Retrenchment

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue blogging. It’s not that I want to stop–I enjoy it, which is a good enough reason for continuing. And it’s not quite a journal or diary, because those are separate and private. I suppose it’s always been a way of shouting into the void, even during the ol’ LJ days.

Man. Livejournal. That takes me back.

Every once in a while I look to see if I want to keep doing it. I used to have more post ideas–there were Soundtrack Mondays and Friday Writing posts, for example. But then 2020 hit, and kept hitting.

And kept hitting, and kept hitting. And kicked for good measure.

I know everything changes. Still, I miss telling backyard stories. (There was a squirrel on the deck while we were having dinner just the other day, and the quick movement when all three of us involuntarily checked for footwear was hilarious.) Norbert the Gargoyle is in a new home–I never did tell you guys how that turned out–and the gnomes, from Emphysema Joe on down, are their usual cranky selves. We have a new crop of squirrels, though–the old ones have either changed their territories or moved on.

Brief is the life of a garden squirrel.

In short, there’s a lot going on, but getting it all down is the difficult part. There’s been so much else to talk about. Plague, war, fascist coup–all of it’s exhausting.

There’s no ringing conclusion or grand decision today. I’m just…looking at things. And I don’t think I want to make any hard and fast resolutions until there’s been at least a short period of calm. The news cycle hasn’t been pummeling me like it did last year, for which I am devoutly grateful, and yet the hole we were cast into is just so deep, getting out is an epic in and of itself.

Speaking of which, how am I writing two epics at once? There’s Hell’s Acre (which premieres in June) and Cold North, both massive undertakings. But then, I’m not really myself if I’m not juggling slightly1 more than I think I can manage. I’ve edits coming down the pike too–a final look at The Bloody Throne, revision on the second half of The Black God’s Heart, and today I hear from an editor about Sons of Ymre.

Publishing is such a delayed-gratification game. It’s unreal. By the time a book hits shelves, I’m already two years farther down the road. Also, Moon’s Knight is resting with a certain other editor now, and if they don’t take it, I’ll be looking for a cover. Because dammit, my beta readers deserve to see that book out in the wild, sooner or later.

The amount of work I managed to get done last year is somewhat shocking. I didn’t think I’d done anything at all. Looking back and realizing “no, Lili, you kept working frantically because the alternative was sinking in quicksand” is…well, not quite uncomfortable, but not pleasant either.

I suppose it’s a measure of hope that I keep going, both with the books and with blogging. I’ve always hoped that seeing the life of a working writer a little closer–though not intimately, I save that for other spaces–might help other writers feel a little less alone. This kind of career is both achingly lonely (when there’s nothing but you and the blank page) and shockingly crowded (when one deals with agent, editors, marketing, production staff, and all the other quality-control staff). The dichotomy can drive one mad.

I mean, if one isn’t already mad just contemplating this kind of work. It does tend to rattle one’s bolts.

Case in point: When I started this post, I was thinking solely about whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I’ve ended up amazed at the amount of work I did last year under some harsh conditions, and am bracing myself for another glut of revisions to fall on my head.

So it goes, I guess. And through it all, the dogs need walking and I need caffeine–the withdrawal headaches are no fun at all. So I bid you a fond adieu, beloved Reader.

But only for a short while. I think I’ll keep blogging after all.

Over and out.

Order, Ritual, Merry-Go-Round

Tomorrow’s a release day, and I am all at sixes and sevens. I have even snarled, “oh, for fuck’s sake” thrice before coffee, which isn’t quite a record but does herald an Interesting Morning.

The dogs are trotting up and down the hall, peeking in to see if I’m moving towards walkies yet. Soon Miss B will settle herself with a sigh in my office door, so I can’t possibly leave without tripping over her. Boxnoggin, of course, is keeping watch out the front window. If a gust of wind comes down the street, he’ll start screaming his fool head off, in the hope of drawing me out to see what the ruckus is, and while I’m out there of course he might as well ask about walkies.

There is an order and a ritual to mornings chez Saintcrow, and the canines don’t want us to forget it.

I dreamed of snow, which isn’t usual in spring. Snow, and wolves, and black pines under a white coat. The coffee is helping get the images stowed properly; what I really want to be doing is working on The Cold North. Instead, I’ve the revisions on Black God’s Heart to finish, Book 2 of that to write, Hell’s Acre to get underway (though the entire thing is outlined, as far as I ever outline anything) before I can even think of slotting the Tolkien Viking Werewolves into the merry-go-round.

