Old Shapes, New Sizes

The dogs are nervous. It could be that my own unease this morning is communicating itself, or it could be that they sense a looming disaster. Either way the warning has been heeded. It does no harm to be cautious, to cross one’s fingers, to inhale deeply and look an extra time before crossing the street.

Especially since I’m going to be out running with their fuzzy asses.

Today is the day the mass-market paperback of Atlanta Bound goes live. I was thrilled when Vellum decided to start doing different trim sizes and went on a binge of reformatting interiors and getting wrap covers redone. There are more mass-market editions coming:

A trade edition of The Marked is on its way, too. The new editions are not revised, they’re simply offered for reader convenience. I tend to prefer mass-market size for a lot of books, but I am by no means in the majority.

Speaking of which, I’ve been told that the mass-market editions of the Valentine and Kismet series (serieses? Serii?) will be going out of print soon, leaving only the omnibuses. (Omnibi? Heh.) While I’m saddened–I love the mass market covers–I am also resigned.

“Resigned” covers a lot of my feelings lately.

Anyway, The Poison Prince and Season One of HOOD continue apace. Incorruptible and Harmony are still out on submission, though Harmony will be coming home for self-publication very soon unless the publisher gets their act together. I could go off on a tangent about publishers expecting a writer to sit and patiently starve while they hem and haw about taking a book or not, but that would be ungraceful of me, wouldn’t it. The business is what it is; I’m just glad to have other options.

Yesterday I finished a conversation between a general and an astrologer, and got a starship loaded. Today is for the Sheriff of Nottingham doing dastardly deeds in Much the Miller’s Son’s direction and a somewhat elliptical conversation between a prince and a lady-in-waiting.

It’s a good job, and I like it. I may even be able to put in a few more lightsaber battles in HOOD other than the sparring in Season One and the giant set-piece planned in Season Two.

But first, there’s a run to get in, and a few bits of correspondence to scribble on and fling out the digital window.

See you around.

But Soft, Coffee

I will not ever go out uncaffeinated again. Saturday was enough for me, thanks. Having to tear my dogs away from some neckbeard’s unleashed canines–because a certain type of heavyset white man thinks that leash laws are just advisories for someone of his exalted status–while lacking a base level of caffeine in my blood is not a good time.

Pre-coffee I’m irritated with everything. EVERYTHING, even the need to breathe, not to mention clothes, or even my very flesh itself. Not to mention anyone who tries speaking to me before I have elixir in my veins. The kids get a pass, of course, and the dogs make me laugh. But otherwise? STABBY McSTABBERSON, that’s me.

I did have a lovely weekend otherwise, what with a Sekrit Projekt and a mess of housework. There were books to finish reading, too, like Luce D’Eramo’s Deviation and a very old, very tiny hardback on the French Revolution. All in all, it was pleasant–except for the jackasses who won’t leash their dogs.

Anyway, I’m using the Sekrit Projekt as a carrot to get me through HOOD‘s Season One and the next big chunk of Epic Fantasy #2. If I can just get through the rest of the epic fantasies, I swear I won’t ever make this mistake again. *sigh*

In any case, the dogs are itching for a run, and since it’s a clouding-up Monday we hopefully won’t come across any entitled chucklefucks with legal comprehension problems.

Hopefully.

I should also mention that due to ongoing piracy, there will not be an ebook edition of Steelflower in Snow. Further Steelflower books will also have to wait for me to have the time and resources to write them. At this rate, the return to G’maihallan and the Dark Mountain saga will not ever be written; if I get through the Highlands War it’ll be a miracle. If you want to be mad at someone for depriving you of Kaia’s future adventures, be mad at e-pirates and torrent sites. I wish I could demand that any further work coming out through trad publishing be paper-only, too. If it’s not the pirates stealing from a writer it’s a publisher wanting you to do unpaid clerical work finding and submitting piracy URLs before they bestir themselves to act.

I’m beginning to hate ebooks, and I really shouldn’t. It’s not the format I hate, or the readers–definitely not the readers! It’s the goddamn thieves, and the asshats who make excuses for the thievery.

