Emotional Weather

I’m not allowed to look at Twitter until noon1–partly so I can get some damn work done, since the kids and I will starve if I don’t, and partly so the persistent pain in my stomach I thought was just stress anxiety doesn’t develop into a full-blown ulcer.

After all, I live in America, where healthcare is nonexistent.

The weekend was… rough. I kept refreshing various feeds–news, social media, et cetera–waiting for the other shoe to drop. Plenty of people are celebrating victories, which is great. (After all, someone has to.) But my gut–the same gut that’s aching with anxiety and tension–isn’t so sure it’s time for flying ticker tape just yet.

Growing up with periodically violent domestic abusers means I’m intimately aware of emotional weather patterns, and what are dictators, fascists, and the like but abusers writ somewhat larger? I can’t be the only one to have noticed they all play from the same thin handbook.

So I have a sinking feeling the current small gains in a few American cities are sops thrown by “authorities” attempting to defuse the protests and get everyone back under the boot, perhaps with the heel painted a different color but still crushing as usual. I fear what happens when an abuser of whatever stripe senses his victim slipping away–a honeymoon period, but if that doesn’t work, a massive escalation in violence to re-batter said victim into quiescence.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the gains, but now isn’t the time to relax our demands. Of course, with a worldwide pandemic on and unemployment at a historic high, there’s little chance of relaxation in any direction.

There are people who have been working for abolition and reform for decades, and they know better than I do. If they’re hopeful, so am I. There are also people like Sarah Kendzior who predicted this whole goddamn thing (and nobody listened, of course) and people who study or have lived under authoritarian regimes who are still sounding the alarm.

This isn’t even close to finished. It’s not even close to a tie, let alone a win. The wannabe dictator who attempted to declare martial law on June 1 is still in power, as are his criminal cabal and loyal apparatchiks, and the military is still weighing its options.

No wonder so many of us are sick with anxiety. I won’t even ask “what else can happen” because I’m sure the gods will show us.


I did finish Orlando Figes’s The Crimean War this weekend; Figes is problematic at best (due to his habit of giving gushing and pseudonymous reviews of his own books and scabrous ones of fellow historians’ on Amazon) but it’s a good overview of the entire affair. I did appreciate the first few chapters carefully and patiently giving a grounding after essentially stating “You’re not going to understand this without some background, so we’re starting a few decades before the damn war.” My understanding of the Crimean War was spotty at best, mostly gleaned from British literature, so it was good to see behind the curtain. I mean, it’s still spotty, but less than it was.

Next up is Lawrence James’s history of the British Raj and Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, both for obvious reasons. Since I can’t sleep worth a damn, I might as well amp up my reading time.

As for this morning, there is coffee to be finished, there’s dogs to be walked, and the day’s work to plan. Since I’m now juggling three paying projects at once, the morning planning and boiling inside my head has to be carefully structured so when my fingers meet the keyboard I know what I’m doing–at least, as much as I ever do. We’re coming up on the last half of the third and final season of HOOD, where everything I laid out in the first season comes full circle and little things I seeded throughout every previous season now show their effects. Also, the proof pages for The Poison Prince landed, and I have to address those while also catching up with The Bloody Throne–another third book, where things I’ve been foreshadowing and seeding since Book One finally show their flowers. There are also huge set-piece battles to write, which is going to be a certain variety of fun.

And I’m excited about The Black God’s Heart. Now that a few business things have been taken care of I can work on it in good conscience, which means the characters who have been champing at the bit can finally be allowed to canter. We’re not going to gallop just yet.

A surfeit of work is better than a paucity. It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t thing, though–I feel guilty for having work, guilty for not being able to work because of current world events, guilty for not doing more, guilty for not doing better self-care, on and on. There’s no winning in this hurricane, so I’m just doing what I always have, putting my head down and doing the best I can with the stories crowding around me to be told.

It’s all I can do, I suppose.

I wish you a pleasant, peaceful Monday, my friends, despite the fact that it will likely be anything but. I keep saying it, but I hope to be wrong about what I see coming down the pike. I long to be wrong the way I’ve longed for little else in my life.

Over and out.

Perception, Proportion

I may have wildly overestimated my ability to keep up with the firehose of bad news.

Of course, I am ambitious when it comes to seeing how much punishment I can absorb, a habit left over from childhood when it became a point of pride to disassociate during bad events so I wouldn’t cry or give any sign of weakness.

It’s only taken me decades to realize this is perhaps just the slightest, the very tiniest bit unhealthy.

Anyway, I spent yesterday getting the week’s subscription stuff edited and scheduled, as well as hopping out to the grocer’s. I made it between two waves–retail and food service taught me the magic of “dead times”–and was pleased that most people were wearing snotcatchers (i.e., masks) but not so pleased at the visible signs that most of them also considered the worst to be past.

