Bracing For Optimism

Boxnoggin has decided to go back to bed. Apparently a Monday is too much for even his spirit, and the leftover warmth is simply too enticing. Alas, I am forced to coffee and actual consciousness–or whatever approximation of the latter I can manage.

I spent the last of the weekend finishing Rebecca Suter’s The Japanization of Modernity, all about the work of Murakami Haruki. Consequently I think this week’s Reading with Lili will be about Murakami’s fabulous (in every sense) Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which I haven’t read in a hot minute. I was going to do Nancy Price’s Sleeping With the Enemy, but that can wait.

Price’s book got me through some rough times. I didn’t manage to see the movie until five or six years after I’d actually read it, so the two are only vaguely connected inside my head. And every time I water my African violets, certain bits of the book wander through my head.

It’s nice to have a plan–to have more things I want to share. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of cool books to talk about; it’s far more likely troll comments will make the entire project unsustainable, or the platforms I use for streaming etc. will burst into flame and sink into the swamps of corporate malfeasance.

I am also (apparently) a giant optimist this morning.

There’s work cut out for me today. Correspondence, figuring out the next step in Hell’s Acre, prepping for a big revision push–plus some copyedits–once December 1 hits, and a million other things I haven’t looked at the to-do list for. I know I’ll feel better after I get a run in, but at the moment my internal engines are catching and sputtering a bit. While I love the weather this time of year, I absolutely despise “the holidays”, and bracing myself for them is never pleasant.

The coffee has cooled, I feel like I’ve typed very little of real importance, and even though Boxnoggin loves the shelter of a warm bed he’ll be off-kilter all day if I don’t drag him out for walkies. You’d think a dog who protests so much over any deviation from routine and habit might be eager to get out the door no matter the state of the outside world. I can’t really blame him, though. I’d be back in bed if I didn’t have so much to get done today.

Or if not “done”, at least stabbed twice and left with a promise. I’d really rather be working on the bloody fanfic, but paying projects must when the devil drives, or something.

Yeah, I’ll definitely feel better after a run. Already this morning I’ve bandaged a minor injury that will make said run somewhat of a misery, but I need the sweat and endorphins too much to care. At least the laundry’s done, the plants are watered, and someone else is in charge of mopping the kitchen. Damn near a holiday, right?

Courage, my friends. I think I’m at the nadir of my detox from Twitter, and the next few days will see a marked change in both my mood and my productivity. All I have to do is stick today out; I hope your Monday will be similarly endurable.

Wish us both luck, my beloveds. Let’s get this bitch to Mount Doom.

Week, Story, Pursuit

I have decided I will not leap like a feral wolverine upon the fresh new week. Instead, I will pursue it like a stoat, steady and fixated, until the arbitrary sevenday drops dead of exhaustion and I may feast.

…I may have been watching a lot of Casual Geographic lately, can you tell? In any case, I’m more comfortable as a pursuit predator anyway. I may not be awfully fast (save for when I’m teleporting to save a toddler or a dumbass canine from Bad Decisions) but I am patient, and there’s plenty of endurance lingering in this ol’ wreck.

Anyway, welcome to Monday, everyone. We were at dinner last night and my daughter obliquely referenced Edmund Pevensie’s taunting of the Telmarines. I commented that Edmund being known as “the Just” was as close as CS Lewis could get to admitting he admired the Jesuits, then I laughed like a loon and both kids looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

Which happens rather a lot, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I always wanted to write a story where Aslan was the Big Bad, Jadis the White Witch and Edmund were the heroes, and the other three Pevensies were kind of bumbling impediments except for Susan, who is awesome no matter which way you slice it. And it is my firm headcanon that Susan never forgot Narnia, she just knew her homeworld needed her more. Because let’s face it, Aslan is a complete, humorless, psychopathic, unjust, incredible dick and I wouldn’t want him yanking me around more either.

Any Christian allegories have a difficult time covering up the sheer maliciousness of their sky god, especially in the Old Testament; really, the problem with allegory is that it lays bare a great deal of what one wants to hide as well as the truth one wishes to distill and reveal. I always suspected Lewis wrote ol’ Screwtape more to convince himself than anyone else. Tolkien seems to have viewed Lewis as Treebeard, taking so much of “the long view” as to be paralyzed with indecision; on the other hand, an Ent’s crisis of faith or confidence might not be visible to even an elf walking alongside through shadowed woods.

