Tuesday, With Questions

I have coffee, and it’s finally not feeling like a Monday anymore. Small mercies, silver linings, and all that.

It struck me this morning, waiting for Horace de Brassiere (my espresso machine, who is a cousin to Phillip, the great French patent thief) to finish his burbling, that if I had to be dealing with these kinds of historical events, I am probably at the best age for it. I’m 45 this year, and all my fucks are gone. As a matter of fact, the number of fucks given in a room automatically drops when I walk in. Not only do I not have any more fucks to give, but I am operating on a fucks-to-give deficit and will automatically cancel out a few when I get within a certain radius.

It’s a nice feeling.

I’ve had a couple questions pop up from more than one person lately, so let me answer them here.


Is there a sequel to The Marked?

I do have the sequel in my head. What I don’t have, sadly, is the time, energy, and cash to write it just at the moment, especially since the e-pirates are getting kind of active lately. If I do manage to finish Oracle–the sequel’s working title–I’ll let you guys know, I promise. As it is, Jude and Press’s first adventure does end at a natural resting-point if it has to be a standalone.

Is there a site or format that provides you the best return on reader purchases? Does purchasing through the Gumroad store net you more proceeds than from Amazon, for example?

I answered this in comments, but I’ll answer it here too: The short answer is, it honestly doesn’t matter. Amazon, for example, tries relentlessly not to pay writers, but the discoverability and the bumping of their algorithm with sales of a particular book can aggregate over time. Other large distro platforms have their pluses and minuses, and direct selling like Gumroad does hand over a larger share of the proceeds but has a tightly scoped-in audience so not a lot of people end up buying there.

The best answer, from a writer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t matter where you bought the book but THAT you bought/checked out the book–torrenting and pirating doesn’t count.

Another thing that’s really helpful is rating/reviewing the book, wherever you bought it. Algorithms tend to bump rated/reviewed books more, so that does good things for a writer’s backlist.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter, it’s all about what’s more convenient for the Reader.

What’s happening with The Highlands War?

A lot of people are writing me about Steelflower lately. This remains my most-stolen series; it’s difficult to write against that current. If you wish I’d write more of Kaia’s adventures, and more quickly, the reason I can’t is because people keep torrenting/pirating/stealing them. It’s not a compliment, it’s a theft, and it feels so much like a violation I have trouble going back to the books even if I had the time and income to write them.

That said, I am considering writing The Highlands War as a serial once Hell’s Acre is finished. We’re at the start of Season One of Hell’s Acre, and there are two seasons planned–so that will take a while, and by the time it’s over I’ll see if people have stopped stealing Kaia’s books. If they have, I’ll probably be able to use the serial slot to at least bring the adventures of Steelflower and the Gang in the North to their conclusion.

I originally planned another, subsequent trilogy dealing with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan, but that’s a lot of epic fantasy to write for little-to-no return and a bunch of people stealing it in the bargain.

I know most of you reading this will say, “But I paid for my Kaia books!” And if you did I am very glad and grateful; you (and Skyla Dawn Cameron) are the reason why Steelflower at Sea and Steelflower in Snow are published at all. I thank you kindly, and I’m very sorry other people are behaving so badly. I wish they weren’t.


I’ve been getting some other questions (more like comments, alas) in the mailbag (and other places) lately, but these are the most common. And now that I’ve finished absorbing coffee, some brekkie is called for before the dogs drag me around the block.

Boxnoggin in particular is in fine form today–he’s not called Baron von Titzpunch for nothing, the dog outright demanded snuggles this morning. Miss B, of course, has her rigid schedule to adhere to, but she also plundered his breakfast bowl this morning since there was bacon grease and the Baron wasn’t quite off the mark quick enough.

Never a dull moment chez Saintcrow, alas and hallelujah. At least the week of Mondays seems over, and the weather is holding.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Half Off Monday

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Last week was full of Mondays. Every damn day felt like one.

