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…

Exercise in Direction

The air quality is still awful (169, it says, and higher is NOT better), though there is very little fog. Stepping outside for Boxnoggin’s matutinal unloading-slash-constitutional made me cough, and my eyes are still streaming. I look like a drama heroine who just found out the male lead’s been injured; if I was wearing eyeliner it would be raccoon-smears. Still, near noon the wind should shift to the west and all this nastiness start to break up, and of course the weather folk say tomorrow will bring long-anticipated rain. The air will be cleaned and the forest fires hopefully damped a bit; perhaps we can even relax a little and not be ready for evacuation.

To be absolutely precise, the Chez won’t need to be evacuated but we’re standing by in case friends are forced to. Everything is prepped and ready, and I’ve even baked extra bread. That’s one (perhaps the only) good thing about the weather, I have been able to perform some kitchen witchery. It’s a saving grace.

I’ve hit the part of revision recovery where I want to work on something just for me, so yesterday about 5k of an epic fantasy nobody will ever read fell out of my head. It was lovely to scratch the itch until it bled. Hopefully I’m on track to get back to other work now, too. My ability to shift and recover has been hammered relentlessly over the past few years; I’m not feeling quite my usual elastic self.

And tomorrow’s a release day. Sticking my head in a (filtered) bucket while hiding in a cave seems a glorious idea indeed.

Dawn is virulently pink in the east, almost a “sailors take warning” shade. Boxnoggin does not care about air quality, the entire concept being well above his pay grade. All he knows is that morning is for walkies, and Mum has almost finished her coffee so it’s nearly time. I might mask up to take him around the block, though that won’t help my eyes. The worst is not being able to run. Between this and the recent ankle injury, I haven’t been able to hit the pavement anywhere near enough, and it’s really telling on my mood. I’m heartily sick of summer’s claws still stuck in the hide of the year; I want this over with. At least if it’s raining I won’t choke to death on smoke.

…I probably shouldn’t say that, since it will no doubt force the universe to arrange such a treat for me. Ah well. I’m also trying to not even look at the news cycle, in self-defense. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Normally at this point in my day I’ve got a good idea of what I’m going to accomplish, whether it be planning or execution. This Thursday, however, I have no friggin’ clue. Maybe I’ll narrate a few more saucy stories; maybe I’ll get a wild hare about podcast structure. Certainly there’ll be a subscription drop, and there are arrangements to be made for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve pretty much decided that last bit will be devoted to book two of the Tolkien Viking Werewolves, so there’s that.

Maybe I’m more organized than I thought. (Yes, you can stop laughing now, that was said with tongue firmly in cheek.)

I’m on the last swallow of coffee and as soon as I shift in my chair Boxnoggin will be beside himself with gleeful anticipation. First coffee, then toast, then walkies–this is the Way, according to him, and woe betide the poor dumb human who interferes with that schedule. Mandalorians have nothing on the guilt induced by a pair of big, sad, brown doggy eyes. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a complete sucker for a beloved canine.

We all have our little weaknesses. Anyway, the sooner the subscription drop is queued and NaNo planning done, the sooner I can sneak back to that epic fantasy and get the main character into trouble at a banquet. Once that peters out I’ll be ready to embark on the next round of feverish work, and not a moment too soon. Apparently I need to be kept off the smoggy streets and out of trouble, assuming that’s possible.

Happy Thursday, my beloveds. The rain is almost, almost here. I often say I can put up with just about anything if I know when it’s going to end, and this summer has certainly been an exercise in that direction. But, ending or not, it still has a few more hits to get in. I suppose I’d better get braced to endure them.

See you around.

Arachnid Verisimilitude

Gossamer veils.

Tis the season for misty mornings, which means these spiderwebs stand out amid evergreen foliage. There’s some polyester knockoffs (Halloween decorations) in the neighborhood, but it’s easy to tell the real from the decorative. I often feel like I should remove twigs and leaf litter, but never do so because that’s probably verisimilitude for the poor spider, who’s just trying to get some lunch.

