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…

Bit Askew

Cormorant Run

It’s been the kind of weekend that reminds me of going into the Rifts, frankly. Everything seems a little bit askew–probably from lack of sleep–and the danger won’t kill you instantly, it’ll kill you three steps ago or an hour from now.

So to speak. Good news and terrifying news has abounded, and now I’m blinking on a holiday Monday, with wordcount ahead of me, a Soundtrack Monday post to write, and I haven’t run in three days.

You can tell I’m a little twitchy.

At least the wind is moving a bit and we’ve had some rain. Well, more like condensation inside Mother Nature’s mouth1, but it’s cleaned some of the particles from the air and made it slightly easier to breathe. The dogs are content with walkies instead of jogging, probably because Miss B is becoming an elderly statesdog.

I am reminded, seeing the grey on her muzzle and how she is a little less bouncy, how little time I truly have left with her. It’s going to be devastating when she has to leave, and I can’t brace for it.

But that’s borrowing trouble. For today, she’s quite happy, having had half my morning toast. She knows what comes next–I stare at the glowing box on my desk for a while, until her staring at my profile becomes a weight I can’t ignore and I take her and Lord van der Sploot for a morning ramble.

At least, she’s very certain it’s her gaze that finally drags me out the door, and I’m content to let her think so.

I’d write more about the weekend, but I can’t for privacy reasons. Suffice to say there’s a brand new human I share some ancestry with in the world; it’s a reason to celebrate even if said brand new human arrived on their own schedule–as brand new humans are wont to do.

Happy Monday, my friends; may your Veteran’s Day pass exactly as you wish it to, and may said veterans find some peace. Later today I’ll have a song for you.

Over and out.

Blank, Pointy-Tooth Screens

Cormorant Run

The weekend passed in a blur, between chores and getting wordcount in on Damage. The best thing about it was the rain moving in. It is now officially autumn, and I couldn’t be happier.

I always work best when the rains settle like an inverted grey bowl, tip-tapping the roof and window, hissing between leaves beginning to turn, plopping into puddles. Maybe it’s all the negative ions being thrown up, maybe it’s the ambient white noise, maybe it’s the petrichor, maybe it’s the cleaning of the air. Maybe it’s all of them.

I also watched Wes Craven’s Dracula 2000 and its two “sequels”, the latter only loosely related to the first movie but starring Jason Scott Lee. I don’t quite uncritically love them, I’m aware of how bad all three movies are. The first one played with some extremely interesting themes and the third had the right ending1 instead of an action-movie Gary Stu vomit-fest, so all in all, they’re not bad.

Vampires are a blank screen we use to project a number of anxieties onto. I know–I’m guilty as charged, between Selene2 and the scurf in the Kismet series.3 Both had their uses, and I might be ready to write Tarquin’s story. Or even Imprint, the Beguine vampire smexy-story I’ve been adding chunks to over literal years.

But first I’ve got to finish Damage and get the Season 2 zero of HOOD out of the way. Now that I’m in the productive half of the year, that might even happen in a hurry. And of course there’s running, running with dogs, walking with dogs, parenting, and making sure my meatsack doesn’t give out under the pressure.

It feels like juggling chainsaws, complete with the risk of lopping off a hand when one grabs the wrong way. Tiger by the tail, and all that.

I should also get the monthly newsletter out of the way. Incorruptible goes on sale later this month, too, so there’s housekeeping to do for that.

It’s a good thing the rainy season’s long in these parts. I’d probably never get anything finished otherwise. Time to finish absorbing my coffee and get with the program; it might be dangerous to stay in one place.

Over and out.

Revise Your Hatemail

Cormorant Run

The first third of Harmony has been revised; today’s for the second third as well as a scene or two in the gift-fic I’m doing for my writing partner. If I can get Harmony revised and proofed, I can format it, be ready to drop the cover in, and break for the hills.

The gift-fic continues apace, too. The focus is tight on just two characters, even though the story wants to sprawl through a whole city and explore the political ramifications of assassination as a tactic. I could expand it later, I suppose, but I’ve so many other plates in the air I’m reluctant.

Some fellow (and before you ask, yes, it was a man) sent me a long email about how he didn’t understand Cormorant Run and would therefore rewrite it for the “small” fee of $499. I know a lot of people were upset because the cover made them think they were getting a chicks-in-leather urban fantasy when in fact they were buying a love song to Soviet sci-fi, and the marketing did nothing to dispel that confusion, but…this is a little beyond the pale, even for my inbox.

I suppose I might even have felt insulted if the email hadn’t been stuffed full of spelling errors, typos, and grammatical sins. As it is, I read with this face:

…and promptly took to social media to anonymously roast the fellow. Responding directly would make him think I care about his opinion or his offer. (It also might tip him over some internal edge that will add him to my already-full stable of dipshit stalkers/harassers; there’s no more room there, thanks.)

I suppose I feel bad for the dude, in some ways. Imagine thinking this is a good idea, and further imagine thinking that you can get a trad-published author to give you a work already licensed to said trad publisher for you to bastardize and sell. I’m sure this guy has a bridge or two he wants to offer to a discerning buyer, too.

