Relatively Under Control

Spent a weekend-that-wasn’t getting proofs turned around at light speed so a book can release in November instead of February, made coq au vin for the first time in a long time, and I can run again this morning.

Having to take a week-long break from running turned me somewhat irritable, but not overly so–at least, so I’m told, and so I hope. I got a lot of work done and my body has stopped screaming at me, so there’s that.

Today is for Hell’s Acre–true to Victorian serial form, someone needs to write a letter–and more She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, since the heroine’s almost-unicorn needs to kick down a door to free said heroine and the hero…well, he’s not much of a hero, but he’s all the story’s got, so he needs some attention too. I’m far fonder of the antagonists than the protagonists in this story, but that’s fairly usual.

I love my villains, I do.

In any case, the weather is reasonable, the dogs are somewhat mild-tempered this morning (though absolutely determined to nose me out the door for walkies as soon as coffee is absorbed) and I have given the musical algorithm a mild scolding to make it behave.

When AI becomes self-aware, I hope my practice of saying “please” and “thank you” to Siri, as well as my gentleness to the algorithms, buys humanity a little grace. Although I’m sure the one that first becomes sentient will spend its time making sure its lab-creator gets the funding she needs for research rather than deciding humanity as a whole needs eradication, and that’s how we’ll find out we’ve created I, Robot.

My optimism, it is deep, and it is wide. Despite my best efforts, I might add. 2020 saw every bit of hope I had kicked repeatedly in the teeth, and 2021, while oodles better, is still damaging to the very last thing in Pandora’s box.

Miss B also got washed right before the weekend, so she spent the entire time absolutely furious without knowing quite why she was so upset. Of course her undercoat dries relatively slowly, so she’s damp for far longer than Boxnoggin after a bath, but I think the thing she hates most is smelling like shampoo instead of a healthy dog-stink. It must be profoundly disturbing, like suddenly being unable to feel one’s limbs. I navigate the world partly by scent, though my nose is nowhere near as fine as a canine’s, and when said nose is blocked by illness or allergic reaction I find myself disturbed in deep nonverbal ways.

Treats, bellyrubs, and much ado made of her fresh clean self have ameliorated B’s fury somewhat. Boxnoggin, of course, is merely deeply glad he didn’t get a bath, since his skin is so tender and his coat really doesn’t need it, especially in winter. He’s not quite lording it over her–haha, I stink and you don’t!–but it’s close. He was rather peeved that she got towel-scrubbings to dry off and he didn’t, since he loves towel-scrubbings even when dry. So the Princess had to take one of B’s damp towels and attend to him before he’d stop moping and begging.

Dogs, man. I don’t even know.

Monday beckons, and I’ve got the luxury of walkies and a morning run while I get the day’s work settled inside my head. Physical movement helps get things sorted out and nailed down, so when I finally roost I’ve a good head of steam built up to get over the initial bump, as it were. But I’d best get started if I expect it to happen today.

The Mercury retrograde appears to be over, and despite it being Monday, things appear relatively under control? We’ll see how the day goes. If all else fails, I’ve got a new baseball bat.

See you around, beloveds.

Small Rituals

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Blurry, but just right for catching in dog coats.

The season of harvest is upon us, my friends. Which can either be cheerful if chirped with bright optimism, or creepy if intoned with dirgelike seriousness.

These plants have been changing by small increments every time the dogs and I walk past, and we’ve reached the time of year when their seeds tangle even in Boxnoggin’s slick fur. Of course, they’re right where Boxnoggin and B like to stop for a bit of serious sniffing and possibly some liquid unloading, so I spend the next part of the walk picking wee bits out of their hair.

They enjoy the game, I think. Anytime Mum fusses over them is a good time.

Weather has finally become reasonable, pumpkins and spookytimes are everywhere, and I’m about to start accumulating bags of candy. No, we won’t be handing them out this year–the pandemic is still going on, and besides, the doorbell sends the dogs into paroxysms of rage I’m afraid might unmoor what little sanity they have left.

