Bureaucracy, Serial, and Sale

I feel like I lost an entire day, because it taken up with a visit to a hive of wretchedness and bureaucracy, terror and paperwork.

That’s right, we visited the DMV.

It wasn’t half bad. They have shifted to appointment-only for some things (coincidentally, the items we needed done) but we scored a few slots around the same timeand so could accomplish everything the family needed in one trip. I was braced for a lot of unpleasantness that didn’t happen, and I always like it when I’ve overprepared rather than the opposite.

In other news, I’ve put my current serial, Hell’s Acre, in Kindle Vella. What started out as an experiment with crowdfunding the writing of Roadtrip Z has turned into me having a dedicated slot in my writing schedule for an ongoing serial, and so far it’s worked out pretty well. The adventures of Ginny, Lee, Juju and the gang gave way to HOOD, and now Hell’s Acre. So I guess you could say the experiment is working out well.

I love this way of writing, because not only do I get to tackle longer, more complex stories trad publishers probably wouldn’t take a chance on, but also get to show my beloved Readers and subscribers a lot of what happens behind the curtain and under the hood. It’s a great way for readers to see how a story grows, and what changes between the initial idea and the final, finished book. I’m curious to see how the Vella thing works out.

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In other other news, Harmony is $3.99 across ebook platforms until December 1. I like running sales, and I am under strict orders to do some more marketing. (Very strict. Like, Box of Shame strict.)

After the crashing realization that I am, indeed, reduced to only being able to work on one project at a time for some short while, I’ve rearranged said writing schedule a bit. “Go until burnout and then back off two paces” really isn’t optimal, though I don’t seem to have any other setting. Or, rather, it would be a little less suboptimal if Current World Events weren’t also kicking my emotional ass.

Writing takes energy–physical, mental, emotional, and I daresay even spiritual. Carefully shepherding and guarding that energy from a world desperate to tear it away is an ongoing balance, requiring constant vigilance and readjustment. At least, it’s that way for me; I’m not sure about other wordwrights.

On the bright side, the atmospheric river is bringing all sorts of rain our way. It’s grey and positively filthy outside, I love it. The dogs will be nonplussed during walkies–well, Miss B, being an all-weather pooch, will be quite sanguine, though I’m sure her joints ache a bit. Boxnoggin despises water falling from the sky, poor fellow. He thinks his beloved Mum is responsible for it, that for some incomprehensible reason I’m making the sky drench us all.

I wish I had even a fraction of the power that dog apparently thinks I possess. Or maybe I don’t, because I’m not sure I could be trusted to use it responsibly. My ongoing thought experiment of “what would happen if I had pyrokinesis?” rather bears out that caution, because they all end with me cackling in pleased fury.

In any case, walkies must happen no matter how much Boxnoggin would like them to be dry year-round, and I’ve my own weary corpse to run in the rain. Peeling out of my running togs before slithering into a warm shower will be glorious today, but I’ve got several kilometers to go before that’s an option and I’m not sure whether this persistent headache is sinuses, stress, or low blood sugar.

Time to get started.

The Very (Dog) Pink

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NaNoWriMo continues apace. I’m doing writing sprints on my Discord in the afternoons; sometimes I even dust off my old gaming headphones and you can hear me softly swearing in the ChitChat audio channel–if, that is, you like that sort of thing.

Plus, we’re a really fun crew; we just instituted a Pet Tax channel, and the pics of everyone’s fluffy, furry, feathered, scaled, or other companions are wonderful. Between that and the Bob Ross birthday marathon on YouTube, I’m feeling much more balanced. Not quite better, and not anywhere close to recovered, but less unsteady.

I’ll take it.

Many of you were a bit concerned about Miss B. Don’t worry, she’s just an elderly statesdog. Sometimes she decides to snub her breakfast, especially if there’s not enough bacon grease or something similarly high-value in it, and that can lead to weird things even if she condescends to eat her dinner the same day. Sometimes her tummy just decides, “nope, we’re not doing this,” and that leads to a night of her producing some bile, needing to go outside to clear the other end, and just generally resetting her poor ol’ digestive system.

