Puzzled By Cruelty

Yesterday was all about line edits; Sons of Ymre #1 is inching that much closer to publication. (Yes, as soon as there’s preorder information, I will absolutely let my beloved Readers know.) I was up what passes for relatively late last night–the dogs went to bed without me, and are bright-eyed and fresh this morning while I drag.

I am a night owl by temperament, but years of having to get the kids ready for and delivered to school have left a mark. Now that’s over, the dogs are still on a schedule and creatures of habit who view All Change as Very Very Bad do not take kindly to schedules shifting. Left to my druthers I’d be up around 1pm, work until 3-4am, and fall into bed around 4-5am, depending.

Alas, it is not possible, and my body’s protests must be listened to though they change not a whit of what must be. Ah well.

The news from Texas yesterday put a dent in me, as well. I know a certain proportion of people just plain enjoy cruelty; it is a fact of existence on this planet, like gravity or nitrogen. Still, it’s puzzling. Why spend all your time being a racist, misogynist asshat when there’s a literal infinity of other things to fill one’s earthly time with? These people could go touch grass, learn how to unicycle, write songs, watch some movies, or even just take a goddamn walk.

Instead, they apparently want to be nasty little fascist dipshits. Why spend that kind of effort? It’s absolutely and literally easier to just…not, to simply be kind or at the very least leave other people alone.

I suppose that’s part of why I write. Not deepest, most overarching reason–I am, quite frankly, unable to stop, and have been ever since second grade–but an important one nonetheless. The addiction of some people to cruelty has baffled me literally all my life, starting with childhood caregivers who hurt me apparently just for funsies. It made no sense to Child Me and makes even less to Adult Me. (For whatever value of “adult”, I suppose.)

I wish I knew why. Attempting to understand might be the writer’s curse or just a function of empathy, I haven’t decided. Yes, I’ve written villains; I’ve even written characters who enjoy cruelty for its own sake–Perry in the Kismet series, for example, or a few of the antagonists in Afterwar, not to mention Summer in Gallow & Ragged.

Now that I think about it, “comfortable with cruelty” is a hallmark of many of my villains or antagonists. Yet those characters, foul as they are, cannot hold a candle to the petty, nasty, apparently endless brutality and mendaciousness of real-life authoritarians. Even Perry, and he was dead set on killing the entire world if it got him what he wanted from Jill.

Fiction has to make sense on some level. Real life, alas, does not.

I wish I understood. It’s long been my fervent belief that understanding breeds compassion, and while I’m fully aware sociopaths and narcissists view compassion as weakness it’s still integral to me, I will keep it that way, and it doesn’t mean I’m unprepared to enforce my boundaries. I can even view the understanding as a way of anticipating the behavior of those who like cruelty for its own sake, so I can protect me and mine from their depredations.

I suppose the only hope is to keep writing. There’s finicky little changes to go over in Ymre now that the bulk of the line edits are done, I just approved a shiny hardback for Moon’s Knight, and today is subscription day. The next major project is revisions on The Black God’s Heart diptych, but there’s a fellow writer’s book to beta read and an article to copyedit for another friend in the queue, so those will be loaded to the cannon first.

Not to mention walkies with a pair of excited, bratty, furry toddlers and a run to get in. The latter, at least, will help me concentrate and get through the rest of the day. I will mull over the mystery of why some people are cruel goddamn dipshits during both, I’m sure, and arrive at no answer other than, “They like it, and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.”

It is not a satisfying explanation, but at least it grants some succor. It will, as I often say, have to be enough.

Over and out.

Thorns

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For some reason, these bushes and Summer from Gallow & Ragged are inextricably tangled in my head. It might be because Summer’s truename is linked to thorns; she was a handmaiden who loved them, once.

These fellows mean business. Just look at them; I wouldn’t want to fall into their clutches. They’re a defense; these shrubs are common around apartment buildings and homes in this area. Sometimes important things need guarding. I won’t deny I’m feeling a little tender lately, and could use a hedge or two.

Have a good weekend, everyone. Be gentle with yourselves each other. But also, don’t hesitate to use a wall of thorns if you need to protect yourself. We’re all feeling rather bruised right now.

Spores, Math, Pixies

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If you look closely, you can see the fairy ring. Of course I know it’s spores and math… and yet, I can’t help but see pixies dancing, too.

It was the strangest thing; our yard didn’t have visible mushrooms–and certainly never had rings of them–until after I finished writing Gallow & Ragged. Then, as soon as we got some good rain, mycelium circles were fricking everywhere, and the urge to leave a dish of milk out during the nail-paring of a new moon was well-nigh irresistible.

Sometimes I wonder about this career of mine. Whether it’s magic or just plain selective attention is academic, though. The real point is, I’m not going to stop writing–not while I’m breathing. Maybe that commitment catches the gaze of a few things better left alone.

Still… the Folk like the mad, and they love bards. I can’t really sing anymore, but I’ve an endless well of stories to tell. Good enough.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. And remember, should you hear the click of high heels behind you on a dark road, and the scratch of very large golden hound’s nails…

…don’t look back. Just keep moving. Or if you must look back, remember to be kind, and to ask no questions you don’t truly want answers to.

Soundtrack Monday: Boy With a Coin

Gallow & Ragged

The first scene I ever had of the Gallow & Ragged books was the pike-vs.-knight fight in the beginning of Trailer Park Fae. As with any endeavour involving the Good Folk, music was a necessity, and Robin in particular needed just the right songs.

There wasn’t much music for Gallow at first–most of the light and rhythm went out of him when Daisy died. But slowly, he started to open up to me, and all of a sudden young Jeremy had a ballad, Iron & Wine’s Boy With a Coin. (The video’s pretty stunning, too.) That was also when I knew exactly what had happened between him and Alastair, and how it affected both of them.

