Luck to Get Through

I’m pretty sure it’s not the plague.

Of course when I start watching a series of lectures on the Black Plague1 and reading John Kelly’s The Great Mortality2, the Prince develops a deep cough and I’m afflicted with postnasal drip and a fatigue so deep I feel like I’m under a mile or two of clear water. Of course, I don’t know why I expected anything different. We’re both coughing in spates, though we can both smell so it’s probably not the current plague.

Though it would be ironic, don’t you think? So close to vaccines being at least theoretically available. (The appointments to get them jammed into your arm are somewhat less than available; there’s always a catch. Always.)

Work proceeds apace. Sending off the revision for Book 1 of Black God’s Heart means now I can really get started on Book 2, swinging from one handhold to the next. The other spot in my working day is taken up with Hell’s Acre, which is beginning to move into my skull and make itself very comfortable indeed. And I just saw cover drafts for it, which are going to be amazing.

While I’m juggling those two, Cold North will be a refuge, and a way to make them both behave. Either you tell me what happens next or I go to the Tolkien Viking werewolves is a helluva threat.3 It might even make the steampunk sit up and take notice.

Regardless of how exhausted I am, work needs to get done and dogs need to be walked. I’m only hoping for the luck to get through this, whatever it is, and have it not be plague. I’m hoping it’s just the result of a pretty intense pollen season; anecdotal evidence has the cherry blossoms and forsythia filling the air with a vengeance this year. I’m somewhat at a loss to figure out how the illness found us in lockdown, but even with masks and the Prince’s distance learning we still have some points of interaction with others, like the Princess’s job and my own venturing out for things that can’t be delivered.

All the same, we haven’t had nearly the cold/flu season we’re wonted to in this area, for which I can only thank the masks and hope they stay.

I can still smell coffee, and the Prince says he feels much better this morning. (Since he actually went to bed at a decent hour, but that’s another story.) So maybe it’s not quite as bad as I feared yesterday, but I’m still so tired. My eyelid isn’t twitching, but even my hair feels exhausted at this point.

Here’s to hope. I hate feeling it, since the last year and a half have been full of hope rising only to be kicked in the teeth. It just keeps coming back, whether I will or no.

And with that cheerful note, I’m off to let the dogs drag me around the block. Fortunately they know exactly where to go, and habit will keep them mostly behaving. Habit will also pull me through another day’s work.

Suppose I’d best get started.

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.

Serial Fun, Deadlines

Hello again, beloveds. I took some time off after finishing an absolutely massive revision of The Bloody Throne1 and collapsing in a twitching pile of bare nerves.

It was nice to take a breath, even if every day of recovery irks me because it’s not spent writing.

In any case, it’s Thursday, I’m back at the wheel, and I’m excited because readers of my Robin Hood in Space serial get a scene that I’ve been building towards for the entire three seasons. I started deliberately seeding bits of a pretty big reveal back in Season One, and I’ve been waiting with varying levels of patience for us to get… here.

That’s one of the nice things about serial writing. You know where everything’s going ahead of time (mostly, I mean, as much as a writer ever does) and can see people discover the fun things almost in realtime. It also lets a writer practice highly contained narrative arcs within larger arcs, which is fun. Almost like juggling, I should think, though I don’t know how to juggle.2

Anyway, I’m really pleased with HOOD. We’re in the home stretch of the last season, so I’m about to start the process of revising, editing, and getting said season ready for publication.3 At the same time I have Book 2 of The Black God’s Heart to write, so the Viking werewolves will have to take a backset for a while. And the old, cranky mercenary story will have to take an even further backseat. That’s all right–I need to think more about the werewolves and the arc for a certain character in that trilogy, and the old, cranky mercenary’s quite happy to be left in peace for a short while.

I’ve decided that the next serial will be Hell’s Acre, so am prepping for that. I’ve wanted to write more alt-Victorian London for a while, since Bannon & Clare had to go on indefinite hiatus. And I’m going to have so much fun with rooftops, tea, dresses, manners deployed as weaponry, filth, and gaslights. There won’t be magic, though, unless it’s of a certain subtle type.

