as a chance to study some astrology; maybe I should do a post about that?)

I’m glad of the dogs during this. They have no damn idea about quarantine, virus, or paychecks. The kids are a little less sanguine, but what held true in their childhood is also holding true now–as long as I keep my cool, they can keep theirs. The pressure to keep calm and collected so people who depend on me don’t lose their shit actually helps keep me together–a fact which surprises nobody who’s ever read one of my books, I suppose.

…I meant to talk about the effects of social distancing and how close the virus is getting–we’re down to one degree of separation from an actual death–for posterity and all. But I just can’t. My diary is already full of it; I had to change the ink cartridge in my pen mid-sentence last night while scribbling. It’s only going to get worse, and while I am braced, nobody can ever be fully emotionally prepared for something like this.

I’ve spent most of my life vibrating with anxiety and the aftereffects of trauma. This creeping, constant fear feels like home. It’s like all the work done to get to a healthy emotional state and manage the anxiety is useless now, and was only a brief respite before we got back to the regular program. I know this is extraordinary, I know the disaster is fitting into the trauma footprint left on me by childhood and other similar catastrophes, I know the queer feeling of relaxation comes from this all feeling very, very familiar indeed.

Knowing doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Even my well-hidden but usually irrepressible optimism is MIA on this one. I’m trembling on the edge of “fuck it, nothing matters anyway.”

But the dogs need walking. Boxnoggin is sensing I’m almost finished with the morning’s work, and is performing a play bow in the middle of the office while I type this. Next will come him nudging my knee, hopefully, his large mild brown eyes wide with questioning and glee. Come on, he’ll say, focus on the NOW, and what is NOW is walkies for dogs.

It’s only Tuesday, and it feels like this week has lasted forever. I’m going from one “now” to the next like clinging to handholds on a traverse, hoping like hell my fingers are chalked enough. It seems the only way to survive this.

I’m curious, of course, and if this is the way through, we might be able to do it together. So, my dear Reader, if your eyes have traveled this far… what is your now like, and what’s the next now you’re grasping?

Season Three Begins!

I’m excited today, my friends. Not just because I have a very good cup of coffee to start the day1 and not just because I’m working on three paying projects (hallelujah) at once, but also because today marks the first day of HOOD‘s Season Three!

Every single one of my subscribers–Gumroad or Patreon, Latte’s Worth to Nest Egg–will get the first two chapters today at around 2pm PST. I love writing serials; they’re good practice, and I really like having something new for subscribers every week.

Also, the regular monthly support, no matter how small, is a rock to cling to in an unsteady career. It allows me to write much longer, more complex stories without a lot of interference, which is always nice.

This particular serial started while I was still writing Roadtrip Z and looking for the story that would come after Ginny, Lee, and the gang reached the end of their journey. I’ve always been fascinated with Robin Hood retellings, but I didn’t want to write even more historical-flavored fantasy. So I was watching fanvids of Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, and all of a sudden it hit me…

…well, a lot of things hit me when I watch Richard Armitage, but this particular time I thought “what if Robin Hood was coming home from a space war? The society would have to have a semi-feudal structure, how would that work?”

Of course current events inform plenty of my work, and a discerning Reader will see the threads, as well as the terminology2 for certain things carried from Old Terra to Anglene. Some things have happened that I didn’t expect–Giz’s true aims were a mystery to me until halfway through Season Two, the exact dimensions of Robb’s athleticism and gifts continues to surprise me, and Alladal has become much sharper-edged than I thought. Which is good–her handling of Wat the Tinker gave me flat-out chills.

Anyway, even with all this excitement, there are dogs to walk and wordcount to get in today. I’m feeling how I usually do when working on the last book of a series–anticipation with a sharp edge of fear, just enough for seasoning. I’m always afraid of dropping one of the narrative threads while braiding everything in. And there’s a whole lot of moving parts in this one, from Alladal’s decisions to help (or not) to Giz’s body count (I suspect it will grow steadily) to Robb hitting bottom (or so he thinks) to Jorah Smahl’s critical part in the plan to spring Robb from jail (not to mention his part in the return of a certain prince) to what, exactly, Marah will risk for what she thinks is right (in a word, everything). And that’s not even counting Will and Kameny’s relationship (such as it is), Sharl Notheim’s plans (mostly to cover his own backside, as usual with such men) and the little question of Gil Blamaíne.