November was supposed to be the month I wrote the second book of A Particular Series, or at least 50k of it. Alas, it was not meant to be, but at least I think I’ve resurrected the damn thing. It took a lot of work, a lot of dry-heaving over my office wastebasket, forcing my recalcitrant body to the task. Of course my meatsuit is taking revenge at the moment. Apparently I will patiently coax any creature except my own stubborn self. Regardless, today is for stepping back into that world; this trilogy is having a difficult birth. Misunderstood by everyone but its mother, I suppose. I have to have some kind of faith it will all come out right, that it will reach the people who need it.

Sometimes I admire Lewis’s faith. Sometimes I pity his loneliness–always waiting for someone else to rescue one, instead of building a raft of whatever trash is to hand. The problem with the waiting is that the bones of those who waited in vain are silent; it’s only the “saved” we hear from, confirmation bias at its most absolute. I want the skeletons to stand up, to take their murderers and betrayers to account.

These are the things I think about on a Monday morning while my coffee cools. When I finally down the dregs, Boxnoggin will be waiting for me to make breakfast, beside himself with joy at the prospect of crusts and walkies. To him I am the changeless elf, a sorceress who can make light with a flick of her fingers, a goddess who provides kibble, warmth, direction. Makes me wonder if the gods see humans as we view dogs–they don’t make good choices, but they’re loving. Look how I dressed mine up! Oh, ouch, I can’t afford to take this one to the vet…why, oh why, are their lives so short?

I can’t decide if we make stories to escape the confines of the world, or because our world is so impossibly beautiful. Porque no los dos, right? In the end, what matters is the transmutation, the act of creating, the act of love.

So I lope after this week, reserving my strength, following tracks in sand as the wind rises, noting broken branches which speak of my prey’s direction and speed, discerning slight scuffs on bare rock. I hunt this arbitrary division of time, moving through other universes written into being by people long dead, creating my own out of the infinite multiverses lingering in my own bones and breath, the stories lined up around the block waiting for their chance to speak through me.

As I pursue, so am I pursued. That chain is infinite too.

But I’m done with coffee now and Boxnoggin is prancing down the hall. The hunt is afoot, and so I must be as well. See you around, my beloveds.

(But Aslan’s still a dick. I SAID WHAT I SAID.)

COVER REVEAL: The Salt-Black Tree

“But Lili,” I hear you say. “You just did a cover reveal not too long ago.” And yes, you are absolutely correct–but the two books of The Dead God’s Heart will be out within months of each other, so the publisher’s getting ducks-in-a-row now. It will be nice, since readers won’t have to wait too long for the series to be “finished”, per se. Two whole years’ worth of work will pay off…next year.

That’s publishing, baby. Anyway, are you ready?


Isn’t it pretty?

Since the series features American divinities and one hell of a roadtrip, of course there are cars–Dima Konets’s low black sports car, Maria Drozdova’s old Léon-Bollée, a Cadillac driven by a certain Coyote, and more. I’m also pleased about the snake, which is kind of a vehicle all its own.

There’s a burst of furious activity happening behind the scenes right now–copyedits, page proofs, queries on said page proofs–so everything is in place for the release of Spring’s Arcana next May. Considering that I wrote these books during lockdown and other assorted pandemic foolishness, it’s feeling rather strange to see them inching towards their debut.

The wind is up, and I’ve much more to do today. I just had to share the loveliness, though. Happy Thursday, my friends. We’re almost through the week…

Soundtrack Monday: Assassin

Blood Call

I was a John Mayer fan for a hot minute (Why, Georgia still plays in my head some mornings) and around the time I was writing Blood Call, I came across a fan video of his Assassin. It fit very well, and I might have watched it a few (million) times whenever the book got stuck.

That book started out–as some do–with a very vivid image. An old-style flip phone (my goodness, it was a few years ago) sitting in a leather cup on a very clean desk, with a particular fall of wintry afternoon light across it. I would’ve thought it was deja-vu instead of the beginning to an organic study (I’ve talked before about organics vs. what-ifs) except for the feeling in it.