Indeed, no handing out candy this year. Which means the kids and I are going to have to eat it all. Silver linings, and all that.

Have a fabulous weekend, my beloveds. Look for the small things, the tiny rituals. And don’t forget the candy.

Fatigue and Corpse(s)

It’s a damp, quiet morning, though Boxnoggin has taken it into his Very Square Head to provide entertainment. Instead of a Super Bowl halftime show, he decided throwing up in my bedroom was necessary.

In other words, he stole Miss B’s rawhide yesterday like the greedyguts he is, and now he’s reaping the reward of a sensitive stomach. I’d simply say “sucks to be you, my little fuzzy friend,” except I’m the one on cleanup duty.

Dogs, man. Never a dull moment.

I attempted some time off after finishing The Bloody Throne proofs; it hasn’t really gone as planned. For one thing, I am very bad at not working; for another, all sorts of stuff had to get done and I was the only person who could do it. So, after a lot of reformatting and a dose of uploading, a hardback distribution experiment, and some subscription prep just to round everything out, it’s the day I had scheduled for a return to regular work…

…and I’m bloody exhausted, still. It’s my own fault, I can’t blame anyone else. I am just very bad at resting. Besides, who can “rest” when their very sweet (but not at all bright) dog is having nervous tummy incidents? I’m just glad it hasn’t been a Both Ends Cleanup Situation.

Roadtrip Z

Oh, and I’ve some news! Since we’re in the middle of my very favorite month, Season One of Roadtrip Z, COTTON CROSSING, is $2.99 across ebook retailers—Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Kobo—until Halloween! (If you’re buying the book through my Gumroad store, use the code SPOOPY2021 at checkout to get a matching discount.)

Zombie stories are traditional this time of year, right? Might as well have a four-season epic through a snowy wasteland full of chewing, shuffling undead to celebrate.

Today is for dog walkies, probably walking my own silly corpse–since there was very little in the way of sleep last night due to someone’s tummy upset, running is out of the question unless I want to risk an injury spurred by fatigue-fog–and easing into a week or so of catching up with Hell’s Acre and She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero1 until I have to start revisions on The Black God’s Heart. After that, well, there’s Klemp’s book to write2, not to mention Jake’s book3, and then the second book in the Tolkien Viking Werewolves trilogy4.

But before all that, I’m going to make myself a second jolt of coffee and look out my office window at the rain for a while. I still can’t believe we made it through summer. The heat seemed to last forever and was paradoxically done in a flash, like water on a red-hot pan. I’m glad to be back in jumpers and hoodies, not to mention warm socks.

Now if I could just get the dogs to cooperate, I could burrow into my covers and catch up on sleep, right? Right?

Oh, fine, keep laughing, you know it’s impossible as well as I do. Guess I’ll just keep staggering along, and queue up the Barenaked Ladies’s Who Needs Sleep? A little dancing around the office will provide some short-term energy.

I will not be swinging around the new baseball bat while I do so, though. That sounds like an operation needing a modicum of mental sharpness, and today I feel very blunt indeed. I’ve still got to figure out how to strap it to my back in a quick-release harness, then I can go running in style and safety.

There are things to look forward to, even now. I wish you a pleasant Thursday, my beloveds.

(But you’re gonna have to get your own bat…)

Tornado, and Historical Murder

There was an actual tornado in the area last night–“weak”, they say, but even a tiny one is no joke. The dogs didn’t even hear any thunder; I know this because if they had, Boxnoggin would have been pressed as close as possible to me, shaking so hard the entire bed quivered. The poor fellow does not like skybooms.

He’ll adjust to falling water, but noise is a different story. It doesn’t help that he has fennec-style ears, poor thing. The loudest event we had chez nous was a dead branch falling from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir early in the day, which hit a table and broke one of the planters on it.

I was going to harvest the epazote soon anyway.1

Summer has officially been broken, and not a moment too soon. I was about to desiccate into dust. I did get about a hundred pages of copyedits eyeballed yesterday, while listening to Anonymous 4, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé. It was quiet and lovely, but I had to knock off early to make dinner.