Anyway, folks, remember: if you’re going to send me hatemail or a terrible “offer,” make sure you get your missives spell-checked and proofed. Otherwise you’ll just get laughed at, possibly publicly. I am often tempted to correct hatemail for spelling, grammar, and other errors before returning it with an injunction to revise and resubmit, but then I remember I have real work to do, chuckle softly, and move on.

And now I should get out the door for a run. Work doesn’t stop because some random jackhat gave me a morning’s worth of amusement, more’s the pity.

Over and out.

Ambiguity

I love art that invites the viewer/reader to make up their own mind. For example, in Le Samuorai, when Valerie (the nightclub pianist) definitively declares Jef Costello is not the killer. He says, “Thank you, madame,” and she replies, “It’s the least I can do.”

This, especially in light of the ending, can be read several ways. One’s interpretation says a lot about one’s outlook and ethics. The interpretation I like the best is that Jef could have killed her during the initial hit, because she was the only one who got a clear look at him. He didn’t, and she recognizes that. Of course, you could say that Valerie, as a person of color, understands that even if she does testify, Jef could very well be set free, and she’s already seen him kill once.

But, watching and rewatching that exchange, I don’t think that’s in the actress’s mind, or the director’s. I think Valerie is saying, “You could have killed me, but you didn’t. Now I am paying that debt to you, we’re even, and you won’t come after me.” And Costello, being honorable, would not, and indirectly agrees with his thanks.

Often, in my own books, I try to leave that space around certain decisions by certain characters, so the reader can mull it over. Unfortunately, many publishers dislike any ambiguity unless it’s from the pen of a Literary White Male. “But readers won’t GET IT!” is the most common plaint I hear.

Oh, they will. But I as an artist have to give them the chance to do so. I’d rather do that than insult their intelligence.

Full Range

So Cormorant is out, and I can talk about something I’ve wanted to for a while.

Some readers are upset because Svin isn’t Jill or Dante. She’s more like the name-shifting narrator of She Wolf–dedicated, and all right with murder if it gets the job done. One isn’t meant to get inside Svin’s head very far, and if she was a male protagonist, she probably would be called an antihero.

Since she’s most definitely not male, she’s called cold and distant.

This is very much like the reader fury over Jill and Saul’s relationship. Much of that fury dissipated when I noted publicly that if their genders were reversed, nobody would blink. It would, in fact, slot that romance neatly into the gumshoe/classy dame noir space. Funny, right?

I laugh, until I don’t.

Even Cormorant’s editors had difficulty with Svin. She isn’t likable, or approachable. She has her own agenda, and the reader isn’t allowed to take over her body. Nobody is allowed to do that, which is not normal for female characters in our culture. There’s also deliberate craft decisions I made, like no self-talk in italics–a hallmark of my style, one could say. It forced me to write differently, especially when Svin’s interacting with Barko or Vetch.

I knew readers would be expecting Svin to be more like Jill, or Dante, or even Selene or Emma Bannon or or or. But femininity is not a one-stop “strong woman” shop. Svin is just as feminine as any of them; she is part of the full range of female expression. It irks me that if I’d written her as a man (and/or under a male nom de guerre et plume) there probably would have been an avalanche of “ooooh, smexy brooding antihero!” Or, in the latter case, cookies and head-pats.

We have a long way to go. Sometimes the way gets goddamn rocky, and I get tired. Since I’ve written (and continue to write) chicks-in-leather and romance, I’m clearly not a Serious Writer of Science Fiction, right? I should have made my female protagonist in my love letter to Soviet sci-fi more “likable”, catered to different expectations, right?

Fuck that noise. Always and ever, fuck that goddamn noise.

I like writing romance. I like writing urban fantasy. I like writing fantasy. I like writing sci-fi. I like writing steampunk alt-history. Ad infinitum. I like telling a variety of stories, and that’s not going to change. I do not write by committee, I write what the story wants, and I’m pretty sure that’s what readers keep coming around for.

There’s always the chance that I just didn’t pull off my vision clearly enough, of course. (No doubt plenty of “objective” assholes will chalk it up that way.) But I did what I set out to do, and I didn’t truckle. I’m a hack, sure, but a prideful one.

And Svin is an unabashedly female character. If she doesn’t fit someone’s idea of what a woman should be, that’s not her problem.

Or mine.

Release Day: CORMORANT RUN

It’s here! It’s here! My love song to Soviet sci-fi is here!

ARRIVAL meets Under the Dome in this new post-apocalyptic novel from New York Times bestseller Lilith Saintcrow.

It could have been aliens, it could have been a trans-dimensional rip, nobody knows for sure. What’s known is that there was an Event, the Rifts opened up, and everyone caught inside died.

Since the Event certain people have gone into the drift… and come back, bearing priceless technology that’s almost magical in its advancement. When Ashe the Rat — the best Rifter of her generation — dies, the authorities offer her student, Svinga, a choice: go in and bring out the thing that killed her, or rot in jail.

But Svin, of course, has other plans…

Now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and wherever else fine books are sold.

I am SO chuffed, and frightened to death at the same time. This is different than any other book I’ve ever done, and we fought so hard to get it published. Now it’s ready for you, dear Readers, and I hope you enjoy it. If it’s your jam, please do me a solid and leave a rating or short review at the vendor of your choice–it really helps, and means I can make more stories for you.

Now I’m going to go for my usual release-day run, and try to work all my nerves out. Each time a book goes out into the world, it’s terrifying.

Catch you later, gators.