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.

Eggs, Multiple Baskets

Today, I have placed my thumb upon my sword-guard, and there is an inch of blade showing. I am ready. READY, I TELL YOU. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Verge has a good article up about Cockygate and Kindle Unlimited. After a careful reading, I’ve made the decision to start taking the Anna Beguine books out of KU. It’s just not worth the risk of their algorithms suddenly deciding I’m doing something naughty. Basically, KU seems like a giant scam that other giant scammers are taking advantage of, and who suffers? Real authors, and readers. Fortunately I only have two books left in there, and the last will be free in October.

An object lesson in not putting all one’s publishing eggs in one basket, indeed. I’m glad I’m already conversant with

The only other news is that I have an appointment to take Odd Trundles to the vet today. He’s just…not himself. It’s not like him to turn his nose up at food, and the weight loss is marked enough that I’m concerned. So it’s loading him into the car today, always fun, and then the poking and prodding he’ll put up with because he is a sweet-natured pup even when he isn’t feeling well. I really could have done without a vet bill this month, but it’s a small price to pay for his goofy, lovely little self.

I’m tense and shaking already, hoping it’s something easily fixable. But he’s getting old for a bulldog, and his health has never been ultra-good. It’s hard when one of the furbabies isn’t feeling well; they can’t use human language to tell you what’s wrong. If it’s something severe I’ll be kicking myself for not taking him in earlier, if it’s something small I’ll be relieved and a little guilty at stressing him out by dragging him to the vet. And of course Miss B will be furious at being left behind, even if I ran her hard this morning to get her fidgets out.

You just can’t win most days, so I’m not even going to try. Just doing the best one can is enough.

Over and out.

Conversation, Research, Edits

Yesterday, my writing partner and I played hooky and hit the Concordia Library book sale, where I got a solid foot of Penguin Classics for eight bucks and Costain’s four-book History of the Plantagenets in its original box. Since we were on the south side of the river, a trip to Everyday Music was in order, too. Then a leisurely lunch at Ginger Pop, and by then the heat was getting a bit much, so we called it a day.

The entire time we were sharing industry gossip, finishing conversations we started years ago, continuing ones we started even further back, and starting new ones. Along with in-jokes, meta analysis, and just plain zaniness, it makes for a stimulating verbal stew.

Of course I came home to a fresh crop of hatemail about Afterwar. I was going to do a whole post about it, but for fuck’s sake, who’s got time to deal with preshus manbaby feefees? If you’re afraid you might be mistaken for a nazi because you act like one, well, try not acting like one. *shrug*

Today it’s back to work while the air conditioning hums and Odd Trundles snores, blissful in the coolness. I should get a run in as soon as my sunscreen finishes soaking in and before the worst of the scorch settles; I must also decide what to spend serious working time on before Lammas. Maybe I can get the vampire erotica in reasonable zero-draft shape; it’s a relatively short work. And there is, of course, Robin Hood in Space to consider. Lammas, of course, is when I have to start serious revisions on The Maiden’s Blade; the competing agendas in that book need to be clearer. Half the edit suggestions are “why is X doing Y?” and my frothing reply of “BECAUSE A, M, AND S” isn’t helpful because it’s not in the text. Just because it’s clear inside my head doesn’t mean it’s reasonably outlined on the page, and that’s one of the major reasons to have an editor–to have another pair of eyes searching for those lacunae.

Which also means, now that I’ve finished Morton Smith’s Jesus the Magician, I should begin the clutch of further research reading I need for Maiden’s Blade and its two follow-up books, starting with a survey of Japanese literature in the shogunate. I’m really looking forward to that and to an exegesis of The Tale of Genji, but the REAL prize is a doorstopper anthology of women writers in ancient China with accompanying critical articles. If I’m very good, I might even split my daily reading between the anthology and the survey, and keep the exegesis for a chaser.

So that’s the plan. And now, before it gets too hot to breathe comfortably, there’s a run to accomplish.

Over and out.

On AFTERWAR: Publication

Afterwar So I’ve talked a little bit about the research involved in Afterwar. I finished the zero in March 2017, promptly burst into tears, and hoped the worst was over.

Generally, when you finish a zero, it is. Revisions might be hell, the publication process frustrating, but generally the worst, most damaging, draining, and difficult work, is behind me.

That was not so this time.

There are various bad-luck things that can strike during the publication process, and in my thirteen-plus years in the industry, I’ve seen pretty much all of them. “Orphaned” when your editor moves to a new house? Been there. Payment snafus? Oh, yeah. Copyeditor decides they want to rewrite instead of, well, copyediting? Yep. Issues with the proof pass? Oh, yeah, we’ve done that. On, and on, and on. Normally a book will only have one or at most two big problems during the pub process.

