Hives and HARMONY

I got out for a run while it was still cool this morning, or at least, cool-ish. Still, I couldn’t take the dogs; the poor things do even worse with heat than I do. They’re unhappy, but it’s better than them getting prostrated by the damn temperature.

They may also be cranky because I’m cranky, having awakened covered with hives. Last night I made the distinct mistake of drinking some red wine–a completely forgivable error, you know–and watching the Assassin’s Creed movie. Frankly, it would have been a lot better if the whole movie had been alt-history instead of alt-historical and modern uneasily bolted together. I could very much have watched a dirty Fassbender lisping Castilian all the way through, thank you and amen.

It still might have turned out all right, except the heat was really bad last night. Normally, up here in the PNW, the heat breaks in the evening and we get relatively cool nights. When that doesn’t happen, the cumulative stress makes my skin try to eat itself.

But it’s all good. I got out for a run and sweated out the worst of the stress, and have rinsed the rest off and made coffee. Even the bees were giving me somewhat of a wide berth today, bumbling over my hands and shoulders instead of nesting in my hair or trying to crawl into my mouth. Maybe they could smell the irritation coming off me in waves.

At least I’m back at work, revising HOOD‘s Season One. We’re coming up on the end of that, and I’ve got so much fun planned for Season Two, you just don’t even know. It’s going to be so much fun, and I have the last season in my head as well. It took longer than I liked to recover from revisions on The Poison Prince, but at least I have an answer for one of the knottiest plot problems in the third book of that series.

Said answer occurred to me quite naturally as I woke up this morning, my skin itching like a hive and my temper frayed almost past bearing. I had consigned it to the great engines beneath the floor of my conscious self, pretty sure that the Muse had an answer she’d give in due time.

Fellow writers often say you never learn how to write books more easily, you just learn how to write this one specific book you’re working on. That’s true as far as it goes, but one of the things an experienced writer can learn is when to consign a question to the great engines and leave it alone until the solution bursts forth, full-fledged, from said writer’s forehead. After a while you can feel the things working beneath the floorboards, chewing and grinding, and can even sense with something’s going to swell and burst.

It’s a particular type of relaxed concentration married to the willingness to keep yourself distracted with other work, with a large dash of learning to trust the Muse. I know I anthropomorphize the creative process, but it helps if I think I’m consigning the problem to her rather than to something impersonal.

So much of this career is learning how to game yourself. How to get the wild thing inside your head that’s fucking up your life and snap the traces on to put it to plow.

Anyway, I should remind you that if you want to read the first bit of Harmony for free, you can do so right here. Also, I’m hearing that some readers are experiencing quality issues with the Amazon-bought paperbacks of that book; if you are, please contact Amazon customer service. When Amazon folded CreateSpace in, the quality of their printing took a steep dive; this is something I have no control over. I did choose to offer the Harmony trade paperback through KDP instead of IngramSpark’s extended distribution for reader convenience, but if it’s going to mean this sort of hassle I won’t ever do so again.

I suppose I should finish my coffee, check the focaccia dough–of course, it’s going to be umpty-scrump degrees outside and I’m baking, because I lack all sorts of smarts–and get the subscriber perks for the week out the door. That, along with revisions, should keep me busy enough to stay out of trouble.

At least, for a little while. Over and out.

Fire Bad, Books Pretty

Rattlesnake Wind

I finished first-draft revisions of The Poison Prince on Saturday, and spent the rest of the weekend almost nonverbal and staring. I was afraid I’d busted my word-makers, because Saturday night I pointed at a packet of bread and could not, for the life of me, figure out what the motherfucker was called. The kids stepped in, of course, and were highly amused at having to do so. I felt like a three-year-old, pointing and making helpless sounds until someone supplied the word.

It’s much better now, though I found myself staring at the plastic bin I keep my morning gruel mix in (thank you, Bob’s Red Mill, for being awesome) and thinking, milk bits? No, that’s not it…plant bits? Ground-up…Wheaties…what the fuck?, before I finally got to “SEVEN GRAIN CEREAL WITH FLAXSEED,” which I bellowed loudly enough (in tones of complete triumph) to give both dogs somewhat of a turn.