I’ve had well-meaning strangers interfere while I’m hungry too, after all.

I have revision brain–Cold North is just about ready to go back to the editor, squeaking right under the deadline wire–and a bad case of exhaustion. Despite that I am looking forward to this week’s Reading with Lili, which will be about Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, the ladies in Dracula’s castle, and Victorian misogyny. (It’ll be on Twitch first, YouTube later, as always.) I have an inbox full of stuff for The Dead God’s Heart and the preorder rodeo that is Duty as well, so that’s got to be dealt with before I can knock off and maybe take a day or so to breathe. (And watch more Love Like the Galaxy, which I am currently low-key obsessed with.)

Before that, there’s walkies and a slow, short, easy run to get my wounded ankle back into the game. No mist this morning, yet I’ll smile at every spider-house.

I wish you a wonderful weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other.

Over and out.

Nibbled By Minutiae

I finally got to the giant spiders in Cold North yesterday. 2.5k more words, and the last third of the book is feeling much smoother. Three more chapters to revise, then I can call this done…

…and start working on Book 2, at last. I can’t wait to do the Fall of Gondolin in my own inimitable style. It’s nice to be working in epic fantasy again–I like writing contemporary, but I also like the chance to stretch my wings a bit and use more archaic language. The formality appeals to me, as well as neologisms. Lo, I contain multitudes.

I’m super relieved I’ll be able to hit the amended deadline on this particular revision. What with the pandemic and all, the schedule is super behind. But I suppose any Tolkien Viking Werewolf series is going to have some problems, and last a little longer than one expects. It’s in the nature of the beast; walking to Mordor takes more than a day.

Speaking of which, Boxnoggin wants his walkies, and we’re almost out of bread. Or, to be more precise, we’re almost out of the particular type of bread everyone likes, which necessitates a trip to the grocer’s since we’re out of almost everything else too. The minutiae of daily life is threatening to nibble me to death when all I want to do is finish this revision and dive right into the next book. I’ve got Hell’s Acre to think of, too, and getting the second Sons of Ymre revised and sent to the editor.

I’m told we’ll have final covers for The Dead God’s Heart soon as well, so that’ll be nice. And there’s news coming about a certain cyborg assassin book as well as a previously written Baba Yaga tale. Basically everything is happening all at once. The dam appears to be creaking and springing a few leaks, if not breaking outright. Which is a relief, I could do with some good news.

Now if it would just rain. The nearby wildfire has been deemed human-caused–don’t worry, we’re in no danger, but my heart aches for everyone who is. No precipitation help in the forecast either, despite it being nearly mid-October. I could easily despair, but there’s too much work to be done.

So I wend my way on through Thursday. Never could quite get the hang of these, no matter how often I practice; at the moment, I just keep gritting my teeth and repeating Friday is tomorrow, just hang on, Friday is coming. I hope you’re having a more pleasant time of it, my beloveds.

See you around…

Slog, Vicarious Grace

Hauling myself out of bed today feels like a mistake, but the revisions must be done. I’m tired of going through moderation queues, yet the alternative is missing the reasonable comments from perfectly nice people. Being overwhelmed by work is uncomfortable, but vastly preferable to having none at all.

In short, there’s just no winning today. At least the house is quiet and the coffee is good. Once the caffeine sinks in I’ll feel loads better, and once the rains start again I’ll be all right. Everyone gets tired; the trick is to keep breathing and swimming for shore even when the agony hits.

I suppose my current doldrums are also a function of enduring three years of pandemic with no end in sight, not to mention screaming myself hoarse about the rise of fascist dickwads and being ignored on both counts. I suppose I would have to be much more worried if I didn’t feel like the low end of the pool under these conditions, but knowing that intellectually and finding any comfort in the knowledge are two very separate things.