Anyway, the recent revision nearly broke me. Mostly, I suppose, because I finished writing the book in 2020 and that was uncomfortable. Reading what I wrote during some of the darker days of pandemic and ongoing slo-mo fascist coup caused deep, painful physical reactions during revision. Not only did I have the task of turning the last book of an epic fantasy trilogy into a 195k monster, trimming and tucking and making sure all the ends are nicely sorted, but I also had things I put off thinking about because everything was crisis, all demanding to be sorted, processed, and put in their proper place.

It was… uncomfortable.

But it’s done now, I took a few days off to try and get my head patched together, and now it’s straight onto into the next project. Keep swimming and always smile, that’s the ticket.4

It’s a sunny morning, in patches, which means the dogs will be beside themselves and other people will be out walking. The big yellow eye in the sky drives everyone around here mad. But at least once I finish the morning ramble and run I can hide in my office and get some work done.

That’s the plan, of course. Yet Thursday has a strange look in its eye.

Here’s hoping that’s not a bad sign…

Time It Right

I’ve only twenty minutes before I have to shove the icepack back into the freezer and hop in the shower. I don’t care if my plantar fascia hurts, I have to run. I have been going mad with the enforced rest, and tomorrow is a release day.

That’s right, tomorrow, Incorruptible is released to the world for your delectation at midnight tonight. Remember, you can download the first six chapters here for free.

I already have release day nerves, so I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard this morning. If I can get tired enough I might even be able to sleep tonight. I finished the zero of Damage late last week. It’s only around 46k, but there’s plenty of room for expansion if it gets sold as a category.

I’m trying to work out what comes next. Orphaned and out of contract is never a fun place to be as an author, especially in this economy. It’s one of those days I think I should pack it all in, become a plumber or something, and only write for home consumption, so to speak.

Don’t despair, dear Readers. The feeling is normal, I get it right before every release day. You’d think it would get easier to deal with, but each time it wears right through the carpet and cuts a groove in my mental floor.

In any case, I have Hell’s Acre, Memory Game, and HOOD‘s Season Two open in Scrivener. The last needs a stiff reread to get back into the groove, and if I push I might get a zero out in the next month. That would be nice; I’ll probably work on Memory Game next since I’m still in a suspense/thriller mood.

But in the meantime, I’m going to finish icing my heel and stagger for the shower. Getting back to work after finishing a zero is always an exercise in stubbornness, like hopping in to jump double-dutch. I never quite got the hang of that, but it didn’t stop me from trying. One day I’ll time it right.

Over and out.

Oh, Publishing…

HOOD

Just a reminder: you can still download the first few chapters of HOOD: Season One for absolutely free.1 So if you want to see if Robin Hood in Space is to your tastes, this is a good way to find out!

Mornings here have been nice and grey, the marine layer shielding us from the worst heat. Of course, that means the humidity’s been through the roof, but at least it hasn’t been hot and feeling like the inside of Mother Nature’s mouth.2 The dogs are puzzled, but I explained to Miss B that this is what summers used to be like back before climate change accelerated.

Boxnoggin, of course, is absolutely surprised by everything the moment he steps outside. Rain, insects, wind touching his rump–it’s all a cavalcade of new sensations every damn time. He’s like a goldfish swimming circuits past a castle decoration and thinking it’s a new one every time. (“Look, Benny, we’re on the Rhine!”)

Yesterday I sent a sample of Hell’s Acre to my agent. So if a publisher wants Assassin’s Creed crossed with Da Vinci Code in an alt-Victorian London, they’d better get on the stick. I’m so tired of trad publishing saying “write the entire series, then give us the first book and in six months we might condescend to look at it.”3 That makes one book pulled from submission (Incorruptible), one full book out (Reader’s Shadow), and two samples (Sons of Ymre and Hell’s Acre) out in the world. I haven’t had this few works on submission in ages; it feels almost like a vacation.