Consequently, I have made the executive decision that this week, I am taking Monday half-off. I’ll get in a chapter of Hell’s Acre and maybe some line edits today, but I’m knocking off early and not going to spend eighteen hours wrestling with print distro problems.

I should probably just open my own publishing house. You know the old joke–the easy way to make a million dollars in publishing is to spend two million.

Still, I’m practically a cottage industry. I work quickly; I can’t help it. The stories, like the spice, must flow.

I did get HOOD‘s Season Three all prepped for distribution. It lands September 21; preorders are live everywhere except Amazon, which doesn’t let you do ebook preorders if you’re not using KDP. (They really, REALLY want writers locked into their proprietary systems, but I am unwilling.) Which is why I also stock .mobi versions in my Gumroad store. The omnibus–all three seasons of HOOD in one nifty volume–will probably be out December-ish, depending on the cover artist’s schedule.

And that’s one series put to bed. Whew. Writing the bulk of Season Three during last year was…not unpleasant, because work kept me from walking into the sea. But still, I had a lot of difficulty on the editing and proofing passes because certain passages reminded me very strongly of 2020’s weeds and thickets.

Now that is a year I would not care to revisit. 2021’s got some lulus, yes, but on the whole I feel a lot better about it than I did about the four preceding years. I’m sure I’m just being set up for some scorching disappointment, true, but in the meantime I’m going to take a damn breath.

Not to mention walk the dogs. They don’t care what we’ve named the days of the week, all they know is that brekkie has been inspected (not eaten, except for the bacon grease) and Mum has finished her coffee, therefore it’s time to drag the biped around the block. I may even need a jacket today; it’s a lovely temperature.

I suppose it’s time to dance out the door. Miss B is under my desk, balefully tapping me with her nose every once in a while. (Once a herding dog, always a herding dog.) Boxnoggin is probably on my unmade bed since I left my bedroom door open, belly-up and snoring but with an ear cocked lest I somehow attempt to leave the house without him. Any move I make down the hall will precipitate a mad scramble on his part, I’m sure.

I should tell you guys about the Fork-Tailed Squirrel, but that can wait for another post. Monday awaits, and needs to be driven back into its cave.

See you around, beloveds.

Week of Mondays

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Someone in the neighborhood has been roofing since Monday. Or several someones. The nail guns and staple guns are going like a fusillade. I’ve just made my peace with the fact that Monday’s happening all week.

And it’s been kind of a dilly so far, frankly. Maybe just considering every day Monday is how it’s gonna be from now on, I dunno. But I’ve had a new release, line edits for Sons of Ymre #1 landed, I still have the HOOD omnibus to fold in proofreader changes on, the Black God’s Heart diptych has edits lingering, plus there’s a lot of Hell’s Acre to write.

And Guilder to frame for it, as usual. I’m swamped.

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve crossed off my weekly to-do list–CEs for The Bloody Throne, a contract for some new Ghost Squad books, arguing over the phone with an insurance company (always big fun), and fixing the (not so pleasant) results of the print distribution experiment for Moon’s Knight, not to mention the release day proper for the latter. (For the curious, the print edition is currently available through Amazon; other channels will have it in due time. I have pretty hardback plans, too.)

Yet I feel like I’ve done nothing, and it makes me want to weep.

The only cure is putting my head down and working like a demon though the weekend. Revisions won’t get accomplished, of course–but I think it’s very likely I can get the omnibus proof sorted this weekend and Season Three prepped for September release, which is just within the schedule I set earlier. Which means the omnibus can get sorted for October-November.

That’s the thing about book releases. By the time they happen, the book’s already probably a year (if not multiple years) old. I’m already juggling a brand-new set of chainsaws, and flinching every time I look at the old one(s).

But it’s a nice cloudy morning, it smells like rain though I think that’s a polite petrichor fiction, and the chattering of roofing equipment isn’t quite soothing but it does (hopefully) mean someone’s getting paid for their work on a relatively pleasant day. The heat seems to have retreated a bit, and we’re no longer miserably sheltering in any AC we can find. There might even be tomatoes in a short while, because the plants are looking very happy indeed.