At least I knew what to call coffee. Whether it’s “java” or “precious life-giving fluid that makes the murder retreat,” it’s named correctly, amen and thank you.

So Poison Prince is safely with the editor, and I can return to HOOD. I’m not going to push myself too hard today, since I’m out of the office (and consequently not answering anything even remotely close to work emails or calls) through tomorrow, I figure I’ll just poke at Season Two and also poke around to see what I want to finish next. There’s the storm-god-and-the-witch tale, or the sort-of-Assassin’s-Creed Victorian one, or the profiler-and-the-codependent, or the vampire reaper. It’s the last that interests me the most. I’ve been writing healers for a while, it feels like I need to go back to kickass bitches, and there’s not much more kickass than the woman they call in for supernatural law enforcement. I’m fascinated by the thought of what a society of near-immortals would consider as consisting of law enforcement or capital punishment, and how they would treat the members responsible for dispensing such.

Like, what happens when you’re a relatively young superhuman thing, who remembers your human days but are so gifted you’ve been tapped to basically commit state-sanctioned murder on a regular basis? What would that do to a person? What kind of person would survive that, and how would they get through it–especially if they run across something or someone most of their society would kill to own? Like, say, a young kid with the power to let a Reaper walk in the daylight?

It might not go anywhere, but it’s been a while since I wrote a protector instead of a healer, and I think I’d like to do it again. I’d have to put some deep thought into the rules of the world, especially the engagement with mortal beings. Which sounds like a pleasant way to spend my days off, along with reading.

I finished Max Hasting’s Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy over the weekend, which focused largely on the American experience. Then again, the subtitle makes it clear it’s 1945-1975, and America was the elephant stamping around most during that time, and Hastings is clear upon the point that Vietnamese archives and other primary sources are beyond the reach of most if not all Western scholars, so there are good reasons for the lacunae. Still, my heart aches.

In any case, it’s a warm morning, and I’ve got to get out before it gets worse. At least I have a little time to breath before the next project heats up. I can almost feel the wrapping going back onto my exposed nerves; pushing myself at white heat for two projects in a row will only be a choice worth castigating myself for if I don’t pay attention to recovery time.

Remember to treat yourself gently between projects, my dears. It saves you from lost time and crappy creative choices down the road, an outcome devoutly to be wished for. And, now that I’ve given you that advice, I’m going to go try and take it myself.

Over and out.

Sudden Realization

She Wolf & Cub

It’s a damp, grey morning. One of the dogs has already decided to go back to bed. The other is quite put out by her playmate’s refusal to eat breakfast, but willing to take up the slack despite the humans gently and firmly denying that any such thing is necessary.

In other words, “Leave his damn breakfast alone, B, you’ve got your own.”

I’d love to return to bed myself, but all I’d do is stare at the wall or ceiling, worrying. I might as well get up and work. I’m doing a romance for my writing partner (she wants to see me break a priest, and I decided to make him an assassin too because that’s how I roll) and the zero of HOOD‘s Season One is burning in my head and needs to get out.

I could, I suppose, break HOOD into three seasons, with the first ending on Awakening Night or slightly later. It’s possible; then Season Two could be the race and the maneuvering for Riccar’s return. (You just can’t have a Robin Hood tale without the incipient return of King Richard. It’s just not done.) That would make Season Three involve two set-piece battles, and actually work for the overall shape of the whole story better.

I originally wanted HOOD to be two seasons, but three is probably best. It will require moving a few things around, but such is the nature of the beast. Which means I’d be midway through Season Two instead of working on the zero for Season Three, which also means I could shift aside and do some revision on a couple zeroes instead of killing myself to get this one out.

Huh. I did not know, when I started writing this post, that I would solve a seemingly intractable problem just by typing. So it was already worth getting out of bed this morning.