Still, it’s a good sign that a book’s living in my head. The past year has been so strained, I sometimes thought I’d lose words altogether. I’ve only lost words once in my writing life–that was post-divorce, buying the house–and it’s a terrible feeling. Even having a book up and die on me (like the Steelflower sequels, or Deadroad) isn’t so painful.

I’m also moonlighting with The Innkeeper’s War, which centers on a very cranky ex-mercenary who runs an inn, and one day her old adventuring friend the wizard shows up with a farm boy in tow. Then her inn gets burned down, and…but that’s giving the game away. Maybe I’ll write it, maybe I won’t; for right now it’s fun to have bits of different things for the machine inside my skull to chew on.

Keeps it from chewing on me. At least, that’s the idea.

I suppose I’d best finish this coffee and stagger for the door, which will trigger a cascade of excitement from the canine component of the household. I was wise enough to get my shoes tied without their help this morning, though, which qualifies as a win.

At least, I’m going to treat it as such. And try not to think about a release day tomorrow. Fingers crossed, and all that.

See you ’round.

Snail-House Rock

I have coffee, and have pulled back from some social media. Last week was not optimal for a variety of reasons, but I’m sure having access to all that at my fingertips didn’t help. It’s time for yet another “retreat into the snail house” period, not least because we’re having more sunshine (spring hath definitely sprung) and that means all sorts of mad people are out on the sidewalks.

It’s not that I think the sidewalk are mine alone, of course. I’d just like it if others shared with a bare minimum of courtesy, that’s all.

In any case, I attempted to take half Sunday off. It worked moderately well; I’m only itching to get back to work the usual amount instead of beside myself with furious scratching. So, progress! This book isn’t going to revise itself, more’s the pity.

Of course even if it would I might not let it.

So it’s getting the dogs walked between bands of rain, getting my own weary corpse shambled at what passes for high speed just afterward, onward, excelsior and all that. The good thing about the werewolf story I spent last week moonlighting with is that it’s so different than anything else I’m writing it was almost like a vacation, and it provided a crucial bit of distance. Now I’m fairly sure I won’t need to rip out a lot of under-structures in The Black God’s Heart; I think I can fix another intrinsic problem with a single scene. Which is a blessing, since I don’t want to add too much more to Book 1.

Have to leave some dishes for the second course, and all that.

All things considered, I’m glad to be back to work. It wasn’t comfortable to skirt the edge of burnout the way I have for a few weeks. Trying to process last year and still keep moving with current projects is deeply un-fun, and leaves little time for anything else.

I know NaNo is in November but I’m probably going to do one in April just to get this book off my plate. My fingers are already throbbing with the thought. It will be nice to be out of revision and into creation again; I’m definitely more comfortable in the latter state than the former. A period of high focus is just what the doctor ordered, and of course, before I forget, there’s a book dropping later this month.

It’s neat to have preorder graphics! I like it a lot.

I’d best finish my coffee and get to it, then, hadn’t I. The book won’t revise itself, and Monday won’t machete itself either. The work of the weary or the wicked is never done.

See you around.

Polite Raking, Sun-Mad

In the immortal words of Wesley Snipes, “some mothafuckas are always trying to ice skate uphill.”

Suffice to say I have been forced to polite raking of some people over glowing coals lately, using terms like “has there been any movement upon this matter yet?” and “I do not need or care for ‘explanation’, I fully understand how this happened, I simply require this checkbox filled and for this to NOT happen again.” Lockdown has made me even more icily formal with those who have Behaved Badly. It’s not even disdain, it’s that I don’t have time or energy for bullshit, so let’s just not have any, mmkay?

Anyway. The last season of HOOD is undergoing a hard proof pass at the moment, then I think it will be time for the whole shebang, in omnibus edition, to be sent off for a final proofing. There’s some trouble with earlier editions, but switching distributors should mend that. One of the things about serials is that I use their seasons to experiment with distribution and other publishing minutiae, and sometimes, well, it doesn’t go happily.

But I learn a lot, and it means a longer career, which means more stories for my beloved Readers. So there’s that, at least.

I took one look at the blue sky and bright sunshine this morning and decided, “…oh, hell no.” The sun seems to drive everyone in this part of the world mad, probably because we see it so rarely. I absolutely don’t mind sharing the sidewalk, but that’s just it–sharing, which doesn’t seem a strong suit for the sun-dazed. Also, on days like this there tend to be a lot of middle-aged white men letting their dogs roam offleash. The dogs absolutely aren’t a problem, they’re far nicer than their owners, but dogs do not make good choices and that’s why we have leashes.

