Waffles and Huck

Steelflower in Snow

The Princess beat me at resurrecting this morning, so she made me coffee; also, a crow has decided that the gutter right over my office window is the premium perch for keeping an eye on the backyard. I’m most of the way through Holland’s The Allies Strike Back, too, though I’ll have to grab book one of the trilogy from the library next. I dislike reading history out of order, but there’s nothing to be done for it.

Yesterday was pure Monday, ameliorated only by the prospect of waffles for dinner1 and the fact that HOOD really isn’t a bad story. When I finished the zero of Season One, I was feeling kind of low and like I wouldn’t be able to pull the series off, but now I’m much more sanguine. There’s one more revise after this, but first I’ve got to get through the initial pass. Thankfully, layering in more details and adding things I didn’t know when I started writing is the sum of the edits; structurally, the book holds up rather well.

I’m also reading Huckleberry Finn with the Princess. I’ve halted at the point where the king and duke show up, mostly because that’s when the narrative takes a turn and I want all my faculties about me during the Nonesuch and Mary Jane bits. If I have a favorite novel, the honor must go to Jane Eyre, but Huck is definitely in the top five2. One of the best school papers I ever wrote was a monstrous (somewhere around twenty pages, single-spaced, typed on a balky old manual typewriter) examination of the Mississippi as a symbol. I’m sure the teachers were not at all prepared for what they got, but I’d found a list purporting to be the right way to write college essays and followed it to the letter. Not only did I approach every damn thing the list said, I threw in all the alternatives they had listed under the main paragraph idea breakdowns.

I was a real joy to teach, I’m sure. But I got an A on that fucking paper.

This particular critical edition has the raftsmen’s scene in it, and I can see why Twain (or his editor) excised it; I can also see why Twain would want it in. And of course the breathless racism is jarring. Every time I read the n-word it’s like a punch to the gut, and while I still admire the scene where Huck says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,”3 it doesn’t work unless Huck absolutely believes that the right thing to do is to turn Jim in. Even the right decision is suspect and provisional in a racist culture, and it’s sobering to unpick the logical consequences and knock-on effects.

And to see how little has changed since Twain wrote in the aftermath of the Civil War. I don’t quite see Huck as an answer to the war, though. Twain was struggling with endemic issues much as Dickens did (though with much more humor, it must be said) but the lacunae are huge. It makes one wonder about one’s own blind spots, swimming in different (but directly descended) cultural waters.

Or at least, it should, and if it doesn’t you should make it.

I tend not to halt to allow fellow readers to catch up while book-clubbing. Instead, I swallow the book whole, and if my fellow clubbers fall behind I go back and read certain bits to keep my memory fresh. So we’ll see how it goes. The Princess has the same edition I do, and wants to read critically, so it’s much slower for her than for me. I have about twenty years’ worth of skill she doesn’t, but on the other hand, she sees things I don’t, so I’m really looking forward to her analysis.

For a little while, after finishing Poison Prince revisions, I crawled into a movie or TV show at the end of the day, just stuffing my head with visuals to get my brain to stop chewing at itself. Now I’m in the secondary phase of recovery, where I’m stuffing text in; I’m crawling to the couch with a book instead. The kids are somewhat downcast, because watching movies with Mum is apparently pretty hilarious, but they’ll bring their Switches out and play quietly while I read, and every once in a while someone will say something amusing and we’ll all laugh. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.

I just have to get a full day’s work in before I can get there, which means I need to get out the damn door and run. Breakfast hasn’t quite settled but at least I’m pretty sure I won’t lose my coffee if I head out, and that’s the important thing.

Over and out, my dears.

Glut of Stories

Jill Kismet

Summer has officially begun. It’s a Monday, but the Little Prince is not at school; there is no school to be had, and he is celebrating face-down in his pillows like any reasonable teenager. I think he and his sister are going to see Endgame today, but Im due for work–the first season of HOOD isn’t going to revise itself, more’s the pity.

I’m just waiting for breakfast to decide to settle before heading out on a run; when I come back there will be coffee. I’d have coffee first, but my mileage is going up, and that means there’s a chance of whatever’s in my stomach bouncing. I’d rather not waste the caffeine.

Anyway, there’s Season One to revised I have to make serious decisions about what to pursue next. There’s a nonfiction book or two I’d like to run down, and the second season of the serial, of course; but I also want to do something that pleases me and only me. It might be Hell Tide or maybe even Hell’s Acre (I sense a trend) or I might finish Lightning Bound or expand The Fool’s Assassin. An embarrassment of riches, to be sure.

I’m also reading Huckleberry Finn with the Princess. As in, we’re book-clubbing it, reading the Norton Critical edition (mostly because it has Toni Morrison’s wonderful 1996 introduction in the critical materials) and discussing as we go. This is going to be really fun.