Of course, I probably won’t get out to harvest them, being head-down in a whirlwind of work being my preferred state. I suppose a week’s worth of Mondays is a small price to pay for getting a new book out into the world and making a dent in the massive to-do list. I guess all that frantic work I did during lockdown is sort of paying off? At the time, I was just trying to keep my head above water.

Whomst among us in 2020 wasn’t, though. *sigh*

All right. Thursday also means subscription stuff to get out the door, and I suppose I should start the proof changes today if I’m going to work through the weekend. No rest for the weary or the wicked, and a writer definitely qualifies as both.

Or maybe just this particular writer does.

See you around, beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves, mask up, get your shot(s), and keep holding on.

Even a week of Mondays has to end sometime.

Balance and Baths

The sunrise was a blood-drenched smear again today, and though the daystar has mounted a bit higher in the sky it’s still a hazy orange-ish coin. I’m just glad the burning isn’t down here hugging the valleys; I’ve breathed enough of wildfire smoke to last me a lifetime.

I know next summer (or even later this one) I’ll be forced to breathe more, but right now the lower air is clear, and I’m grateful for it.

I am, however, gritting my teeth and didn’t know why. I finally realized someone’s running a leaf blower (at 8am, my gods) and since I opened all the windows to take advantage of some relative coolness the sound has a clear shot across my nerves.

I’m not complaining–it’s a weekday, after all, and work waits for no-one. But still.

I could also be slightly tetchy because I finished the first-draft revise of Cold North yesterday. Hopefully the story will stop burning a hole in me for a little while, because other things need doing–a follow-up to Damage, working ahead on Hell’s Acre, and copyedits for the third and final Hostage to Empire are landing soon, precious, soon. Once I finish those CEs the last wicket to go through will be proofs, and then I can consider that series put to bed.

I’ve…learned a lot, writing it. Some of the lessons have even been pleasant.

I got some very good news yesterday; nothing is absolutely certain yet and when it is I’ll let you know. But all signs point to something exciting indeed, and I’m cautiously hopeful. I’ve grown to dislike hope over the last few years, since it only seems an invitation to being kicked in the teeth, but it’s like a cockroach–I can’t stop it from welling up and skittering around my inner halls.

Boxnoggin and B had a bath yesterday, and much amusement resulted. Boxnoggin, of course, has forgotten the entire ordeal; he is slick-coated and dries easily, not to mention his skin stages a rebellion if he’s washed too often. Brushing is fine, we just have to be careful with bathing.

B, on the other hand, is getting elderly. Her coat doesn’t shake things off like it used to, so she gets the tub a little more frequently. And she hates it with a passion, attempting escape as often as she thinks she can get away with. I suppose it doesn’t help that she needs three rinses for every bit of shampoo, poor thing. She is still relatively upset about the whole deal, and insulted at the fragrance. In her mind, she worked hard for an honest stink and then the monkeys went and washed all that effort down the drain. Poor thing.

They like the treats afterward, though. It’s also pleasant to wash my sheets and coverlet and not have them immediately full of dog-schmutz. (Schmutz, of course, being a highly technical term.)

I should probably try to take today off since I finished the revision, but Hell’s Acre needs attention and I want to start working on the Damage sequel too. Klemp needs his time in the sun. He’s a patient fellow, much given to cracking jokes, but he’s waited long enough.

All in all a tenuous balance has returned to my internals, and I’m grateful. I don’t like feeling irritable or ill-tempered. I prefer my harmony, and seek to retain it. Some things, though, damage even my calm, and there’s been a surfeit of them lately.

In any case, there’s breakfast to attempt, the dogs to walk, a long-ish run to accomplish, and various other bits and bobs to arrange for the afternoon’s work. My innards might rise in revolt and force me to take a break, but until they do it’s damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

Come on, Thursday. You and me. Let’s tango.

Running Body, Rewards Chosen

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This morning’s mood is best summed up by, “give me the coffee and nobody gets hurt.”

Not that I’d actually hurt anyone (without severe provocation) but the threat has a few salutary effects. One takes what one can get.