I’ll get it done the same way everything else gets done, I know. Tiny bites, well chewed, like the Shel Silverstein poem about eating the whale. And I’m super glad to have my subscribers along for the ride.

Now it’s back to work.

Happier With Surfeit

So things are very strange right now–not to mention terrifying–but I can’t slow down work at all. Mostly, the idea that I might still be alive when “all this” is over means I have to plan for the eventuality, which means everyone in the house will still need me functioning and providing.

On the bright side, that means I’m working on Season Three of HOOD, which starts going out to subscribers this Thursday. I only have a few scenes loaded into the cannon for this season, despite knowing everything that happens and roughly where all the moving parts go. (When I say “only a few” I mean “only a month or two ahead of my readers”, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.)

My “sure, I’ll only work on one project at a time this year!” expired in March–somewhat of a record for such resolutions–and a few things in my professional life have changed very quickly over the past few weeks. So my production schedule has received rather a shattering knock, but in the right direction–I now have three paying projects to work on at once, an embarrassment of riches.

So it’s HOOD‘s Season Three, book three of Hostage to Empire, and The Black God’s Heart splitting my time now. Weekends I’m going to reserve for writing whatever the hell I want, which last time around was Moon Knight and next weekend will probably be The Calling Knife if I can figure out what happens when Amon of the Desert appears before the reunited lovers.

If you’re confused, don’t worry–it’s natural around here. I have so many stories boiling in my head that even I get mixed up and turned around sometimes.

Anyway, I’m excited for HOOD‘s Season Three to begin this week. I have so much planned for my dear subscribers, and of course Season Two is available for preorder and goes live April 14. (If you’d like to order it through an indie store, go here.)

You know me–I’m happier with a surfeit of work than with the reverse. I feel mind-numbingly guilty that I’m having good luck when the rest of the world is suffering so badly. It makes me long to work myself until I drop just to make up for it, though that’s hardly healthy.

There’s also the dogs to walk and bread to bake, so I’d best get started. I like to have at least six months’ work put aside for the current serial; a mere month is nothing. I suppose I’d best get Robb out of jail, Giz further involved with Parl Jun’s plans, Marah even more determined to make some trouble, and Alladal doing what she loves most next to singing–planning mischief. (And that’s just in one book–for Hostage I need Yala married, Takshin briefly happy, Kai heartbroken and savage on a battlefield, Daoyan dragged back to Khir, the Tabrak sending more messengers, and Kiron of Shan having a very bad day.)

But at least I don’t have to do it all at once. I can break it up in little bites, and as long as I just concentrate on the next bite, and the next, I won’t worry so much about the rest of the world.

At least, that’s the plan.


I’m treating this week and the next as the first week in April, which means those Haggard Feathers posts will be free. We’ll be finishing up our marketing month; April will be all about self-care for the working writer.

We could all use it, frankly.

Best, Ignored, Work

I was tooling around on the internet yesterday, and a realization struck me: what I think is my very best writing often goes unnoticed.

Good writing is supposed to go unnoticed a lot of the time; that means it’s efficiently carried its cargo into another person’s head and left it there. But there’s also good writing that goes unnoticed for other reasons, and that’s what I was thinking about.

I happen to think Cormorant Run is some of my best work, and Afterwar will probably survive me. There are other books with individual passages I don’t remember writing and when I am forced to reread I stop and think huh, that’s well done. (For some reason, things I remember writing rarely pass my internal editor without a fight.) Some series–like Gallow & Ragged or the Human Tales–contain some very beautiful things I was so frightened I’d mess up, but which came through without a lot of damage. And there are short stories I feel like I’ve knocked out of the park. It’s a feeling like a good clean hit with a bat or a perfect strike with a sword; you know you’ve done it as soon as you start to move.

But the books I think are objectively my best very rarely get a whole lot of fan love. It doesn’t bother me–such are the vagaries of writing for a large population–and I am allowed to think what I like of my own work.