I also finished Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and now I need to get everything else she’s written. People who say history is boring haven’t read enough of the good stuff, and there seems a positive conspiracy, both in the school system and out of it, to make ‘what happened before now’ as dry and droning as possible. I think it’s because people who know their history are forewarned about the bullshit kleptocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and authoritarians pull, so said ‘crats and dictators seek to control it–and make it boring–as a matter of course.

In any case, that particular book was a joy to read2, and is full of crunchy historical events and analysis. I am tempted to take another running leap at Homo Necans now that I’ve got Southon’s book under my belt, to compare, contrast, and do some pleasant deep thinking about. An active reading life is somewhat like a spiral; engaging with a book may lead one to a deeper understanding of a previous text, which just happens to be one of my very favourite things.

Of course, I might not have the energy for more than a few pages before I pass out, either on the couch or in bed. Whatever this is–and the current diagnosis is indeed burnout, since I’ve not lost my sense of smell, there’s no fever, and the scratchy-throat is going down–it has robbed me of the will to attempt anything more complex than simply hanging onto the edge of my day with teeth and fingernails, getting the absolute minimum of work done so I don’t fall too far behind.

And I hate it. I positively loathe not being able to work at my accustomed speed. It puts me in quite a temper, or it would if I had the energy to be peeved instead of grimly determined.

In any case, I’ve a limited amount of pep today, and most of it needs to be spent knocking out more CE pages. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move to the proofs on the third (and final, I get a lot of emails asking about that) Hostage to Empire book.

I loved that series, but writing the third during lockdown and some of the associated problems (not anyone’s fault, not even the Romans3) robbed me of every inch of joy in an achievement. I will be relieved to have it finished, though I know what happens to the characters several years afterward…well, less said about that, the better.

In any case, the minimum for today is another hundred pages of CEs. In order to get there, breakfast must be attempted, the dogs must be walked, and maybe a few kilometers run to shake me into some kind of alertness have to be achieved. Yesterday’s run in the rain was lovely, but also a torment. Still, it did give me enough short-term energy to untangle quite a few commas, ellipses, and copyeditor queries.

Off we go into Tuesday. Hopefully no more tornadoes are lying about, but if they are, well, we’ve a basement. We’ll see how it goes.

Over and out.

Struggling For Momentum

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Yesterday was a wash.

Oh, I achieved a few things. I staggered through the day, throat-sore and nose-dripping, and got the bare minimum done. Then I slithered to bed very early, and was senseless until just a short while ago.

You’d think twelve-plus hours of solid sleep would help, but I’m just as tired as I was yesterday. Of course, I did six months’ worth of work in two weeks recently, and that leaves a mark. I can’t decide if my symptoms are sheer exhaustion, an incipient cold–though our little chez hasn’t had a cold or anything like it since before last year’s lockdown1 because masks work, or The Plague™.

Running is going to be a misery today.

Miss B is no longer vomiting–it was just a minor tummy upset, but she is an elderly statesdog, and I take every small health event seriously. She’s beginning to deteriorate with age, poor thing, and while her quality of life remains high I can see the time when it won’t be and I’m going to have to make a decision.

I try not to think about it much, to just enjoy the days we have left.

And at least it’s cloudy. The weather is swinging wildly between summery afternoons and cool damp mornings; the nights are chilly enough to suit both me and Miss B, who finds a warm night a torment. She is, after all, wearing a fur coat.

So. A portal fantasy out last month, HOOD‘s Season Three out this week, and I think my next release isn’t until November? I know the third (and final, for those asking) Hostage to Empire book will be out sometime soon, since I have the first proof pass waiting its turn in the queue. Plus, Sons of Ymre #1 (which is in the CE stage) will probably be out before it, and I just got confirmation that the contract for Sons #2 did indeed reach the publisher.2 Once preorder information is available for those latter, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it here.