I just glanced through the amount of work waiting ahead of me, even with this lovely little brainwave, and decided I might be wrong about that last part. I had other things to talk about this morning, a whole post planned, but now I’m excited and I want to see if this will really solve everything or if I’m just gasping before drowning.


Well, what do you know. It will actually work better if I chop it up into three seasons. Who knew? I think I’ll go type some more and see if I can’t solve any more intractable problems. This means I can schedule out the whole rest of Season One for my beloved subscribers.

Just when you think you’re going to go under the third time, the Muse pulls you out. I wish she’d do it a little earlier, dammit.

*wanders away muttering*

Advent Madge, and Clarence, Too

Gallow & Ragged

April was difficult. Between recovering from several birthdays, late celebrations of said birthdays, freaking out over approaching epic fantasy deadline, and worrying about everything under the sun, it’s a wonder I didn’t lose what little sanity remains to me.

I did wake up today with Jody Watley and Glenn Campbell duking it out inside my earworm space, so at least there’s that. And I have, courtesy of a bead show, some new chandeliers to try earring designs with.

There’s also this beautiful lady:

Her name is Madge. I did some work for Dee’s Darlings, and Madge decided to come work for me for a bit as a thank-you. She is adorable and gets along well with Veronica and Isabelle. (You’ve met Veronica the Office Oracle, Isabelle is…difficult to explain. Maybe later this week.) Veronica in particular is happy to have an amanuensis, though Madge’s shorthand is impossible for anyone but her to read.

Veronica: CHICKEN SCRATCHES. AND I’VE NEVER SEEN A CHICKEN.
Madge: YOU CALL IT SCRATCHES, I CALL IT JOB SECURITY.
Isabelle: YOU TWO AREN’T FIGHTING, ARE YOU? WE ALL NEED TO GET ALONG.
Veronica: NOBODY’S FIGHTING, IZZIE.
Madge: *scribbles furiously*
Isabelle: ARE YOU SURE? BECAUSE I COULD BRING YOU SOME FISH–
Madge and Veronica, in tandem: NO FISH.

…yeah, things have been interesting around here lately. I should tell you guys about Clarence the Squirrel. It’s more of a title than an actual name, because Clarence is “the squirrel what’s actually got the peanut, you see,” and dinner hour a la Chez Saintcrow has gotten really strange since the kids love to put out a handful of peanuts while we eat, then wait for developments.

Anyway, the Clarence is the mug what’s got the peanut, and Ralph and Jeff are the mugs what don’t, and the deck has become the scene of a dinnertime drama almost Lynchian in its feverish intensity. (I almost made a Blue Velvet ether-sniffing joke the other night and caught myself just in time.) Clarence constantly wishes to keep their find from Jeff and Ralph, and the instant one of those picks up a peanut they become Clarence. (It’s kind of like Olsen Twins, who, being older no longer vibrates at such a high frequency.) Jeff and Ralph usually team up against the Clarence, and once a squirrel loses a peanut they become a Jeff or Ralph.

Understand? Good, because I didn’t for days and the kids had a sort of “Who’s on first” routine they were running. And poor me, with my head stuffed full of preindustrial technology and travel times, not to mention worrying about the damn mortgage, didn’t quite catch up with the train for a bit.

Parenthood, man. It never stops being a complete and total trip.

I even got some gardening done this weekend, which only brought home how much more there is to do. Maybe I’ll just grow nasturtiums this year instead of turning over the veggie garden.

In any case, it’s time for a run, and if I play my cards right, I can finish the zero of The Poison Prince this week. It would be nice to get that corpse on the table so it can be revision time instead of “I keep stabbing this book and it won’t DIE” time. Of course once I do, it’s time to get the zero of HOOD‘s Season One out. Then there’s revisions on Harmony, and and and…

…so, just as usual, my chickadees, I bid you a fond farewell until tomorrow, and vanish, cackling, in a cloud of scented smoke.

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*