Of all of them, I’m most worried about Reader’s Shadow because the protagonists are teens. I don’t want to set a toe in YA publishing again; twice was enough and both Harmony and Rattlesnake Wind are doing well without having the “YA” imprimatur. Sure, I’d love it if those books could get to the teens who need them, but going through a bunch of people who want me to water them down so some Bible-belt evangelical doesn’t get their panties in a wad takes time and effort I’d rather spend on writing new books.

Anyway, I think for a little while I’m going to concentrate on the serial and samples. I’m tired of a lot of things in publishing, and glad that my career is at a stage where hybridization is a possibility. You’d think the publishing industry would understand that without writers they don’t have jobs or profits, but we’re treated like embarrassing afterthoughts and hated stepchildren. Which sucks because I like trad publishing; I like not having to deal with plenty of the minutiae of producing a reasonable printed product. I’m an easy audience, and trad seems set on driving me away.

In any case, none of that changes the fact that I’ve work to do. Today is slated for a chapter in HOOD‘s Season Two, a chapter in Sons of Ymre, and making baked pasta with yesterday’s homemade red sauce.

My dance card’s packed, and the dogs are very excited at the prospect of walkies. First, though, it’s time for a run. Hopefully by now the cereal and coffee are resigned to their fate and will not attempt a high-speed escape.

It’s the little things. Over and out!

Associated Disruptions

It was a long strange weekend, but at least I got all the housecleaning done. And thanks to the fireworks ban, both the dogs and I were quite calm all the way through. There was artillery in the distance, certainly, but we didn’t have any mortars popping near the house, which I am devoutly grateful for.

Also, I’ve been experimenting with BookFunnel. The first half-dozen or so chapters of Harmony are available for free download here; when HOOD gets its wrap cover and begins wending its way through the last quarter of the publication process there will be a free teaser for it as well. I might put some other freebies up, just to see how they do and if they drive interests to other titles. Might even put up a Freebies & Swag page, but I need to think carefully about whether or not I want the deluge of entitled demands it might spark.

I also spent the weekend polishing off a few books–reading, not writing. The Coldest Winter and The Coldest City, as well as a graphic novel adaptation of The King in Yellow, kept me occupied for an afternoon; I also finished James Holland’s The Rise of Germany and polished off two Christine Feehan novels. The last are like crack, I can’t read just one, kind of like Shannon McKenna novels. Now I’m on to a history of the Byzantine state, which is filling certain lacunae in my understanding of just how things were administered in the late Roman empire.

What I wanted was to get a few more chapters of Season Two done, but the Glorious Fourth and associated disruptions put paid to that little dream. But I got the revised cover list off to the artist, and there’s plenty of time for everything that needs to get done for the next couple books.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few days thinking about growing up, logistics, rain, how to get a prince back to his homeland, whether or not I want to write The Highlands War, whether or not I truly want to write Hell Tide, how I’m going to get Maid Marian dancing with Prince John, genetic plasticity, and a whole host of other things I’d put on hold to think about after HOOD‘s Season One was sorted. Now all those things have come back to roost and I must give each the time they demand, from a few moments’ worth to a day or so of concentrated thought while the rest of me goes about the business of living.

It’s a form of mental housekeeping. Plenty of writing is keeping the creative cauldron bubbling at a certain pressure so the steam moves everything through one’s internal tubes. Weird facts, historical narratives, tangential fiction–all these things are fuel. So is the habit of observation when I have to leave the house, storing up notes on how these human creatures behave.

Can’t write what you don’t understand or observe. It’s probably the only use of my over-sensitive empathy that won’t drain me to transparency and leave me day-drinking. (Of course, I can’t drink without getting hives now anyway, but you know what I mean.)

In any case, today is for getting a needle back in the groove of work. There’s Incorruptible to revise and HOOD‘s Season Two to pile bricks for, and Hell’s Acre to think about. I’m pretty sure the last will be the next serial, which will be super fun to write. I always did like steampunk.

I hope your weekend was pleasant, dear readers, and that there was a paucity of artillery in your neck of the woods as well. I’ve got a bellydancing bagpiper to listen to while I write, and honestly, since my coffee is staying down, I really can’t imagine anything better.

Over and out.