The phone was buzzing, and my mental camera-eye pulled back. I could smell the office–a place cleaned twice a week, furniture polish and fresh carpeting, and the faint but unmistakable scent of despair. There was a window kitty-corner–he didn’t like having his back to the glass–and I saw Josiah standing with his head cocked, looking at the phone.

Of course, I didn’t know his name was Josiah–my writing partner and I had just agreed to write a story each with that name, so he inherited it. I did know his last name was Wolfe, that he had been waiting years for this phone to ring without any real hope that it would, and that he was frozen by the fact that it had.

I also knew who was on the other end of the line. Not her name yet, just that she was desperate and had literally nowhere else to turn. The rest of the story flowered from that one image of the phone rattling in the cup, Wolfe staring at it like he thought the thing might be venomous, and the woman in the phone booth hoping, praying, that the number was still good.

There are other songs on that soundtrack, but every time I hear the opening bars of Assassin I am taken back to that story, to writing in the living room of the old house, cross-legged with my heart in my mouth, finding out what kind of trouble needed a man like that to fix. (Also, Kit is HILARIOUS.) I’m still very fond of this book, even after all this time.

Which is certainly better than the alternative, especially nowadays…

COVER REVEAL: Spring’s Arcana

This week is going to be a rollercoaster, my beloveds–Twitter is melting down, the US midterm elections are tomorrow, wild weather, the ongoing revolution in Iran. I feel kind of weird talking about my own stuff with All This going on…but I must, and I have something very pretty for you indeed.


Cover by Allan Davey

That’s right! Spring’s Arcana–the Baba Yaga/John Wick/American Gods duology I was talking about last year, and earlier this year–has a cover now! Look at how beautiful, my beloveds. Want to hear a little more?


Spring’s Arcana

Nat Drozdova is desperate to save a life. Doctors can do little for her cancer-ridden mother, who insists there is only one cure―and that Nat must visit a skyscraper in Manhattan to get it.

Amid a snow-locked city, inside a sleek glass-walled office, Nat makes her plea and is whisked into a terrifying new world. For the skyscraper holds a hungry winter goddess who has the power to cure her mother…if Nat finds a stolen object of great power.

Now Nat must travel with a razor-wielding assassin across an American continent brimming with terror, wonder, and hungry divinities with every reason to consume a young woman. For her ailing mother is indeed suffering no ordinary illness, and Nat Drozdova is no ordinary girl. Blood calls to blood, magic to magic, and a daughter may indeed save what she loves…

…if it doesn’t consume her first.

This is the way to the Dead God’s Heart.

Available May 2023 from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and independent bookstores


I’m really excited; this series has had somewhat of a bumpy ride to publication. Well, they all have bumpy rides, even in times of less historical uncertainty, but this one felt a little rougher than most. And Book 2 is right around the corner…

…but I can’t say anything about that yet.

Yet.

November Zombie Sale

In honor of enduring three years of this bullshit–and in honor of the recent spookytimes funfest–The Complete Roadtrip Z will be on sale in ebook for $8.99USD all through November! That’s all four seasons of the hit serial (funded by my beloved subscribers, whom I thank) for the price of one.

The Complete Roadtrip Z

Cotton Crossing was a dead end, but not for Ginny Mills. She’s just marking time, getting experience in the county library system, before moving back to a decent urban environment. Then the phones stop working.

Lee Quartine knows there’s no way the pretty girl at the library will even look at him. Especially since he can’t open his mouth. He knows he’s a hick, but when the power starts going out and the woods are full of strange creatures, it’s good to have someone around who can build a fire. And kill.

Ginny and Lee and their small band of survivors can’t stay put, and moving is dangerous. The infected are shambling in the hills and the concrete canyons of cities.

It’s gonna be a long trip…

Available direct, or through Kobo and these other fine ebook retailers.


Not only that, but my latest release is Duty, the second in the Ghost Squad series.

Duty

After nearly dying on his team’s last mission, Paul Klemperer is heading home for the first time since signing up for the Army. His hometown’s grown a little. The inhabitants are older. And life has moved on, but some things are still the same. Like the way he feels about the girl he left behind—who ended up marrying someone else.

Beck Sommers has a divorce in the works; if she can just hold on, she’ll be able to leave this godforsaken town. Unfortunately, her soon-to-be-ex-husband has other ideas. Her first love Paul has returned as well, making things even more complicated. And then there’s the corruption, the drugs…and murder.