It’s not. Even I can tell as much. I’m not the brightest bulb in the marquee, but I am possessed of a professional imagination, and predicting is somewhat of a hobby. Of course, every human being is somewhat of an expert in predicting human behavior–we do it all day, every day, and our survival depends upon it. The trick is to trust your own perceptions while simultaneously checking them against trusted external sources for a sense of proportion.

So here I am on a Tuesday, feeling pummeled even though I’ve barely been out of bed for two hours. At least there’s coffee. Both dogs are all but prancing with eagerness to get out the door. I should spend some time deciding the next Quarantine Edition–Jozzie & Sugar Belle is pay-what-you-want until tomorrow; after that, it’ll probably be something else.

On the bright side, that leaves most of the day for actual wordcount. I just want to crawl into a book and forget everything going on outside my four walls. Anxiety is eating the energy I desperately need to get Season Three of HOOD and The Bloody Throne out. I’m trying to moonlight with a trunk novel and The Black God’s Heart, but making books jealous by working on other books requires the wherewithal to work in the first place.

I also have to stop reading The Body Keeps the Score until things calm down a little. There’s a whole lot of useful in that book, but underlining bits that resonate on almost every page is bringing up a whole lot of things I don’t have the bandwidth to process or think about right now. I should probably shift back to The Sailor From Gibraltar even though the narrator is a complete asshole1, because piercing nostalgia is better than quivering from remembered disaster.

So. Today at 11am the latest Haggard Feathers will drop; last month we talked about marketing, this month we’re talking about self-care. We’ve covered physical and emotional self-care, this week we’re talking about what burnout is, and next week we’ll go over strategies to ameliorate said burnout.

Regular readers will notice I’m blogging less; I have a few more balls in the air than I used to and the global situation has robbed me of a lot of the energy that went into the usual Daily Grind schedule. Right now I only have the spoons for Tuesday-Thursday updates; Haggard Feathers and the fiction subscriptions are eating up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday’s energy quota. If we ever get back to non-apocalyptic times, I’ll be back on my bullshit pronto.

It feels weird not to be blogging all the time. Peering back through the archives, I can see I’ve been at this for years. It’s a lot of content, and a lot of history. Reading some posts from years ago reminds me of things that didn’t make it into the daily updates, and sometimes those are pleasant. Other times… not so much.

I wish you a serene Tuesday, my chickadees. Remember to be gentle with yourself so you can be gentle with others–at least, the others who warrant it. I’m just ill-tempered enough today to bite back when That Fucking Guy shows up on my feeds.

I don’t know who made this, but I love it and use it all the time.

Off I go to walk a pair of Very Excited Dogs. See you in a few, dear ones.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.

One Now, The Next

I wish you a very bright, kind morning, my dears. It’s sunny here, the dogs need taking out, and I woke up earwormed by an absolutely new band.

Well, Imagine Dragons aren’t new, but being earwormed by them is.

I spent my breakfast (or at least, the broth and coffee I can manage this morning, the stress nausea is very bad) with my daily Latin lesson, and I think I’m almost ready to get back to Pliny. I want to finish the damn encyclopedia by the time I’m fifty; it’s a bucket-list thing. I suspect it would go much more quickly if I just read the translation, but that’s not the point, I want the practice reading it in Latin.

Maybe I should finish Caesar first. He’s generally held to be a good introduction; his Latin is relatively simple and direct. Pliny is a recondite ass sometimes.

ANYWAY. I’m gearing up for the release of HOOD‘s Season Two next week; Season Three is now well underway. I’m already feeling the release-day nerves, added to a scrambling sensation because current events have put a dent in my work schedule liek woah, as we used to say on LJ.

It’s not a surprise that this month’s Haggard Feathers subject is self-care for writers. Also, last week’s and this week’s posts are unlocked for everyone, not just paid subscribers. Today’s post, dropping at 11am PST, will be about physical self-care.

I’m still looking at my Gumroad store to figure out what to offer for free or “pay what you want.” We’re going to be here a while, and when the first wave of cool stuff for free passes we’re going to need a second/third wave. I could say I planned it that way, but the truth is, I’m overwhelmed.

Interesting times to live in, I guess. Someone wished upon the Monkey’s Paw, or maybe the planets have aligned. (I’ve taken this quarantine as a chance to study some astrology; maybe I should do a post about that?)

I’m glad of the dogs during this. They have no damn idea about quarantine, virus, or paychecks. The kids are a little less sanguine, but what held true in their childhood is also holding true now–as long as I keep my cool, they can keep theirs. The pressure to keep calm and collected so people who depend on me don’t lose their shit actually helps keep me together–a fact which surprises nobody who’s ever read one of my books, I suppose.