Well, that’s the last of my coffee. I can’t wait for spring rains to come in. At least when it’s pouring I can run alone with the canines. I have a scene with Little John and Alan-a-Dale to write today, as well as getting back into a “tell me about these assassins” moment between a general and an astrologer. I’m swamped.

Let us embark upon Monday, chickadees. It will get better the further in we get.

Or we’ll stab it.

Cardio, Achieved

A bright, clear, cold morning has risen, and brought with it…several notifications from the bank, needing me to call in and verify some charges so we can be sure they’re mine. I don’t mind it–I’m glad they’re paying attention–but good gravy Marie, my heart is going a million miles an hour now. I don’t need today’s planned cardio anymore, thanks.

We had some show showers yesterday, but none of them stuck. It’s a shame, it would have been nice to have a snow day…except we live on a hill, and inevitably, someone slides sideways down it whenever there’s the least trace of ice. And I don’t just mean pedestrians. Pretty much every car belonging to a garage down the hill has slid down sideways at least once in the *mumblemumble* years we’ve been here. Thanks, climate change!

In any case there’s sun, which I will ignore as best I can, and I got 2K out on HOOD yesterday. I’m looking for today being similarly productive; whether that happens in going over yesterday’s wordage or hammering out the consequences of the Big Explosion (that isn’t even the crisis of the book, hurrah!) leading up to the race and Maid Marian’s finding out about King Richard’s proposed return is up to the Muse. I’ve thrown up my hands and consigned the entire mess to hers.

Serves her right, too.

I’m beginning to hate this book and long for it to be over. I’d say “right on schedule” because this is the next step in the process, but it seems to be happening two-thirds instead of three-fourths of the way through, and that makes me glare uneasily at the whole damn text. If it has something up its sleeve, I’d like to know–but the only way of finding out is continuing to work.

Goddamn Muse. I’m telling you, chickadees, that bitch’s sense of humor is almost as uncomfortable as mine.

So. A run to get all the adrenaline soaking my system out and away, a shower, tea, and glancing over yesterday’s work–the morning is packed, and the afternoon not far behind. Plus there’s subscription stuff to get out. I wonder what I’ll choose to send to my Crow’s Nest peeps. There’s an embarrassment of riches on that front.

If I don’t freeze to death while running, that is. I probably won’t feel a damn thing, I’ve got so much cortisol racing through me.

*vibrates out the door*

Spark, Work, Spark Again

2.5K on HOOD’s Season One yesterday. All in revision, which would bother me–except I’m getting ready for the huge push to get the zero out. Then I can switch to The Poison Prince and get that skeleton all arranged and padded. It lingers in my reveries like to a step-dame or a dowager, long withering out a young man’s revenue.

Not that it’s a bad thing, I’m just dreading it because by the time it’s over it’ll be another 200K that I have to trudge through CEs for, probably at short notice since it’s always a case of festina lente. If a publisher paid me enough to be my only client I wouldn’t mind so much, but none of them do anymore and as a result, I do mind and I will not be harried into working weekends when salaried employees don’t.

Well, I will work weekends, but only for me, myself, and I. That’s the only client paying me enough, frankly.

In any case, I am in that twitching, raw space where I want to get this done and move on to the next project. The instant I finish The Bloody Thone–number three in the epic fantasy trilogy–I am going to feel so. damn. liberated. The only problem is that there’s proofs on Book 1, then the whole process on Books 2 & 3, to get through.

I shouldn’t complain. I wanted to stretch my wings and write something different. And I love several parts of this series. There are just…behind the scenes issues dragging at my fingers while I type, which is my very least favorite way of writing. You’d think, after a decade and a half in the business, that some people would assume I know what I’m doing.

Anyway, I am sparking with low-level irritation and the desire to get things done. If I can manage to get to the end of revisions today I’ll be set up for the run for the finish, which will include Marah’s Race and some domestic terrorism for spice, as well as a giant arms heist and the ending stinger–because upping the stakes with King Richard’s return is good narrative fuel. Friar Tuck needs more screen time, he’s the moving part I care least about but that doesn’t mean I’ll spend less time polishing and crafting him or his story.

