Freeing, Not Optimal

Jozzie & Sugar Belle

Writing epic fantasy is very…different. For one thing, I’m not getting the “oh, this phase of the project is done” hit of dopamine as regularly as I’m accustomed to, and that makes me cranky. For another…well, let’s just say that working under another name is freeing, certainly, but it’s not even close to optimal. It would be better if the books weren’t regularly orphaned, or if I wasn’t treated like an embarrassing bodily noise instead of the person who’s writing the damn books everyone else’s job relies on.

But hey, you know…nothing’s perfect.

Anyway, I’m super cranky today. Lord Boxnoggin is whistling with his desire to get out the door for a run or get down the stairs to find a cat, whichever. And yes, his whine is so high and prolonged it sounds like a whistle. Not a train whistle, more like a kettle at low boil, right before all the water evaporates and you’re left with a lump of metal melted to the stovetop.

Not that I’d know anything about that, no sir. *clears throat*

I know exactly why I’m so upset. I dislike being ignored when it’s my work that creates the value for everyone else in the stream; if I’m not going to be granted a reply to my quite reasonable questions I shall work to please myself, and that might mean finishing another story or two for some sweet sweet dopamine before I go back to this beast. I have to have faith, and trust that the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing. Fifty-plus books in and I’m still having to hold my nose and step blindly where that bitch leads.

It’s enough to make me want to call the girls for a drunken night, stay absolutely sober, and write another Jozzie & Sugar Belle. At least that was fun and I got answers when I bothered to ask anyone about Tuckerisation or the like.

I suppose a run will put me in a better mood. I’m not being allowed to do my usual detailed work from start to finish with these books, and it irks me far more than I thought it would. In any case, I’ve learned my lesson: if I ever write YA or epic fantasy ever again, it will have to be for a publisher who doesn’t think readers are stupid or treat me like a rancid afterthought.

I hope such beasts exist.

*wanders off to run, muttering*

Adversarial Book

Took a bit of a sabbatical last week, at least from the blog and most social media. It was nice to do some deep breathing and restore my sense of proportion. I keep thinking I can save the world.

The world, however, either doesn’t want saving, or the job’s just too big for me. The latter isn’t so much of a consideration–I take on jobs too large for me all the time–but the former is. You can’t save those who want to drown.

The Poison Prince has broken the 60k mark, and I’m beginning to think I can pull this off. There’s no reason for the dividing line between books 2 and 3 to be placed exactly where it is; I can slide it back and forth as the need arises. Everyone in this book is talking when I need them to get to the dying.

This is probably a common problem in epic fantasy creation. *snork*

I’ve been moonlighting with a couple other things–Sons of Ymre, and the other Watcher book. Neither are moving very quickly because I have to fit in wordcount around the big bulk of Prince. I want to be done with this book so badly, it keeps me up at night sometimes. I have to drag myself away from the keyboard, because if I end up pulling all-nighters I’ll need longer to recover when I finally get a blade in the bowels of this fucking book and it breathes its last.

*eyes former paragraph* I may be having an adversarial relationship with this bloody book. Anyway.

It’s a cloudy morning; hopefully there won’t be anyone with unleashed dogs at the park. I’m having to stagger Miss B accompanying me; she’s getting to the age where the shorter runs are all she’s comfortably capable of. Of course she wants to go on every run, bar none. She would gladly run her heart out if I asked it of her, but I don’t ask it. In fact, I actively discourage such a thing, being a cruel and unjust owner who wishes to keep her safe and sound for a few more years.

It was awful to lose Odd Trundles, but the awfulness was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that we expected to lose him at any point, so it wasn’t exactly a shock. B, though…when she ascends to the great kibble bowl in the sky, I’m going to be devastated. It’s going to hurt worse than just about anything.

All the more reason to take care now while she’s with me, and snuggle her a bit more. If I can get her to hold still for it–she’s always wriggling free to go play with Boxnoggin. He is somewhat of an elixir of youth for her, their wrestling, yapping, and chasing serving to exercise them both. She’s pretty pissed every time he goes on a run alone with me.

Poor Miss B. She just longs to supervise everyone and everything, like the busy little bossy bee she is. Speaking of bees, there are no doubt going to be plenty of them trying to infiltrate my skull. Maybe I should braid my hair to give them more places to cling instead of a ponytail.

Well, that’s my morning work cut out for me. I suppose I should get moving.

Over and out…

Gut-Heaving Weekend

So Saturday morning, instead of settling down to work all day, I gutted out a run and came home to promptly lose everything I’d eaten in the last twelve hours.