…I meant to talk about the effects of social distancing and how close the virus is getting–we’re down to one degree of separation from an actual death–for posterity and all. But I just can’t. My diary is already full of it; I had to change the ink cartridge in my pen mid-sentence last night while scribbling. It’s only going to get worse, and while I am braced, nobody can ever be fully emotionally prepared for something like this.

I’ve spent most of my life vibrating with anxiety and the aftereffects of trauma. This creeping, constant fear feels like home. It’s like all the work done to get to a healthy emotional state and manage the anxiety is useless now, and was only a brief respite before we got back to the regular program. I know this is extraordinary, I know the disaster is fitting into the trauma footprint left on me by childhood and other similar catastrophes, I know the queer feeling of relaxation comes from this all feeling very, very familiar indeed.

Knowing doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Even my well-hidden but usually irrepressible optimism is MIA on this one. I’m trembling on the edge of “fuck it, nothing matters anyway.”

But the dogs need walking. Boxnoggin is sensing I’m almost finished with the morning’s work, and is performing a play bow in the middle of the office while I type this. Next will come him nudging my knee, hopefully, his large mild brown eyes wide with questioning and glee. Come on, he’ll say, focus on the NOW, and what is NOW is walkies for dogs.

It’s only Tuesday, and it feels like this week has lasted forever. I’m going from one “now” to the next like clinging to handholds on a traverse, hoping like hell my fingers are chalked enough. It seems the only way to survive this.

I’m curious, of course, and if this is the way through, we might be able to do it together. So, my dear Reader, if your eyes have traveled this far… what is your now like, and what’s the next now you’re grasping?

Season Three Begins!

I’m excited today, my friends. Not just because I have a very good cup of coffee to start the day1 and not just because I’m working on three paying projects (hallelujah) at once, but also because today marks the first day of HOOD‘s Season Three!

Every single one of my subscribers–Gumroad or Patreon, Latte’s Worth to Nest Egg–will get the first two chapters today at around 2pm PST. I love writing serials; they’re good practice, and I really like having something new for subscribers every week.

Also, the regular monthly support, no matter how small, is a rock to cling to in an unsteady career. It allows me to write much longer, more complex stories without a lot of interference, which is always nice.

This particular serial started while I was still writing Roadtrip Z and looking for the story that would come after Ginny, Lee, and the gang reached the end of their journey. I’ve always been fascinated with Robin Hood retellings, but I didn’t want to write even more historical-flavored fantasy. So I was watching fanvids of Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, and all of a sudden it hit me…

…well, a lot of things hit me when I watch Richard Armitage, but this particular time I thought “what if Robin Hood was coming home from a space war? The society would have to have a semi-feudal structure, how would that work?”

Of course current events inform plenty of my work, and a discerning Reader will see the threads, as well as the terminology2 for certain things carried from Old Terra to Anglene. Some things have happened that I didn’t expect–Giz’s true aims were a mystery to me until halfway through Season Two, the exact dimensions of Robb’s athleticism and gifts continues to surprise me, and Alladal has become much sharper-edged than I thought. Which is good–her handling of Wat the Tinker gave me flat-out chills.

Anyway, even with all this excitement, there are dogs to walk and wordcount to get in today. I’m feeling how I usually do when working on the last book of a series–anticipation with a sharp edge of fear, just enough for seasoning. I’m always afraid of dropping one of the narrative threads while braiding everything in. And there’s a whole lot of moving parts in this one, from Alladal’s decisions to help (or not) to Giz’s body count (I suspect it will grow steadily) to Robb hitting bottom (or so he thinks) to Jorah Smahl’s critical part in the plan to spring Robb from jail (not to mention his part in the return of a certain prince) to what, exactly, Marah will risk for what she thinks is right (in a word, everything). And that’s not even counting Will and Kameny’s relationship (such as it is), Sharl Notheim’s plans (mostly to cover his own backside, as usual with such men) and the little question of Gil Blamaíne.

I’ll get it done the same way everything else gets done, I know. Tiny bites, well chewed, like the Shel Silverstein poem about eating the whale. And I’m super glad to have my subscribers along for the ride.

Now it’s back to work.

Happier With Surfeit

So things are very strange right now–not to mention terrifying–but I can’t slow down work at all. Mostly, the idea that I might still be alive when “all this” is over means I have to plan for the eventuality, which means everyone in the house will still need me functioning and providing.

On the bright side, that means I’m working on Season Three of HOOD, which starts going out to subscribers this Thursday. I only have a few scenes loaded into the cannon for this season, despite knowing everything that happens and roughly where all the moving parts go. (When I say “only a few” I mean “only a month or two ahead of my readers”, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.)