At least there’s always the stories. Cold North is chugging along, and once I get this revision done I’ll be able to work on the serial, revise the second Sons of Ymre, and get the second Black Land’s Bane book seriously underway. The last will be late, but I’ve hit every deadline through the pandemic so far and I think after three goddamn years of this bullshit–plus the fact that I literally couldn’t start the second book until the first had been revised at least once–grants me a bit of grace. I loathe being behind, I dread and positively hate missing any kind of deadline, and yet if I was hearing this from another writer in my position I’d be telling them to take a deep breath and try to focus on what’s been accomplished even through enduring historical events and Interesting Times.

It’s just all so exhausting, and I woke up this morning even more tired than when I’d gone to bed. I’m pretty sure it’s just a wave, that the feelings and exhaustion will pass over and through me. When it’s gone I’ll turn the inner eye to see its path, and all that.

It would help if I could run. I’m stuck on easy, very slow 2km stumble-staggers while the wounded ankle is slowly strengthened and brought back to full function. The lack of endorphins from a good bruising session of hauling my corpse along at what passes for high speed probably feeds into the sense of despair. At least the multiple-mile rambles with Boxnoggin help somewhat, even if they are only at hobbling pace. By the end of walkies he’s in a grand mood, and so tired he’s well-behaved for the rest of the day.

Silver linings, and all that. Tuesday is looking like an uphill slog all the way, my beloveds. If you’re feeling the same, try to remember we’re (still) enduring a great deal, there has been no respite, and it’s perfectly reasonable, not to mention sane, to be a bit tired amidst All This.

Just keep holding the line. Some days, that’s all we can aim for. I suppose I’d best get started; the coffee is cooling and a certain square-headed canine has just pranced down the hall, anticipating that soon I’ll make a move toward toast. At least he’s having a grand time, and I can feel a bit of vicarious joy.

It’ll have to be enough.

Hobbling Through Habit

Another quiet morning, this one misty instead of outright foggy. Boxnoggin has calmed remarkably, though that could be my own relief at the advent of autumn slopping over onto his sensitive little self. He’s such nervous little fellow–not his fault, just a function of life events before he finally found his forever home. At the moment he’s engaged upon his first morning nap since I’m absorbing coffee at the glowing box in my office, since this is the daily ritual.

Ritual and habit are Good Things, according to most dogs. The world is large and confusing, especially with humans involved, and having rituals cuts down on that paralyzing uncertainty. Toddlers are by and large the same way; adults are only slightly less enamored of habitual solidity. The great innovation of adulthood is learning to choose and hack one’s own habits to get the effects one wants. It’s hard work, what with habit being the best of servants and worst of masters, as the saying goes1.

My ankle is still swollen, and the band of bruising is changing colors. The term flesh fireworks comes to mind, but if I put that in a story I can already hear an editor somewhere screaming2. I can handle the daily walkies, if I take a handful of ibuprofen at the right time. Boxnoggin rather enjoys me having to hobble since that means he gets even more time to stick his nose in various items; I will never in my life be as happy as this dog when he’s salivating over something rancid on the sidewalk. Keeping him from eating random objects takes up most of our walking time, with corralling his enthusiastic screaming at other dogs as a distant but significant second-place activity.

Yesterday held some good work. Hell’s Acre is coming along, and I managed to settle on Cold North revisions. I know the fix for the first big structure problem–which wasn’t a problem per se, just an editorial preference I’ve decided to honor–and today will be for weaving that in. Maybe I’ll get to write a set-piece battle instead of a smaller raid or clash; that would be nice, especially with the wingless dragon involved.

Can’t have a sack of Nargothrond without Glaurung, after all.

I didn’t have a video meeting last night either so I was able to do some more saucy narration–if YouTube gets shirty about the content, I may have to switch over to OnlyFans3. Victorian erotica is already kind of hilarious, but it’s even more so when one has to stop, turn away from the microphone, and ask the dog quietly but with great force if he would please at least consider halting the licking of his own gonads, or taking that activity elsewhere because it’s hard enough to read that sort of thing with a straight face, let alone aloud.