Since I run in the mornings, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be, but bad enough. Still not sure if it was stomach flu or food poisoning. I’m tender in the middle right now but feeling ever so much better, especially since I had Sunday to recover as well.

The only bad thing is that I needed those days for work, not for time-sharing on the loo. I managed to get all my housework chores done, even the mopping, but dear gods in heaven, I would have rather been writing than heaving out my guts. Though the two often feel somewhat similar.

I’m fine now, as long as I eat as little as possible and don’t move too quickly. I don’t mind the non-eating; I’m busy enough that cutting down on meals or just eating a handful of bland stuff is a relief. But the moving slowly? I’ve got running to do, dammit, and it won’t get done if my body keeps being weird about it.

So it’s back to the epic fantasy, I guess, without a weekend’s worth of work on anything I want to write. At least I’m back in love with The Poison Prince, I made a decision last week that freed up a lot of mental and emotional energy. I’ve a death scene to write and the barbarian hordes to get moving for the border, so I’d best get started.

But first, a run. A nice gentle one with Sir Boxnoggin, since Miss B spent the entire weekend trotting after me and attempting, in her own inimitable fashion, to “help.” There isn’t much a dog can do when one is heaving, but she tried, and each time I got up in the middle of the night she was right there to herd me the few steps to the loo.

I suppose I’m lucky to have such aid. I would have hated to get lost.

Anyway, I am tender in a number of places but I have not yet begun to fight. Plus, Boxnoggin is all but vibrating in place. Time to get out the door.

See you around, chickadees.

Nostalgic

Coming around the corner at the library and being greeted by this fellow made me laugh loud enough that I’m sure a librarian would have shushed me, had any been in range.

Working around happy, reasonable, creative people is so awesome. And yes, I was feeling somewhat nostalgic. Good ol’ Clippy, who used to frustrate the fuck out of me by showing up when I didn’t want him, and being nowhere in sight when I did

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Burden, Borne

It’s that day! The Complete Roadtrip Z is now available in ebook directly, or from the distributor of your choice. That’s all four seasons of the serial in one handy (and very large) chunk. (The paperback edition is here.)

The genesis of the Roadtrip books is a long ongoing conversation with my writing partner about just who would survive the zombie apocalypse, and how such an apocalypse would be likely to spread, assuming it was viral. There are other considerations–a bacterial or occult zombie-making plague was ruled out early in the game, since Mel loved biology in school. (She and I have another ongoing conversation about mass conversion in shifters, but that’s neither here nor there.)

We talk sometimes about survival, and about how it’s going to be the people who are already used to scraping by that are going to make it during the initial catastrophe and the secondary wave of bad-luck deaths afterward. I’m sad to say that without Lee’s help, Ginny probably wouldn’t have–and without Ginny, Lee might never have made it out without the survivor part of him deciding to do some dreadful and perhaps unnecessary things. They needed each other badly.

There’s also Juju, who’s had the deck stacked against him all his life, and who’s pretty sure any new world from the toxic ashes from the old is going to be just as bad for him. I’m not sure he’s wrong, either, but at least he’s got people watching out for him now.

I didn’t know who would survive when I started writing. I knew where the survivors would end up, but not what that group would look like when it got there. Some people I badly wanted to survive made it; some people I really wanted to see make it didn’t. The kids could probably tell you about me staggering down the hall after a long day of writing, tears on my face as I begin making dinner.1

There was plenty of poring over atlases, checking tactical layouts, researching average meteorological conditions, and more than one emails to Mel saying “Ask the Boy Scout2 how he’d solve the problem of xyz, please?”

Lee, however, was based mostly on my maternal grandfather. He was an honorable man, and Lee is all the best of him rolled into one quiet package. Not that Papa was a silent fellow, unless he got serious. Most of the time he wanted to laugh through life, and he could make anyone laugh with him. He liked hunting, percolator coffee on Sunday mornings, and Wile E. Coyote. Even now, if I hear the meep-meep, I can hear him laughing. He had a stuffed Wile E. atop his gun cabinet, and he was the one family member I deeply regretted not being able to speak to.

I got to see him once before he passed, but he didn’t ask why I wouldn’t talk to them. Instead, he took me through a calendar of old military planes and told me about each one, especially those he worked on in Korea.

It was his way of telling me he still loved me, even though he didn’t understand.