This is normal in some elderly dogs. The vet isn’t concerned unless other danger signs are present. As long as B’s well-hydrated and the tummy stuff doesn’t last more then 24hrs or so, she’s fine and there’s no need to disrupt routine and drag her to the pet ER. In fact, breaking routine and stressing her when there’s no need could disturb the delicate equilibrium of an old dog, so I’m under orders to just keep calm and carry on when she does this, while watching for true danger signs.

Boxnoggin, of course, is in the very pink of health. His largest problem is that after nights when B and Mum are up and down, neither of us are very bouncy during morning walkies, and he is forced to go at a somewhat more sedate pace than he would otherwise choose. On those days, the kids play with him as soon as they’re home from school/work or have resurrected from the lethargy of a morning lie-in. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of squeaks from plush toys, and while B and I hide in the office to escape the rampage, we can still hear the fun and eventually Boxnoggin is exhausted.

Tired dogs are well-behaved dogs. Mostly.

Today is subscription day. This week in Hell’s Acre, a gentleman is asked twice; in She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero, which my Crow’s Nest patrons are seeing me write almost in realtime, there’s murder, arson, and soup. Big fun.

It’s going to be a great Thursday. Miss B spent last night resting comfortably, and aside from the piles of baking soda around my bedroom (cleanup, it’s always cleanup) there’s no indication she was ever feeling poorly. I may even get to run my poor old corpse, which will do me no end of good.

I’d best get started. These books won’t write themselves, more’s the pity. Steady on, my beloveds. Eventually we’ll get there.

Thursday, With Trepidation

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Yesterday was a bit of a rough one. Wednesday had all its bullshit on, and even my newly acquired Peace Prize wasn’t enough of a bludgeon.

Consequently I decided to have a little fun. The kids and I were talking about orcas while folding towels, and a little later a whole new superhero was created, suitable for fanficcing.

I should explain, but there is too much, let me sum up: Harry the Orca needs an intervention, and mighty is the power of SANDBUTT. I also watched Carol Kane in Office Killer, which was pretty amazing, especially for its dead-on 80s magazine-publishing sets. The aura of grunge, grime, cigarette smoke, and hairspray was thick enough to cut with a spork.

Anyway, Wednesday is over now; Thursday and I are eyeing each other with some trepidation, and every so often I reach for the Peace Prize’s ashwood handle, considering whether an application of force might be necessary as a prophylactic measure.

We’ll see.

On the work front, Hell’s Acre is taking left turns with glee and abandon now. I’ve got to figure out how Avery gets to the charity ball. I suppose he could just be chasing Season One’s villain from the other end, but the solution seems too simple. Of course, the Rook’s very interested in simple solutions to complex problems, even if he keeps putting his foot in his mouth where Miss Dove is concerned–and chewing to his knee, I might add. He’s so adaptable and calm in other situations, but something about our fair heroine just puts him constantly on the back foot. Which I like, he’s got to be taken down a peg or two. The fellow’s possessed of quite an ego.

This does mean that I’ll get to use the ballroom scene, with significant cuts and emendations. I’m going to try to get that far before November hits and I shift to revising The Black God’s Heart on one hand and writing Ghost Squad #2 for NaNo. Klemp’s book has been marinating in my head all this while, and getting him and Beck out into the woods for the crisis is the only thing I haven’t figured out yet.

The characters will get where they need to go. They always do, I just have to keep writing, and trust the process. At least that hasn’t changed.

Walkies have to be accomplished before too much longer. Boxnoggin, while still adoring the concept, has grasped yet again this year that the rain isn’t going away, so is reconsidering this entire “go outside” thing. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch, and will not let him deviate from the daily schedule. Poor Boxnoggin is caught between the fact that he loves walkies and the concomitant fact that all change, to a canine of his temper, is terrible, no good, very bad. He cannot quite understand why his human, goddess that she is, considers wet falling from the sky necessary and doesn’t arrange a drier clime for his slick-coated self.

Each time I expect him to walk in the rain he’s just so perplexed. But you are the hoomin, he seems to say, head cocked and eyebrows up. You control EVERYTHING, why are you making us do this?

I wish I was even half as powerful as he clearly considers me. It would make things ever so much easier. Either that or increase my burdens beyond bearing, I can’t decide.

Coffee is sinking into my tissues, so I should probably get some toast down the hatch and my shoes on. The books won’t write themselves, more’s the pity.

Just be careful, Thursday. I’m watching you, and I have weapons handy.

Over and out.

Tuesday, With Questions

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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.