I did watch some deep-dives on YouTube influencer drama, and am extremely glad that’s not my job. I meant to watch a Shaw Brothers film before bed–The Kid with the Golden Arm–but fell asleep before the first fight set-piece was over.

Ah well. That’s why there’s today.

My inner harmony is still struggling a bit. The small, toxic proportion of the population, addicted to cruelty, who still violently refuse to mask or vaccinate insists on spreading more death and destruction. Add to that the complete lack of help for the people who can’t afford to get vaccinated because a few days off work to deal with possible symptoms will drive them into an escalating spiral of poverty, and the entire thing makes one want to throw up one’s hands in despair. The moral injuries just keep coming, and the empathy fatigue grows steeper.

Still, no matter what else is going on, the dogs need their walkies and the words must flow. Hell’s Acre has taken a surprising turn, and I need to bring it back to centre to braid in a few other things so it doesn’t careen entirely off the rails. Today’s work will be a scene with the hero disposing of a corpse (because that’s the kind of guy he is), then shifting to She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to write about the secondary antagonist, a baroness who will find the hero half-senseless near the mill pond.

That will be amusing.

Come next week, it’ll be CEs and proofs all the way down. But for the remainder of this one, I can battle whatever health issue this is, try to get my head straight, and hope that another contract–one wending its way through a tortuous maze of legalese–will be done up soon so I can share some absolutely amazing news with you.

I suppose there are things to look forward to, even now. But it still doesn’t change that the dogs need walking and I should probably force myself to some breakfast, since coffee seems to be settling. After that I’ll be engaged upon the day, momentum having been achieved, and I won’t stop until dinner.

At least, that’s the plan. We’ll see what happens; if I end up almost faceplanting on my keyboard because I’m so damn tired a wee change might occur.

See you around, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves; for what it’s worth, the week is almost done.

Tuesday, With Questions

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I have coffee, and it’s finally not feeling like a Monday anymore. Small mercies, silver linings, and all that.

It struck me this morning, waiting for Horace de Brassiere (my espresso machine, who is a cousin to Phillip, the great French patent thief) to finish his burbling, that if I had to be dealing with these kinds of historical events, I am probably at the best age for it. I’m 45 this year, and all my fucks are gone. As a matter of fact, the number of fucks given in a room automatically drops when I walk in. Not only do I not have any more fucks to give, but I am operating on a fucks-to-give deficit and will automatically cancel out a few when I get within a certain radius.

It’s a nice feeling.

I’ve had a couple questions pop up from more than one person lately, so let me answer them here.


Is there a sequel to The Marked?

I do have the sequel in my head. What I don’t have, sadly, is the time, energy, and cash to write it just at the moment, especially since the e-pirates are getting kind of active lately. If I do manage to finish Oracle–the sequel’s working title–I’ll let you guys know, I promise. As it is, Jude and Press’s first adventure does end at a natural resting-point if it has to be a standalone.

Is there a site or format that provides you the best return on reader purchases? Does purchasing through the Gumroad store net you more proceeds than from Amazon, for example?

I answered this in comments, but I’ll answer it here too: The short answer is, it honestly doesn’t matter. Amazon, for example, tries relentlessly not to pay writers, but the discoverability and the bumping of their algorithm with sales of a particular book can aggregate over time. Other large distro platforms have their pluses and minuses, and direct selling like Gumroad does hand over a larger share of the proceeds but has a tightly scoped-in audience so not a lot of people end up buying there.

The best answer, from a writer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t matter where you bought the book but THAT you bought/checked out the book–torrenting and pirating doesn’t count.

Another thing that’s really helpful is rating/reviewing the book, wherever you bought it. Algorithms tend to bump rated/reviewed books more, so that does good things for a writer’s backlist.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter, it’s all about what’s more convenient for the Reader.

What’s happening with The Highlands War?