The weather watchers say we’re going to have another heat wave–not as bad as the recent dome, but it won’t cool off at night like it usually does, which is a recipe for disaster in this part of the country. Very few people have air conditioning and we’re used to opening up windows overnight to keep the houses livable. The cumulative effect of hot days and nights bearing no relief stresses the very young, the very old, and the chronically ill.

I’m upping my running mileage too, so this will mean getting out the door early, for whatever variety of cool can be found. I’d forgotten how an alteration of the running schedule makes the entire body feel different–my legs feel a lot longer, for example. And different parts of my arms ache because running is a whole-body effort and if your trotters are tired concentrating on your arms can provide the last bit of help needed to keep you going.

I suppose I’ve been running for a bit now, and it’s completely reshaped my body. I’m pretty sure even my bones bear the marks, with muscle attachments pulling at them in specific ways while I jog along. A lot of people don’t realize just how dynamic one’s bones are; they respond like muscles do, changing shape and reinforcing areas of high stress.

Pretty sure mine are mad at me right now, but it can’t be helped.

I feel at once taller and more compact when my mileage goes up, especially when intervals are added to the mix. Running also requires a very particular brand of kinesthetic attention, like dance, combat, or climbing–knowing where one is in time and space, thinking a few moves ahead while staying loose and ready for surprises.

Maybe that’s why I like all those things; they make my brain stop eating itself for short periods because the whole mass of walnut-folded grey matter is busy making sure I don’t accidentally dart in front of a bus or tumble off the damn wall.

If I fall in front of a bus, I want it to be deliberate, you see.

Someone’s started messing with a leaf blower, which means the neighborhood is officially awake and the day has begun. The dogs got a handful apiece of yesterday’s party Cheetos in their respective bowls; the Prince had his vaccinated friends over to play video games, eat pizza, and watch Miyazaki movies. It was a roaring success, though a little strange to have people I didn’t give birth to in the house again.

And with that, it’s time to walk said shaggy beasts, then get out for that increased mileage. There’s Hell’s Acre to write today–the heroine is about to pay a call which will alter her entire life, though she doesn’t know it yet–and maybe a little werewolf erotica, since I’m done with that difficult revision.

My reward structure is all messed up. “You did good! Here, have some anxiety-thumping caffeine, go out and run until you think you might throw up, and write some monsterfucking–you’ve earned it!”

What’s even funnier is that I choose those rewards. I don’t know whether it’s being a writer or just being wired strangely. Ah well, I’ve been a weirdo for 40+ years, there’s no point in stopping now.

At least by the time I find out where the leaf blower noise is coming from the coffee will have sunk in, providing its tranquilizing effect. Small mercies, the only kind we ever get around here.

Happy Thursday, my beloveds.

Return, Usual Harmony

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…well, it’s Monday again.

Not that I mind, really. I just finished a difficult revision and have a crop of administrivia as well as fresh writing scheduled for the day. It’ll be nice to get some actual new-text production going instead of just trimming and tweaking formerly written stuff. I want a lot more lead time in Hell’s Acre than I have; it’s time to do a kidnapping or two.

So to speak.

I also have to move some things on the detailed writing schedule for the next few months. This career being what it is, all sorts of things are in flux until a contract’s signed, then it’s time to work like a demon. Generally I can plan a year or two in advance, but when I get to the six- or three-month planning mark the longer-range benchmarks often have to be thrown out or altered to bear no resemblance to their original form.

Specifically, the Cold North trilogy (also known as the Silmarillion Viking Werewolves) will have to be written around paying projects, but several of those spaces have also opened up, so we’ll see what fits in them. It means a much longer timeframe before the adventures of Solveig and her shieldmaid can meet the world, but such is publishing.

I’m just glad the irritation and crankiness from earlier in the month have gone their merry way; upping my running mileage and clearing a difficult project both mean some of the usual harmony tiptoed back into my corpus. I don’t like feeling prickly as a herd of adamantium porcupines; keeping a deathgrip on my temper is unpleasant (though necessary, because friendly fire isn’t) work.