Beck’s determined to fix what’s gone wrong, but she has no idea how deep the corruption goes. And Paul? Well, he’s a little behind on the local news, but one thing’s for sure—he’s not letting Beck get away this time.

First, though, he’ll have to keep her alive…

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

If you’re interested, the book’s soundtrack is here.


And if you’re in the mood for a VC Andrews homage, That Damn Werelion Book is now available too. November’s certainly a crackerjack of a month around here and there might be even more, so stay tuned…

RELEASE DAY: Duty

The wind has shifted westward and we’re supposed to have rain this very day, which should clean the air a bit. I can’t wait–my eyes sting and I cough every time I have to step outside. And, wouldn’t you know, it’s also a release day!


Duty

After nearly dying on his team’s last mission, Paul Klemperer is heading home for the first time since signing up for the Army. His hometown’s grown a little. The inhabitants are older. And life has moved on, but some things are still the same. Like the way he feels about the girl he left behind—who ended up marrying someone else.

Beck Sommers has a divorce in the works; if she can just hold on, she’ll be able to leave this godforsaken town. Unfortunately, her soon-to-be-ex-husband has other ideas. Her first love Paul has returned as well, making things even more complicated. And then there’s the corruption, the drugs…and murder.

Beck’s determined to fix what’s gone wrong, but she has no idea how deep the corruption goes. And Paul? Well, he’s a little behind on the local news, but one thing’s for sure—he’s not letting Beck get away this time.

First, though, he’ll have to keep her alive…

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

If you’re interested, the book’s soundtrack is here.


This is Book 2 of Ghost Squad. I knew Klemperer–who readers will remember as a much-needed bit of lightness in Damage, being nearly brained by a milk crate–was going to head home for a family reunion and get into trouble. It took a bit of work to get him to open up, because he’s the Squad’s jokester and those tend to be extremely lonely people. He’s Dez’s second-in-command, and likes being in that particular position; it’s his job to get people moving in the right direction with a minimum of bitching once his squad leader has decided on a course of action. Consequently, he tends to cover his real feelings with a shield of jokes, evasion, and deep competence others often mistake for indifference. I watched a lot of M*A*S*H growing up, and Klemp takes a little from Hawkeye, a little from Radar, and a whole lot from Trapper John. He’s also very exceedingly loosely based on a certain soldier, anonymous by his own preference, who was gracious enough to tell me about some of his experiences in-country and his difficulties upon return. (Thank you, my friend; you’re one funny motherfucker.)

And then there’s Beck, who was left behind and suffered at least as much. There were no bullets or mortars, yet those aren’t the entirety of what makes a war zone. Getting her to open up was a chore, though I understood the problem wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk. She just knew nobody would listen, so she resolved to shut down. Which…I understood, having used the same strategy myself. Often, at great length, and to my own detriment.

Granite River is a fictional place, though it’s set in a very specific geographical region–the southern end of northwestern Oregon, at the end of a long chill damp winter before spring has done any appreciable warming. My beta and early readers told me, sometimes with a great deal of discomfort, that I’d absolutely nailed the dynamics of living in a small town with a dead textile mill (or other industry) and a lot of meth swimming through. And one of my early readers told me, in tones of awe and great discomfort, that the book was a little difficult to read because it described her own experience in an abusive relationship.

The human being in me was horrified at having caused any distress, while the writer in me pumped her fist and was gleeful at having gotten it right.

Individual writers have individual fascinations. One of my particular hobbyhorses is the effects of trauma–how people deal with it, and how they recover. What are the effects on someone’s personality after they’ve suffered something violent or horrifying, whether it be abuse or combat? What’s the way through? This fascinates me both because of my own traumatic experiences and those of people I care for. A soldier’s post-traumatic stress might not be seen the same way as an abuse victim’s, but both suffer after the fact. How do people cope, and how do they break when they can’t–or aren’t allowed to?

I already have the next installment of the Squad’s series in my head, though it’ll have to wait until revisions on the second Sons of Ymre are done. But in the meantime, here’s Klemp and Beck’s story, and I hope you like it.

Now I’m gonna go stick my head in a bucket and hyperventilate, as is my wont on release days. Happy Friday, my beloveds, and I hope you like this latest offering.

See you around.