There is no enemy like he who was once a trusted friend.

I knew exactly how the trilogy would end the moment I wrote the first words. It was a long, strange ride to get there, almost as wild as Unwinter’s Hunt itself. And every time I grew discouraged, a bright feather would cross my path, or an echo of unearthly song, and I’d know I was committed until that end.

Sometimes a story possesses one, in the old pagan sense of having a genius or daimon. It’s always best to continue such things to their natural end, for unfinished they tend to turn on their creators. Still… when it’s over, one can’t help but feel a sweet piercing pain, and all the songs that coalesced into the book soundtrack express that longing in one form or another.

Enjoy.

WASTELAND KING Release!

That’s right–at long last, the final Gallow & Ragged adventure is loose upon the world.

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The plague has broken loose, the Wild Hunt is riding, and the balance of power in the sidhe realms is still shifting. The Unseelie King has a grudge against Jeremiah Gallow, but it will have to wait. For he needs Gallow’s services on a very delicate mission — and the prize for success is survival itself.

To save both Robin Ragged and himself, Gallow will have to do the unspeakable, and become what he never dreamed possible…

NOW AVAILABLE through independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Release day is always difficult, and none more so than the end of the series. A huge thank-you goes out to you, my faithful, constant Readers; I hope you like this adventure. There was a lot of pain in the birthing, but that’s true of everything.

So. Come around this corner, just a little further. That’s right, into the shadow here. Now, lean in, and let me tell you this story…

The Madhouse Reopens

WhatsOperaDoc After two years, the Madhouse fan forum is back open! It had some significant teething troubles, but I think it’s at least workable now. Enjoy.

We’re also coming up on the release of Wasteland King, the third and final installment of the Gallow & Ragged series. It drops on the 27th, and people are already emailing me with questions and begging for ARCs. I’m sorry, but I have no ARCs to give. (The Madhouse also has a dedicated Gallow & Ragged forum.) I should also say, if you liked the series, please leave a rating or review on the online bookstore of your choice. It really does help, and the more it helps, the more books I can write for you!

Okay, that’s all the shilling I’ll do for today. I know I have to do marketing stuff, but I always feel like a jerk when I do.

The kids have roped me into playing Pokemon Go. The Princess chose Red Team, the Prince chose Blue, so I had to choose Yellow as to keep things fair. (I kind of wanted blue, but alas.) I can see why it’s so popular, but the kids are not allowed to go hunting alone. The risk of walking into traffic or something similar is just too high. On the bright side, I’ve found it can be up while Runkeeper is logging my run, so I can grab a Pokestop or two on my morning sweat-and-stride. I do not catch Pokemon while running, though I will admit to thinking, maybe I should double back and get that one when I’m finished.

So the kids have to buddy up or go with me, and we did a nice long walk last night. We all three bagged a Clefairy, which is good, I guess? I still think someone is going to get badly injured or God forbid killed while doing it, and that dulls any enjoyment a great deal as well as making me somewhat of a wet blanket to go on expeditions with. But the kids are all agog and it’s something we can do as a unit, so there’s that.

And now it’s time for me to go get some of these short stories out of my head, including one told from Perry’s POV for an upcoming Urban Enemies anthology. It’s going to take a couple stabs before I get that one out whole, and there’s the carnivorous mermaid one, as well as one titled Fifteen Wings I need to take a running start and bounce off from before it will settle down. I have no idea why my brain is suddenly turned to short stories; they are viciously difficult for me and I don’t really enjoy them as much as, say, fresh wordcount in a novel. That’s what the Muse wants, and what she wants she gets, at least while I’m in that magical, fairy-dusted period between deadlines.

Release Day: ROADSIDE MAGIC

RoadsideMagiclg That’s right, chickadees–Gallow and Ragged are back, and the stakes just keep getting higher.

Robin Ragged has revenge to wreak and redemption to steal. As for Jeremiah Gallow, the poison in his wound is slowly killing him, while old friends turn traitor and long-lost enemies return to haunt him.

In the dive bars and trailer parks, the sidhe are hunting. War looms, and on a rooftop in the heart of the city, the most dangerous sidhe of all is given new life. He has only one thought, this new hunter: Where is the Ragged?

Now available at independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

This book was hard to write. Robin’s grief was a stone in my own throat, and Alastair Crenn is the sort of character where you’re writing him and constantly saying “oh, honey, NO…” Jeremiah, of course, is full of so much self-loathing it’s difficult to be inside his head.

The entire series was triggered by a dream (the Boy Scout, my writing partner’s husband, sat up in the middle of the night and said the elves are dying) and opened up inside my head, full-blown, in the space of a few seconds when the Selkie told me about said dream. It’s an odd feeling, that–a sort of vertigo, the outside world a faded irritant while the space inside my skull turns becomes the only world I’m interested in. I’m sure other writers have that moment, where everything about a book/series opens up.

Anyway, I hope you like it, dear Readers. I’ve noticed some people saying the language is difficult–“faux-Shakespearean” is my favourite–as if that’s a bad thing. I love words, I love to roll around in them, I love to build rhythmic sentences. And really, the sidhe have been alive so long, of course they sound archaic. Even Spenser might be too modern for them. I am comforted by the sheer number of Readers who have written me to say they love the language, and that the sidhe’s double-edged meanings and layers of recondite insult and compliment are pleasing indeed. Thank you, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of the second book’s adventures and betrayals.

Now I’m headed off to cower in a corner and nurse my release-day nerves, biting my nails and just generally being an anxiety-ridden nuisance to myself. As I do every time a book hits. You’d think it would become easier.

Over and out.