I’d like to take more time off, but needs must when the devil drives and all that. Plus I was useless all last week after revising Poison Prince into first-draft status. The third book in that series is just going to kill me, I can tell. Anyway, it about took me down to mothballs. Besides, I get itchy when I’m not working.

And now I’m getting itchy with the need to run, too. So it’s off I go while it’s still cool and cloudy, to think about what I want to sample next in the big buffet. A glut of stories and only so many fingers to type them with; that’s the human condition.

Over and out.

Epic Fantasy Cake

The day I finished The Poison Prince‘s first-draft revision, I could not word. I was reduced to pointing and going, “The…the thing, that thing,” until one of the kids supplied the proper word. (Which is, not gonna lie, a type of hell for a writer, not to be able to find a damn word.)

So, of course, the Princess decided to bake me a cake. She even decorated it. “It’s a good chance to practice my tip work,” she said, modestly.” It was super tasty and I even had cake for breakfast the following morning.

I love being a writer, but I love being a mother even more. It’s hard, sleep-deprived work in the beginning, but the rewards once one gets over the psychotic break induced by lack of REM are amazing.

Hives and HARMONY

I got out for a run while it was still cool this morning, or at least, cool-ish. Still, I couldn’t take the dogs; the poor things do even worse with heat than I do. They’re unhappy, but it’s better than them getting prostrated by the damn temperature.

They may also be cranky because I’m cranky, having awakened covered with hives. Last night I made the distinct mistake of drinking some red wine–a completely forgivable error, you know–and watching the Assassin’s Creed movie. Frankly, it would have been a lot better if the whole movie had been alt-history instead of alt-historical and modern uneasily bolted together. I could very much have watched a dirty Fassbender lisping Castilian all the way through, thank you and amen.

It still might have turned out all right, except the heat was really bad last night. Normally, up here in the PNW, the heat breaks in the evening and we get relatively cool nights. When that doesn’t happen, the cumulative stress makes my skin try to eat itself.

But it’s all good. I got out for a run and sweated out the worst of the stress, and have rinsed the rest off and made coffee. Even the bees were giving me somewhat of a wide berth today, bumbling over my hands and shoulders instead of nesting in my hair or trying to crawl into my mouth. Maybe they could smell the irritation coming off me in waves.

At least I’m back at work, revising HOOD‘s Season One. We’re coming up on the end of that, and I’ve got so much fun planned for Season Two, you just don’t even know. It’s going to be so much fun, and I have the last season in my head as well. It took longer than I liked to recover from revisions on The Poison Prince, but at least I have an answer for one of the knottiest plot problems in the third book of that series.

Said answer occurred to me quite naturally as I woke up this morning, my skin itching like a hive and my temper frayed almost past bearing. I had consigned it to the great engines beneath the floor of my conscious self, pretty sure that the Muse had an answer she’d give in due time.

Fellow writers often say you never learn how to write books more easily, you just learn how to write this one specific book you’re working on. That’s true as far as it goes, but one of the things an experienced writer can learn is when to consign a question to the great engines and leave it alone until the solution bursts forth, full-fledged, from said writer’s forehead. After a while you can feel the things working beneath the floorboards, chewing and grinding, and can even sense with something’s going to swell and burst.

It’s a particular type of relaxed concentration married to the willingness to keep yourself distracted with other work, with a large dash of learning to trust the Muse. I know I anthropomorphize the creative process, but it helps if I think I’m consigning the problem to her rather than to something impersonal.

So much of this career is learning how to game yourself. How to get the wild thing inside your head that’s fucking up your life and snap the traces on to put it to plow.

Anyway, I should remind you that if you want to read the first bit of Harmony for free, you can do so right here. Also, I’m hearing that some readers are experiencing quality issues with the Amazon-bought paperbacks of that book; if you are, please contact Amazon customer service. When Amazon folded CreateSpace in, the quality of their printing took a steep dive; this is something I have no control over. I did choose to offer the Harmony trade paperback through KDP instead of IngramSpark’s extended distribution for reader convenience, but if it’s going to mean this sort of hassle I won’t ever do so again.

I suppose I should finish my coffee, check the focaccia dough–of course, it’s going to be umpty-scrump degrees outside and I’m baking, because I lack all sorts of smarts–and get the subscriber perks for the week out the door. That, along with revisions, should keep me busy enough to stay out of trouble.

At least, for a little while. Over and out.

Hot Ham Stamper

It’s supposed to be some ungodly-number-of-degrees Fahrenheit today, so I got out the door early for my run without taking either dog. They were vastly displeased by this, but the last thing I need is to carry home a heatstruck hound, or worse, two of them. It was already 70F when I hit the pavement, and the wind holds a promise of a day likely to give one a rash.

I hate the goddamn heat.

Anyway, I’ve been stuffing my head full of creative fuel for the past few days, after taking the weekend off to recover from The Poison Prince‘s revision into respectable first-draft form. I’m still not officially back at work, I’m only in the office for correspondence, but I’m probably going to poke at a story or two anyway.