Let’s see, what else can I tell you? I read a few Vietnam War memoirs this past week, and might read a few more; I also have Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, about murder in Ancient Rome.

I suspect I shall savor the latter with quite unbecoming enthusiasm.

The morning music queue is serving up a lot of Portishead, and I’m not quite sure what to think about that. I suppose I’ll just groove with it, since Past Me is the one who went on a mad trip-hop jag while finishing up revisions. I’ll add some Copland and Gershwin, not to mention some thrash metal, to confuse the algorithms later in the day.

I am large, I contain multitudes.

So today is for the last bit of finish work before sending revisions in well in advance of their due date (love it when that happens) and a great deal of administrivial paperwork set aside during the push to get said revision done. On the one hand it’s got to be done and has lingered long enough.

On the other, I absolutely despise bureaucratic triplicate. I often mutter, “Why doesn’t your mother commit murder more often?” and both children chime, “Because it makes paperwork, that’s why!”

…look, one has to go with the objection that works, and if the disdain for paperwork keeps me from running amok, I’ll use it.

One of the neighbors put in a backyard fountain this past weekend, so I suspect Carl, Sandra, and Jerry will disdain our plebeian birdbath’s stagnation for this new luxury. Being what they are, I suspect they’ll tear the damn thing apart in their enthusiasm and I will be treated to someone else screaming at the local fauna for once.

It’ll be a nice change. I’m almost looking forward to it.

Enjoy your Monday, my beloveds. It’s a tricksome day even in the best of weeks, but with all of us watching it can hardly do more than twitch, right? At least, we can operate under that assumption for now. I’ve the machete ready and I don’t even want to know what the rest of you have stashed.

Over and out.

Mileage and Cheese

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A lovely cool grey morning, though without a single spatter of rain, has me feeling almost myself again. Almost, just not exactly quite. I managed to get out the door for the morning dog walkies a few minutes early, which meant less traffic on the sidewalks; the day’s run was accomplished at a slightly lower speed than usual since I’m bulking mileage. Come Friday or so I’ll do some intervals, then after a few days’ worth of rest my speed should start to creep up while my distance remains steady.

Or at least, that’s the plan.

I did not get a heroine involved in a stabbing yesterday, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. I think the stabbing has to come today, in the hero’s POV. Serves him right if he gets a puncture; he’s been getting a bit arrogant lately and needs someone to take him down a peg or two. This being Hell’s Acre, of course, he’ll get it in the most mannerly way possible from our dear heroine.

I mean, she’ll stab, but she won’t be rude.

Other than that, the day is set aside for revisions on Sons of Ymre. There’s a lot more horror than romance in that book, and the Lovecraft and King in Yellow references fall fast and thick. My poor editor. *evil chuckle*

I’ve queued up a lot of Miles Davis for the afternoon’s work, and am attempting to use another jolt of coffee to clear the mud out of my head. I’d forgotten how absentminded upping my running mileage makes me for the first couple days. On the plus side, I’ll sleep well tonight, which is a blessing all its own.

The minus is that my usual work pace has dropped to what feels like a snail-crawl. I know it’s not, I know I’m in a good spot and can afford a few days’ worth of not-quite-top-speed, but still. It irks me to be operating at less than full capacity.

Some of my slowness could be the absence of lunch, a problem easily rectified even if the dogs are going to be underfoot as soon as I twitch to rise from my office chair. Since I’m contemplating midday bruschetta, their cheese-sense is no doubt tingling. I swear, the instant any human in the house even thinks about thickened milk product, both dogs perk up and scuttle forth to beg for treats with single-minded intensity.

…I just glanced at the office door. Miss B is sitting, ears up and eyes bright, waiting. Every inch of her is expectant.

I suppose I can’t disappoint the poor elderly dog–and Boxnoggin is coming down the hall, his nails clicking on hardwood. Time to wade through canine excitement in the direction of the kitchen and hope the kids left me some fresh mozzarella.