Now that he’s gone, I hope he understands why I couldn’t answer what he wanted most to know, and forgives me. And I hope he gets a kick out of me putting a man he’d like into a book.

Ginny came from a different place. I wanted someone who would be at a distinct disadvantage during an apocalypse, someone comfortable with civilization and thinking it was permanent or even particularly “civilized.” One or two readers said Ginny was too stupid to live, but in each situation, she’s trying to respond as normally as possible. It wasn’t the best coping mechanism…but it was hers, and while Lee and Juju got everyone through physically intact, it’s to Ginny’s credit that they got to the end mostly emotionally intact. Sure, everyone involved will need oodles of therapy, but that’s to be expected when the world falls apart.

I was experimenting with serial format all the way through, and I must thank my Readers for their patience with said experiments. Thanks to those who allowed me to Tuckerise them, too–your characters are as sharply and finely drawn as I could make them, and if a few meet gruesome deaths, well, that’s to be expected in any book of mine, right?

I think it’s good that it ends where it does. (Of course I do, or I wouldn’t have ended it there.) I’m pretty sure my grandfather wouldn’t have read it–his taste was more Zane Grey, though he had a soft spot for Louis L’Amour, especially Last of the Breed–but I’m also pretty sure he’d be tickled pink to know a character was based on him. I ain’t interesting, he’d say, but his blue eyes would hold a little pleased twinkle.

Some of my work is offerings to the dead. Not so they stay down, but so I remember them by doing what I love most, and what is sometimes the only gift I can give.

So thank you to you all. I’m writing HOOD as a serial now, but Roadtrip Z will always hold a special place in my heart. I was able to play, to expand, to practice both bringing each episode to a good end as well as keeping the much larger (good Lord, it’s easily 200K words in final form) story and its various arcs clearly in mind. It was a helluva ride, and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself now that it’s over.

I mean, I know what I’m going to do, of course. I’m going to write more.

But maybe, with the omnibus finally out in both paper and e-formats today, I’ll take a bit of a rest and think about how those I’ve lost are still with me. Not just because I write them, but because I carry them wherever I go. If it’s a burden, it’s one I bear proudly–and one I’ll keep writing underneath.

See you around, guys.

Running the Canines

This is the sight that greets me if I look away from my desktop while wearing running togs. Lord van der Sploot is doing what he does best, while Miss B simply stares, clearly expectant.

Mum. It is time for the running of the dogs. We are patient, yes, but eventually I will crawl into your lap to remind you that IT IS TIME.

Of course, two minutes outside and Boxnoggin began to pull. He thinks that if we speed up we’ll get out of the rain more quickly. I don’t exactly blame him, he’s a slick-coated fellow and Miss B’s all-weather coat has spoiled us somewhat.

So running with him is just like it used to be with Miss B–a constant battle to get him to stop fucking pulling, dammit. He settles down after a few kilometers and begins working with me and B as a unit, which is the whole point. B needed years before she began settling almost immediately and still pulls sometimes, when she gets Very Excited by the prospect of a Strange Dog.

Now that we’re home and I’m in dry socks, with bonus hot tea, Boxnoggin has settled in his favorite dog bed in the living room. He’ll rotate between there and the couch, according to how damn tired he is and if he thinks there’s a prospect of something interesting happening outside he can bark at. Miss B is sacked out on one of the dog beds in my office, whistle-snoring. She’s an elderly dog now, and needs her rest.

You can also see Boxnoggin’s tail going so hard it blurs, which is a constant. Every day is an adventure as far as he’s concerned. Pets all the time! Snacks! Mealtimes at regular intervals, and treats for easy jobs like sitting down. One gets the idea he thinks this is doggie heaven. He’s even started begging for car rides, now that they include good things like going out for French fries. It used to be he’d shake and drool in the car, probably thinking we were taking him back to the shelter, poor fellow.

I’m hoping he’ll realize soon that he’s home forever, that even if he behaves badly he’s not going anywhere. The poor little guy hates to be alone–and little is a misnomer, he’s become quite portly, what with regular meals; his coat gleams and glistens quite shamefully now. Miss B just rolls her eyes and nips him when he starts getting all worked up thinking he’s going to be taken away. His rather, well, energetic nature keeps B active, trying to stay one step ahead, which was the entire point.

They’re pretty much made for each other, my little control-freak doyenne and her enthusiastic sidekick. B has plenty to do keeping him out of trouble, so much so that I suspect he will keep her alive just to see what happens next.

May it be so. In the meantime, they have naps to accomplish, and my tea is getting cold.

Over and out.