…I just heaved a heavy sigh. It’s the third of the morning and I’m not even done with coffee yet.

On the bright side, this state of low-grade irritation makes me prickly and precise, and that’s exactly the right mindset for finding errata and tiny little typos. It lies cheek by jowl with a particular, very specialized form of performance anxiety, and once I’m done with this phase of this particular project I can switch to a different one that will ameliorate both my mood and said anxiety.

I’m going to be working through the weekend again, but this time it’ll be on The Black God’s Heart. And next week I have a cover reveal and preorders for a certain romance to post; subscribers will get a peek this week. All in all, despite the heavy sighs and prickliness, I have more work than I can handle and that’s my preferred state. Certainly it’s far better than not having enough.

So off I toddle to finish my coffee, and to maybe slay a few baddies. I don’t quite look as cool as Blade, but I will be wearing shades while walking the dogs.

It will have to do.

Revisions, Safety, Post-it

It’s odd to be actually sleeping, instead of just lying in bed while my brain serves up millions of “what ifs” and “worry about this-es”. I did a lot of digital housekeeping lately, just generally attending to loose ends before starting a merry-go-round of revising the epic fantasy and reformatting ebooks.

The concomitant feeling of safety, and the pressure-release of being out and away, is doing good things. The relief when I attended to the last bit of housekeeping was so profound as to stagger me; I’m glad I was sitting down.

Things aren’t ideal, but at least I don’t have that energy expenditure hanging about my neck, an albatross of politeness siphoning away energy needed for other things.(Like writing, like revising, like getting these reformats done… you get the idea.)

In any case, I spent hours on a single scene yesterday, ripping at the underpinnings and ending up with something that looked very much like the initial work, but with a completely different thrust and tone. Sometimes you have to get down to the foundations before you can fix what’s wrong. Usually I’m a lot better about noticing something’s gone wrong during the initial writing, but sometimes… well, sometimes I’m not.

That’s what revision is for.

Still, I’m feeling the drag of “this is the third book in a series, it’s already 168k, it’s going to be bigger, why do I get myself into these things, just set it on fire, I hate everything.” It’s a usual, albeit uncomfortable, part of the process. I’ve got an extra week to get the revisions in and I should have known, because they always take three times as long as one thinks they will–about as solid a rule of thumb in publishing as there is. The only time things don’t take thrice as long is when they take six times as long.

At least there’s coffee. And at least there’s a lot of energy freed up by finishing housekeeping. I hadn’t realized just how deeply some things were bothering and draining me until I stepped away and felt the relief. I call it “the energetic bends”–so much pressure, removed so abruptly, makes for a short, uncomfortable period where one realizes just how bad it was. The trick is not to beat yourself up with “why did you stay so long, then?”

The only solution I’ve found is putting a Post-it with “just be glad it’s over” somewhere I can glance at it several times a day, like among the crop of notes festooning my desktop. They range from quotes to character lists, and one more doesn’t hurt. Quite the opposite.

Anyway. Now it’s time to get the dogs walked, run my poor corpse now that all the snow is gone, and stagger home to fall into revisions once more. I still need to reward myself for finishing the last zero draft I stabbed to doneness, but I can put that off until I get this revision out the door and then, then maybe I’ll give myself a double prize.

Not quite sure what it will be, yet, but now I have the time–and the energy–to figure it out.

It’s a nice change.

Kindness, Escape

Spent the weekend doing revisions as well as reformatting ebooks and the like; most of those changes should be wending their way downstream. New editions are always a chance to catch the things that didn’t get chased down and thumped before. Even with a million pairs of eyes during the publication process, some stuff slips through. It’s inevitable.

What I did not do was rest. Today it’s back to solely revising the third epic fantasy; all my engines are focused on that. The second year of lockdown is about to start and my ability to focus and push under pressure is beginning to fray at the edges.

Once that’s done it’s on to revising HOOD‘s third season, preparatory to the editing process. I still have to make a final determination on the next serial–it will either be Hell’s Acre, the alt-Victorian trilogy, or Division Seven, the mutant secret agents story. I’m leaning towards Hell’s Acre because I like the language, and I’m not wanting to engage with current-day stuff right now.

I need an escape.

I think we could all do with an escape or two, frankly. I just want to crawl into my stories and never come out. I’m sick of utterly avoidable disasters and broken promises, hatefulness and cruelty. It’s the last that gets to me.

It takes so little effort to be kind. Kindness is the natural state, it’s the lowest energy requirement. It puzzles me: Why do so many people actively choose to stew in violent hate, why do they seek out reasons to be shitty? Why, when it’s so easy to just… not? Imagine what humanity could do if dickwads quit wasting their energy on spewing vileness.