Well, that’s the work before me. It’s a sunny Tuesday with snow clinging in the corners, bright, inexorable, and dangerous. The dogs wish for a run, but taking their tender paws out onto ice (not to mention the risk of falling myself) isn’t cricket at all.

So it’s upward and inward, and all those things I’d fiddle with to procrastinate have been folded away and put to bed. Nothing before me but the task I must accomplish…

…and there’s some shortbread dough in the fridge, of course, but that’s neither here nor there. One needs something to look forward to in order to work most effectively, right?

Right?

On HOOD

I’m almost ready to submerge again. Almost ready to turn off all socializing1 and dive into finishing a zero draft. Season One of HOOD wants to be born, and quickly.

It’s not the usual point in a draft for me to submerge. Normally it’s the last quarter of a book that comes out in a white heat. This time, a full third of the book wants my complete and total attention, mostly, I suspect, because of the speeder race. I also suspect that HOOD, while partly a tongue-in-cheek Robin Hood in Space2, is also about grief, and trauma, and survivor guilt.

I mean, plenty of my work centers on those issues anyway. Write what you know, right?


One of the more fascinating things about Robin Hood is how the legend changes. Taking it solely from the 1800s, Robin Hood has changed from Ivanhoe‘s cheerful patriotic fellow through a tights-clad, smirking mustachioed Errol Flynn to a somewhat smoldering3 combat veteran, with a detour through Disney4 and ending up somewhere between Russell Crowe’s constipated expression and Jonas Armstrong’s cocky but utterly forgettable second-fiddle to Richard Armitage’s tormented Guy of Gisbourne.

It’s the latest that gave me the kernel of HOOD, really. I know, it’s obvious, but I didn’t realize it while the seed was sprouting below conscious level. Robbing the rich to feed the poor is particularly germane to our current times, and it’s a great and worthy cause. But…it’s never as simple in implementation. Resistance is a business all its own, with all a business’s pitfalls.

Consequently, Alan-a-dale and Marian have taken center stage. Both work at different ends of resistance, Marah by using her social position to shield who she can and Al by somewhat more direct action. No doubt many will find Al’s methods reprehensible but more worthy, seeing in Marah’s choices a certain abnegation of responsibility.

I’m not so sure. Both, to my mind, are equally brave.


Robin, Guy, Friar Tuck, Little John–in HOOD they’re all veterans, and they return to a changed world. Plenty of my friends have. “Undeclared” wars and “police actions” are brutal, unholy euphemisms and leave only shattered bodies and minds in their wake. Once you’ve survived such a thing, how can you ever return? How do you find the way back to those left at “home”? How do you find your way towards a peacetime self, once you’ve had to do terrible things to survive?

Sometimes I think I write about nothing else because I’m trying to find the way to do so myself. I’ve often thought, in the black bleakness of 3am, why bother surviving if it makes me feel like this?

I keep writing because I can’t stop, but it’s also largely (I suspect) to push that question away. Answering it seems beyond my faint powers, but that’s no reason not to attempt doing so. Anything less than utter dedication to the attempt is spitting in the face of the great good luck that allows me to still draw breath.


One of the best treatments of Robin Hood I ever read was Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood, which was the first time the actual logistics of a band of forest outlaws intruded upon my young consciousness in the form of Robin’s blisters from digging privy ditches. Retreating to the woods to harry the oppressor requires iron will, craftiness, and an undying commitment to sanitation so half (or more) of your small force doesn’t succumb to parasites and sickness. Along with Jennifer Roberson’s Lady of the Forest, which centers on Marian’s position as a Saxon noblewoman faced with Norman invaders and institutional misogyny, Outlaws showed me that the real story wasn’t with Robin’s derring-do or Errol Flynn exploits.

Of course, myths survive because they are protean; they change their shape to suit our needs and deep desires. Right now, at this particular point in history and time, Robin Hood is a complex story about trauma, responsibility, the misuse of power, revolution and its habit of eating its young, and more–at least to me.

And of course, I’ve tossed in lightsabers, land speeders, faster-than-light travel and communications, Will Scarlet as a synthetic a la Aliens, generation ships, dualistic religion, the fact that human nature destroys the best ideological edifice, and more. Every writer is a magpie.