It’s funny that the books I think are my best are rarely the ones I enjoyed writing, in the usual sense of the word enjoy. Instead, they were painful to create, with an edge of pleasure like lancing a boil or scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds. The relief once the writing was done was almost exactly that of reopening a wound to let it drain, knowing it would heal and queasily fascinated by the entire operation.

Not that I’m comparing my books to carbuncles. *snort* Even though it might be warranted, I have some pride.

I have very little hope of most of my work surviving me. Being treated as disposable both by society and the publishing industry provokes me to severe doubt on a daily basis, frankly. And even if some of it does survive me there’s no guarantee it will be what I consider (a la Henry James) my blest good stuff.

And yet there’s a quiet glow inside me of knowing that I’ve done my best with every single book or story, worked every time to my absolute limit, and part of that glow is some pride in what I consider my finest work. (So far, that is. I plan to die with my boots on and my fingers to the keyboard.)

The world will do its best to rob you of joy. Hewing to said joy is a survival mechanism, a necessity, not a luxury.

After all, without some small measure of joy, what’s the point?

Anyway, these are the things I’m thinking of lately, especially since my career is changing. I haven’t done a bad bit of work, really, when I survey its dimensions.

Maybe things aren’t hopeless after all.


It’s Tuesday, which means at 11am PST there’s a new paid-subscriber-only post up at Haggard Feathers. The theme for March is marketing, so this week’s post is about the #1 marketing strategy for writers. It’s not what you think…

Mad March Scheduling

Well. It’s March, it’s a Monday. There is a pea-soup fog; even the cedars across the back yard are hazy and indistinct. I meant to get up early and start my spring-forward on the right foot, but… the dogs were heavy, I was dreaming about a glass labyrinth, and the enormity of a few professional steps I’ve taken lately has come crashing down.

I have to write an agent query letter. I have never had to write an agent query letter, so this should be fun. (Yes, there are a lot of things in publishing I don’t know about. Always learning is the name of the game.)

This week, Serial Time and Nest Egg subscribers get the unedited ebook of HOOD‘s Season Two, and next week they get the edited one–well before it goes on sale anywhere, I might add, though I do need to update the buy links on the book page. I’m hard at work on Season Three, where all the characters come together–the double-crosses are revealed, Ged Gizabón commits murder, Robb Locke commits even more, Parl Jun makes his bid for absolute power, Marah decides to hell with deportment and responsibility because all of Anglene needs to be saved, Bookman Trick finds out he’s not a coward after all, and Alladal finally gets a few things she wants.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And then there’s breaking an embargo, a deadly speeder chase, not one but two jailbreaks, and a whole lot else planned.

I mean, I knew writing Robin Hood IN SPACE was going to be fun, but I didn’t know it would be this fun. I’m eyeing what I have to pull off and rubbing my hands together with glee.

There’s also a podcast I want to listen to, which doesn’t happen often. I should have cued it up yesterday while I was doing housework, but I was busily dancing to the book soundtrack for The Calling Knife. (That’s what the trunk novel is calling itself now.)

So the work schedule looks like: HOOD‘s Season Three, The Bloody Throne (third and final Hostage book), The Black God’s Heart (which is American Gods meets John Wick meets Conan the Destroyer), and The Highlands War (which is the last Steelflower book for a while; I probably won’t write her and D’ri’s return to G’maihallan). And there’s revisions on Finder’s Watcher to get done, as well as line edits on The Poison Prince–that’s book two of Hostage to Empire. Plus Sons of Ymre and Damage both need another draft, since both are somewhere between zero and first draft status.

I also need to write that damn query letter, and it would be super great if I could also make The Calling Knife leave me alone for a little while. Basically I’m running in circles screaming with my hair afire, but you know I prefer too much work to too little, indeed. And some gardening this month wouldn’t be amiss either.

Right now, though, I should focus on finishing my coffee and getting the dogs walked. The rest of it will happen in due time. Breaking tasks into bite-size pieces is the name of adulthood’s game, and I’ve had all the rest I’m allowed–or want.

Plus, I’ve got this machete handy. Monday had better behave, and March had better straighten up.

*wanders away muttering, slurping at coffee*