Afterwar, being an overachiever, had them ALL. The only boxes it didn’t check on the Pub Problem Bingo Card were “revenge editing”1 and “cover woes”2. Orphaned twice, under time-crunches for everything, Muphy’s Law laughing every time I thought “this shouldn’t be a problem, we’ve done this for ten fucking years together, it’s gonna be fine…”, and then there was the CE and afterward the proof pass and I ended up calling my agent in tears, saying, “THEY CAN HAVE THE MONEY, JUST GIVE ME THE BOOK BACK. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE.”

My agent managed to talk me down from the ledge each time, because for over a decade I’ve been able to rely upon her judgment when she tells me I’m overreacting. This time, she said, “You’re not overreacting. This looks really bad from your point of view, and it’s hella stressful, but it’s not personal. It’s things that are out of everyone’s control, including yours.” Just having that validation made me more inclined to work through the problems. And each new editor I was handed to was someone I knew and trusted, since I’ve been with that publisher for so long.

To be absolutely fair, even though everything went wrong at every step of the process, the other people involved–art department, head publisher, every editor, the long-suffering production folks who, I’m sure, more than once wanted to strangle me–hit home runs and pulled out a miracle every time. It got so bad that whenever I saw a New York area code pop up on my phone or an email from agent or publisher in my inbox I almost had a panic attack thinking “what the fuck next?

Then, once the proof disasters had been fixed and the my nerves were starting to regrow a protective sheath, a book died on me. Flat-out died. I spent months trying to resurrect it, and heaving into my office wastebasket each time I tried to work on it. That’s only happened once before3 and eventually I was able to resurrect that book; I hold out no hope it will happen a second time.

In short, everything that could go wrong did, and I still feel a strange flutter every time I see Afterwar‘s cover. It’s a goddamn good thing it wasn’t my first experience with publishing, because I would have left the industry and never looked back. I am super-grateful that at least I had enough experience to know the difficulties were not normal, just bad luck.

I joked more than once that if the printers didn’t burn and sink into a marsh, or if the entire production run didn’t sink into the sea during shipment, I would count it a win.

It wasn’t really a joke.

Anyway, release day came, and crushing, malignant stress retreated for a day or two. I was too busy with my usual round of release day rituals.

And then, as I knew would happen inevitably, the hate mail began to arrive.

To be continued…

ETA: You know, I was going to talk about the hatemail, but it makes me tired. I’ll continue at some other time.

Color and Form Again

Jozzie & Sugar Belle We’re about a week away from the release of Jozzie & Sugar Belle, also known as Scrotum Search (I couldn’t use that as a title, though God knows I wanted to) and “that damn nutless kangaroo shifter story”. The print edition is available, ebook all set and pretty for release on the tenth, and I am quietly giggling each time I think about it.

I wish I was better at writing humor. I’d love to be able to consistently write comic stuff; it’s way harder than angst and I’m just generally not a funny person. The things I find hilarious tend to be somewhat macabre, which is, I’m sure, a drawback.

Last week was somewhat terrible. Finishing several large projects one-after-another caused a sort of blowback; I thought I was going to get Harmony revisions done and also get serious wordcount on HOOD. Neither happened. Instead a black hole threatened to swallow me, and I was on the event horizon (everything turned grey, light struggling to escape) for a while, skating around and grabbing for handholds. Both kids reminded me it was okay to feel tired, and we talked a lot about how managing your own energy and self-care are sometimes the most difficult things. It’s good to be able to discuss adult coping skills with both of them, and show them that it’s a process rather than a destination.

I used to think it was bad for them to see me struggle, but as they’ve gotten older, it’s opened up chances to talk about things like burnout and respecting your own limits. Both kids seem to have healthy boundaries, so perhaps my own struggle to acquire some was useful not just to me.

In any case, I got enough sleep and woke up at a reasonable time this morning. There’s a run to accomplish today, and it’s back into Harmony revisions. I suppose I’m just annoyed at the thought of ripping apart the last third of the book and drawing out the crisis for a few more chapters. I think when I was finishing the zero I got tired, and who wouldn’t after 100K words? Part of revision is to fix that very thing. It just seemed insurmountable last week, though I knew exactly what needed to be done.

So I’m back on the horse, and the world has color and form again. Odd Trundles is sprawled in his bed, snoring with a vengeance to make up for lost sleep, since he was (the horror!) bathed as is usual every weekend and it set his nap schedule back something awful. B is sleeping too, but her nose is resting on my left shoe so she cannot possibly miss me standing up and moving away to go on a run. She’s determined not to be left behind today–poor thing, as she gets older she can only go on short, slow runs. I work a lot more of those into my schedule so she gets the exercise she needs without going overboard.

I suppose I should wake her up and get going. Recovery is okay–I got a lot of reading done–but now it’s time for work again.

Over and out.