My writing partner sent me this article about fake truffles earlier today, and it’s just so gonzo weird. Mushroom mafias! Fake olive oil! And, my personal favorite, counterfeit ham stamper.

I keep giggling and muttering “counterfeit ham stamper” to myself, because I’m twelve inside and if I don’t amuse myself, who will? It’s just so easy to reduce me to helpless giggles; I swear if I ever have a nemesis, that’s going to be weaponized for my downfall.

Anyway. Despite having a virtual crown of bees by the time I slowed down (they decided to peel off in search of a flowering bush or two when I shifted to a walk) I came home with no dead insects or branches in my hair. I am super grateful for that, even if just throwing the mess in a ponytail means more trouble when I attend to untangling later. There are a few grey hairs coming in, and they have a distinct waviness to them, which is all to the good. I’ve wanted curly grey hair forever, I think I’ll rock it with my eyes and heavy eyeliner. Good to know my body’s on track.

Stay cool out there, my ducklings, and hydrate like you mean it. I’ve got yet more cool things to stuff into my head so I can spin stories out of the detritus of the passage.

Over and out.

Fire Bad, Books Pretty

Rattlesnake Wind

I finished first-draft revisions of The Poison Prince on Saturday, and spent the rest of the weekend almost nonverbal and staring. I was afraid I’d busted my word-makers, because Saturday night I pointed at a packet of bread and could not, for the life of me, figure out what the motherfucker was called. The kids stepped in, of course, and were highly amused at having to do so. I felt like a three-year-old, pointing and making helpless sounds until someone supplied the word.

It’s much better now, though I found myself staring at the plastic bin I keep my morning gruel mix in (thank you, Bob’s Red Mill, for being awesome) and thinking, milk bits? No, that’s not it…plant bits? Ground-up…Wheaties…what the fuck?, before I finally got to “SEVEN GRAIN CEREAL WITH FLAXSEED,” which I bellowed loudly enough (in tones of complete triumph) to give both dogs somewhat of a turn.

At least I knew what to call coffee. Whether it’s “java” or “precious life-giving fluid that makes the murder retreat,” it’s named correctly, amen and thank you.

So Poison Prince is safely with the editor, and I can return to HOOD. I’m not going to push myself too hard today, since I’m out of the office (and consequently not answering anything even remotely close to work emails or calls) through tomorrow, I figure I’ll just poke at Season Two and also poke around to see what I want to finish next. There’s the storm-god-and-the-witch tale, or the sort-of-Assassin’s-Creed Victorian one, or the profiler-and-the-codependent, or the vampire reaper. It’s the last that interests me the most. I’ve been writing healers for a while, it feels like I need to go back to kickass bitches, and there’s not much more kickass than the woman they call in for supernatural law enforcement. I’m fascinated by the thought of what a society of near-immortals would consider as consisting of law enforcement or capital punishment, and how they would treat the members responsible for dispensing such.

Like, what happens when you’re a relatively young superhuman thing, who remembers your human days but are so gifted you’ve been tapped to basically commit state-sanctioned murder on a regular basis? What would that do to a person? What kind of person would survive that, and how would they get through it–especially if they run across something or someone most of their society would kill to own? Like, say, a young kid with the power to let a Reaper walk in the daylight?

It might not go anywhere, but it’s been a while since I wrote a protector instead of a healer, and I think I’d like to do it again. I’d have to put some deep thought into the rules of the world, especially the engagement with mortal beings. Which sounds like a pleasant way to spend my days off, along with reading.

I finished Max Hasting’s Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy over the weekend, which focused largely on the American experience. Then again, the subtitle makes it clear it’s 1945-1975, and America was the elephant stamping around most during that time, and Hastings is clear upon the point that Vietnamese archives and other primary sources are beyond the reach of most if not all Western scholars, so there are good reasons for the lacunae. Still, my heart aches.

In any case, it’s a warm morning, and I’ve got to get out before it gets worse. At least I have a little time to breath before the next project heats up. I can almost feel the wrapping going back onto my exposed nerves; pushing myself at white heat for two projects in a row will only be a choice worth castigating myself for if I don’t pay attention to recovery time.

Remember to treat yourself gently between projects, my dears. It saves you from lost time and crappy creative choices down the road, an outcome devoutly to be wished for. And, now that I’ve given you that advice, I’m going to go try and take it myself.

Over and out.

Poppers

I recently attempted jalapeƱo poppers for the first time. The filling was a mix of cream cheese, garlic, and shredded mozzarella. The Prince fell instantly, totally in love; the Princess decided she could take ’em or leave ’em. The dogs were extremely pleased with bacon drippings, since I only had three jalapeƱos and while I could have wrapped them in a whole package of bacon, well, I didn’t.

Me? I’ll gladly make them for other people, but eating more than two is unpleasant at best.

Those two, though, are fantastic. And I’m quite proud of myself for Trying Something New. One has to every now and again, to keep the stomach guessing.