There’s a couple sales this month, so I should probably get the sticky post for them up before finishing coffee. The day’s work beckons, and there’s cold cereal for brekkie instead of toast. Habit is good, yes, but sometimes one must buck it to keep fresh or even just for fun.

Tuesday proceeds apace. I can’t hear the birds because my office window is closed, which means autumn has definitely arrived. It’ll be open later today, don’t fear–Ed and Stede will be able to distract me all afternoon since it’ll be a sunny one.

Some things change, others remain the same, ad nauseam, ad infinitum4.

See you around.

Daytime Animal

The first fog of autumn has found us, creeping on large padded feet. The east is slowly turning grey and a pine flicker is calling, lonely clicks and mellow flutelike moans. There was a jay screeching a few moments ago too, but oddly hushed as if even Ed and Stede hesitate to break the vaporbound quiet.

It smells like autumn, but a very specific period before the rains have moved in. Crisp with an undertone of spice, dry straw soaking up all the moisture it can find after summer’s dust and crackglaze drought. With warm days and cool nights we’ll probably get some lovely leaf color, if the trees have anything left after all the heat stress. The robins are starting to call now, and the jays are gaining volume and tetchiness.

As for the house, it’s very quiet. Even Boxnoggin would like a wee bit more of a nap, thank you. I’d be happier if this were the end of my working day and I could slither into bed as dawn rises, but the world isn’t built for me. Shifting the dog’s schedule to nocturnal is more trouble than it’s worth, so I guess I’m still a daytime animal for a few more years.

There are worse things.

I also got to spend an entire day this weekend with a pair of Auggie puppies. Apparently that’s what Australian shepherd / corgi mixes are called, and they are 110% adorable. Needle-sharp puppy claws, needle-sharp puppy teeth, romping, slobber, belly rubs, coursing and herding behaviors in play, and bumbling cuteness all added up to a great deal of relaxation for me, and they were perfectly happy to cavort all over me as I kept one foot elevated. It was probably the only thing that could have made me sit still that long without writing, and there were tea and scones too. I felt moderately guilty about not working entirely through said weekend, but the puppies alleviated all stress pursuant to said guilt. Boxnoggin was very interested in every whiff he could find on my clothes when I returned to the chez, and was only a little miffed that I hadn’t taken him along–he got to stay and supervise at least one human, so the day wasn’t a loss for him.

We’re back at Monday, and that means an important scene in Hell’s Acre, as well as more revisions on Cold North. The former needs a ratcheting up of tension before I start letting dominos fall, and I’m coming up on the first major problem that needs to be addressed in the latter. How do I describe a battle for almost-Nargothrond when the protagonist is deliberately kept away from it? I have ideas, naturally, and they’ll all work within the structure of what I’m trying to accomplish. But walkies today will be spent thinking of which particular idea I want to deploy–there’s not quite an embarrassment of riches, but it’s close.

Last week’s Reading with Lili was Dracula, Ho! and is up on YouTube. The algorithm seems to have found it, though, and I’m waiting to see if exactly what I wanted to avoid is going to go down, which is nerve-wracking. I enjoy nerding out about literature so much, I hope nobody does anything shitty to break that.

Dawn has continued to rise as I type. The birds seem confused; there’s not much of a morning chorus. It’s nothing like the Silent Hill pea-soupers we’ll get later in the season, and I’d kind of like to get out with Boxnoggin before it fades. My ankle bears a bracelet of colorful bruising, but I can hobble at a reasonable speed with enough ibuprofen. The dog needs his exercise, after all, and I suppose at a certain point healing requires gentle activity. Not sure how gentle it’ll be if he gets it into his fool rectangular head to chase something, but I suppose even if I’m knocked off my feet my sheer mass will render him incapable of getting into too much trouble–especially since the leash is attached to my waist.

I’m down to the last swallow of coffee and there’s a lot to get done today. Heading out for a ramble before the clouds burn off is the name of the game, so I’d best get to it. Maybe the fog will keep the squirrels from being taunting poor Boxnoggin.

…yeah, that’s probably a vain hope, but better than none. See you around, beloveds.