My “sure, I’ll only work on one project at a time this year!” expired in March–somewhat of a record for such resolutions–and a few things in my professional life have changed very quickly over the past few weeks. So my production schedule has received rather a shattering knock, but in the right direction–I now have three paying projects to work on at once, an embarrassment of riches.

So it’s HOOD‘s Season Three, book three of Hostage to Empire, and The Black God’s Heart splitting my time now. Weekends I’m going to reserve for writing whatever the hell I want, which last time around was Moon Knight and next weekend will probably be The Calling Knife if I can figure out what happens when Amon of the Desert appears before the reunited lovers.

If you’re confused, don’t worry–it’s natural around here. I have so many stories boiling in my head that even I get mixed up and turned around sometimes.

Anyway, I’m excited for HOOD‘s Season Three to begin this week. I have so much planned for my dear subscribers, and of course Season Two is available for preorder and goes live April 14. (If you’d like to order it through an indie store, go here.)

You know me–I’m happier with a surfeit of work than with the reverse. I feel mind-numbingly guilty that I’m having good luck when the rest of the world is suffering so badly. It makes me long to work myself until I drop just to make up for it, though that’s hardly healthy.

There’s also the dogs to walk and bread to bake, so I’d best get started. I like to have at least six months’ work put aside for the current serial; a mere month is nothing. I suppose I’d best get Robb out of jail, Giz further involved with Parl Jun’s plans, Marah even more determined to make some trouble, and Alladal doing what she loves most next to singing–planning mischief. (And that’s just in one book–for Hostage I need Yala married, Takshin briefly happy, Kai heartbroken and savage on a battlefield, Daoyan dragged back to Khir, the Tabrak sending more messengers, and Kiron of Shan having a very bad day.)

But at least I don’t have to do it all at once. I can break it up in little bites, and as long as I just concentrate on the next bite, and the next, I won’t worry so much about the rest of the world.

At least, that’s the plan.


I’m treating this week and the next as the first week in April, which means those Haggard Feathers posts will be free. We’ll be finishing up our marketing month; April will be all about self-care for the working writer.

We could all use it, frankly.

Welcome to Chez Quarantine

Well. This all seems… rather difficult, doesn’t it.

Chez Saintcrow is in quarantine, at least as far as we can be with one of us working retail. The Princess’s job is pretty important in the current situation–after all, people have to eat. And plenty of big corporations aren’t doing the right thing by their workers because it might impact profits, forsooth. Certain governmental parties beholden to corporations instead of constituents are allowing–nay, even encouraging–such behavior.

Simply put, it’s a mess.

The entire household was stricken by an unusual illness over the past week. I can’t tell if it’s a very bad spring cold (sort of unusual for us), a type of flu the vaccine and earlier flu this season didn’t give immunity for (extremely unusual), or the current plague (the timeline fits, but the symptoms are slightly different in each of us).

Sure would be nice to have some tests available to know for sure, wouldn’t it.

In the meantime we’re quarantining as much as possible. The worst thing about it isn’t being immured in the house–that part’s damn near a vacation–but the idea that we might be carriers so I can’t be of service elsewhere. A lot of people are scared and I long to help, but I can’t take the risk of infecting anyone, no matter what this bug is.

On the bright side, the Princess has a day or so off. Fluids, rest, and yet more rest are called for. We’re lucky none of us have developed deeper symptoms; a single trip to the ER would wipe us out.

Small mercies.

I spent a restless night, but none of the nightmares were of the type I could turn into books or even short stories. For some reason, that felt like the final insult. I can’t even make a damn story out of it; I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Anyway, I’m considering what in my Gumroad store I could make free or pay-what-you-want to give people something to read during all this, and though I intended to take next week off (since Season Two of HOOD is a wrap and the book is up for preorder) I’ll be dropping fiction for all my subscribers anyway.

I can’t do much, but at least I can tell stories and try to spread a little joy.

The dogs need walking, and maybe if I get out the door early enough nobody will attempt to stop us and chat me up. Some people in the neighborhood (there’s always a few) don’t care that one visibly wants to be left alone or that we need to flatten the curve.

All my social media and other feeds are full of people offering support, checking in on the vulnerable, making arrangements, and pulling together. It’s a glorious thing; I just wish the situation didn’t have to be so dire before we all, well, did it. But I’ll take where I can get. As Mr Rogers always said, look for the helpers.

Time to get the dogs buckled in. It’s sunny, so the bees will be out. They don’t care about all this; they’ll probably try to crawl into my hair and nose just as usual.

It’s nice to know some things will stay the same.


It’s Tuesday, which means a new paid-subscriber Haggard Feathers post! This month is Marketing March, and today’s post is on newsletters–deceptively simple, but not easy. It’ll drop at 11am PST, so be ready!