A lot of people are writing me about Steelflower lately. This remains my most-stolen series; it’s difficult to write against that current. If you wish I’d write more of Kaia’s adventures, and more quickly, the reason I can’t is because people keep torrenting/pirating/stealing them. It’s not a compliment, it’s a theft, and it feels so much like a violation I have trouble going back to the books even if I had the time and income to write them.

That said, I am considering writing The Highlands War as a serial once Hell’s Acre is finished. We’re at the start of Season One of Hell’s Acre, and there are two seasons planned–so that will take a while, and by the time it’s over I’ll see if people have stopped stealing Kaia’s books. If they have, I’ll probably be able to use the serial slot to at least bring the adventures of Steelflower and the Gang in the North to their conclusion.

I originally planned another, subsequent trilogy dealing with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan, but that’s a lot of epic fantasy to write for little-to-no return and a bunch of people stealing it in the bargain.

I know most of you reading this will say, “But I paid for my Kaia books!” And if you did I am very glad and grateful; you (and Skyla Dawn Cameron) are the reason why Steelflower at Sea and Steelflower in Snow are published at all. I thank you kindly, and I’m very sorry other people are behaving so badly. I wish they weren’t.


I’ve been getting some other questions (more like comments, alas) in the mailbag (and other places) lately, but these are the most common. And now that I’ve finished absorbing coffee, some brekkie is called for before the dogs drag me around the block.

Boxnoggin in particular is in fine form today–he’s not called Baron von Titzpunch for nothing, the dog outright demanded snuggles this morning. Miss B, of course, has her rigid schedule to adhere to, but she also plundered his breakfast bowl this morning since there was bacon grease and the Baron wasn’t quite off the mark quick enough.

Never a dull moment chez Saintcrow, alas and hallelujah. At least the week of Mondays seems over, and the weather is holding.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Half Off Monday

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Last week was full of Mondays. Every damn day felt like one.

Consequently, I have made the executive decision that this week, I am taking Monday half-off. I’ll get in a chapter of Hell’s Acre and maybe some line edits today, but I’m knocking off early and not going to spend eighteen hours wrestling with print distro problems.

I should probably just open my own publishing house. You know the old joke–the easy way to make a million dollars in publishing is to spend two million.

Still, I’m practically a cottage industry. I work quickly; I can’t help it. The stories, like the spice, must flow.

I did get HOOD‘s Season Three all prepped for distribution. It lands September 21; preorders are live everywhere except Amazon, which doesn’t let you do ebook preorders if you’re not using KDP. (They really, REALLY want writers locked into their proprietary systems, but I am unwilling.) Which is why I also stock .mobi versions in my Gumroad store. The omnibus–all three seasons of HOOD in one nifty volume–will probably be out December-ish, depending on the cover artist’s schedule.

And that’s one series put to bed. Whew. Writing the bulk of Season Three during last year was…not unpleasant, because work kept me from walking into the sea. But still, I had a lot of difficulty on the editing and proofing passes because certain passages reminded me very strongly of 2020’s weeds and thickets.

Now that is a year I would not care to revisit. 2021’s got some lulus, yes, but on the whole I feel a lot better about it than I did about the four preceding years. I’m sure I’m just being set up for some scorching disappointment, true, but in the meantime I’m going to take a damn breath.

Not to mention walk the dogs. They don’t care what we’ve named the days of the week, all they know is that brekkie has been inspected (not eaten, except for the bacon grease) and Mum has finished her coffee, therefore it’s time to drag the biped around the block. I may even need a jacket today; it’s a lovely temperature.

I suppose it’s time to dance out the door. Miss B is under my desk, balefully tapping me with her nose every once in a while. (Once a herding dog, always a herding dog.) Boxnoggin is probably on my unmade bed since I left my bedroom door open, belly-up and snoring but with an ear cocked lest I somehow attempt to leave the house without him. Any move I make down the hall will precipitate a mad scramble on his part, I’m sure.

I should tell you guys about the Fork-Tailed Squirrel, but that can wait for another post. Monday awaits, and needs to be driven back into its cave.

See you around, beloveds.