I write because I must, but sometimes I think I also write to try and answer why people do some things. Pouring myself into certain characters’ skins, even if it isn’t on the page–because I have to understand the villains to see how they’re going to act in the story–is an effort to understand.

The dogs are very clingy this morning. I think they can sense my nerves are raw. Or maybe they just want their walkies, since it’s a relatively warm morning. A week ago we were in snowpocalypse (I think? Time has lost all meaning.) and now it’s very mild in the high 40s (Fahrenheit, of course) with crocuses and the like taking advantage of the sudden balm.

Maybe the snow was the last gauntlet to run. It would be nice to have an end to something. Normally I enjoy winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Lately though, I feel like I’ve done nothing for the last winter except sit and stare in deepening horror. I know that isn’t true, but it feels like it.

I’ve blathered long enough. Time to get the dogs walked, my own reluctant corpse run, and then to crawl into the end of a hot, murderous summer in an imaginary land. Getting the third and final book arranged will do me some good, I hope.

Happy Monday, everyone. We made it to another week, yay us. Now let’s see if we can endure through.

Over and out.

See What We’ve Saved

The instant the slush goes down to something below “fall and break my fool neck” proportions, the happier the dogs and I will both be. Boxnoggin is practically going mad without his rambles, and I’m not far behind.

It was a hard weekend, though peaceful because of the snow. Even with the sloppy melt going on, there are still areas of blank white, nice and crisp. Watching the powder fall was soothing; the ice storm a little less so. And I am, truth be told, slightly tired of my feet being numb, even in several layers of socks.

All told, though, I like the cold better than heat. One can always put on another layer or sip something warm. Sweating, though–that leads to chafing, and dear gods how I hate chafing.

I did get a lot of knitting done. The Princess’s best friend and the Prince both have nice new chenille blankets, and I had eight skeins of a chunky wool blend that’s mostly turned into scarves at this point. A great deal of the fun of knitting is giving things away.1

I finished Kieckhefer’s Magic in the Middle Ages recently, which was an enjoyable read; next up is Kelleher’s The Alliance of Pirates. I’m really looking forward to the latter, and maybe it will chase the Viking stuff out of my head so I can focus on the revisions that need to be done without a whole ‘nother epic fantasy series trying to tear and claw its way out.

Some books are possessive. This one, however, needs to wait its turn. I’m pretty sure it’s unsellable, which has never stopped me before but which does mean it has to fill in the gaps and cracks between other working projects. Of course nothing is as delicious as stolen time, and writing in said stolen time is the sweetest fruit there is.

And of course maybe I’ll suddenly get the urge to write something about pirates. I hear Black Sails is really good, so I can possibly distract myself with that.2

It’s hard for a lot of people right now. It’s yet another six-month pandemic anniversary (some of us have been in lockdown for a whole goddamn year) and we could have been done with this before now if reasonable science-based adults had been in charge. A lot of us are grieving, or in holding patterns unable to grieve as well as cut off from necessary contact. And let’s not even talk about the fascist coup and all that bullshit.

At least there are dogs, and the beauty of fresh snow. There’s the secret stealthy sound of melt in the gutters, there are books and quiet and the fact that even if we’re in lockdown, we’re not precisely alone. Every day we’ve spent hunkered at home, every time we put on a mask, we’re Doing A Good. We’ve lost a lot, yes. Who can tell how much we’ve saved because most of us have been doing what we should all through this?

The trouble with the thankless work of saving is that it’s invisible.

It might seem like faint comfort, but I’ll take it. The thing that’s getting me through is caring for those I’m responsible for, and reminding myself that staying in and masking up are ways to show I care. I’m a natural hermit; the isolation doesn’t wear on me. What does is the loneliness and sadness of those I care for.

I know it’s rough. Most of us are quietly doing the best we can; sometimes that gets lost in the noise of the selfish. They are few indeed, but very loud. Of course the sonic assault is one of their primary weapons, to distract us from noticing how tiny and petty they are. Otherwise we might just stop letting their selfish selves ruin things for the rest of us.

Imagine that.

It’s time to play with the canines a little, working off a bit of their energy until we can go rambling and let them stick their snoots in the usual spots. Then a shower, and to the grindstone of revisions. Getting books through publication is akin to cliff-climbing–one handhold at a time, exhale, use your legs, it’s about the whole route not just the next hold.

Best to get started, then. Happy Tuesday, beloveds. Remember, we can’t see what we’ve saved–but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.