In any case, the first season is about to take me in its jaws and gallop for the finish line. I’m sure my version of Robin Hood says more about me and my current historical moment than anything else…

…but any story told by any human being is the same. We are fixed in time and space for a few brief moments, and we do what we can to mark the occasion.

See you in a bit, chickadees.

Cautionary Cranky

Yesterday I did All the Things. There was revision, there was fresh formatting to do for a paperback of Quill & Crow1, and revising on HOOD. Plus cleaning the kitchen, dinner to make, dogs to run, and a whole raft of things I had scheduled because it was a “holiday” and I had it in my head I wasn’t working.

Except I did. And now I feel like I need a weekend to recover from that one-day holiday. I spent a restless night toss-turning between two dogs who really just wanted the bed to themselves, and consequently am a bit cranky.

Check that. Majorly cranky.

There are things I should do: suit up and run, clean the kitchen again, bang my head some more on revisions, get a good chunk of text on The Poison Prince–I want the astrologer and the general to introduce a new layer of complexity and the lady-in-waiting needs her father’s signet and another marriage proposal–and figure out what to make for dinner as well as get some laundry in. There’s fifty million other things I should be doing.

I suspect, however, that what I will be doing is following the current plagiarism drama in Romancelandia (it’s a dilly) and poking at Lightning Bound since the witch and the storm god are working at cross-purposes while trying to save each other, and that’s a catnip dynamic for me. I love writing tension and scenes where two people who should be allies are actually working against each other.

I might even get to feeling enough like a lazy slug to accomplish a few things on the to-do list. Maybe it’ll even wear me out enough to sleep tonight, despite canines and their liquid sleeping habits. (As in, they turn into heavy liquid and spread, and spread, and spread…)

Don’t be like me, chickadees. Let your days off be days off, so you don’t arrive at the first day back at work exhausted. It’s too late for me, I suspect I shall be doing this until I die2, so learn from my cautionary tale.

*wanders away muttering about to-do lists and dogs, not necessarily in that order*

Redo the To-Do

Spent the weekend getting mass-market paperbacks prepped for distribution. That included putting together wrap PDF proofs for the Roadtrip Z books, which reduced me to a crying fit several times early in the game. Now that the learning curve is no longer so steep I want to make pretty wrap covers, but that’s a bridge too far in current circumstances.

So quite a few books will be available in mass-market format very soon. It’s a neat experiment, one I’ve longed to do for quite some time. Vellum‘s new extended proof sizes are awesome; if you’re self-publishing, the program itself is well worth paying full price for.

I do, however, need to reframe my master to-do list. The Roadtrip Z omnibus is packed and stacked (especially in the back, ha ha) and I’m about to start the big push to get the zero of HOOD Season 1 out while still building the internal architecture for The Poison Prince. The latter is kind of a secret, one I’ll let you guys in on when it happens…but it’s 200K of epic fantasy I’ve got to put in enough load-bearing scenes to carry, and then there’s the decision between the portal fantasy and Lightning Bound to make. I know I’ll finish them both, but it’s the matter of when and how I’m worried about. I don’t want to be trying to birth them together; they’re an unholy set of twins.

Then there’s Season 2 of HOOD to consider. Pretty sure it’s only two seasons, mostly because with any fairytale you have to know where to stop. Robin Hood only works under certain conditions, and since I’ve arranged them so carefully it’s incumbent upon me to make sure the story ends in the right place.

Which is going to be a long desperate race for a capital city with stuff blowing up all around our main characters, alliances honored in observance or breach. The practice for that set of scenes is Marah’s Race, and between those two poles the serial will be ordered.

I just have to figure out who’s out on the flats with a long-range weapon playing guardian angel to our Maid Marian during the race, since our Robin Hood will be doing an arms heist with Alan-a-Dale, who is turning out to be the major character. She won’t be the one who changes the most, because she’s comfortable with who and what she is, but she’s definitely the biggest engine and the one with most clearly defined wants at this stage.

Anyway, I also did a Spotify playlist for HOOD. If you want to listen to the music fueling the serial, here it is. Enjoy!

And now it’s time for a run to shake everything out and get the day’s work into proper proportion. I have my fingers in Monday’s throat and I do not intend to let go.

Over and out.