RELEASE DAY: The Bloody Throne

That’s right, my beloveds–the third and final Hostage to Empire book is officially out today!

The Bloody Throne

The great Zhaon empire is in turmoil. The emperor is dead and the crown prince has fallen to hidden schemes, leaving his most dangerous brother to assume the throne. The imperial court is seething, and whispers of war grow to shouts. The once-vanquished kingdom of Khir marches again to regain their honor, the savage Tabrak raid the borders after ravaging the South, and assassins lurk in the shadows seeking imperial favor. 

Komor Yala, her own position uncertain, finds shelter in marriage to the cunning Third Prince. But there is little safety in Zhaon. Death and destruction mount as a blood-drenched summer ends, and to the victor will be left an empire—if it is not turned to smoking ruins first. 

The wheel of destiny is turning, and all will be caught under its weight…

Now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and independent bookstores.

The entire series has had a difficult path to publication–no book is easy, mind you, but some are a little more challenging than others. Plague, uncertainty, changes in the editing team, all sorts of outside events all conspired against the entire trilogy. I’m rather surprised to have reached this point, frankly. There were several times during the writing, let alone the production process, where I thought it couldn’t possibly be finished.

But, like all love songs, it managed to reach triumph in at least one way.

Release-day nerves have me firmly in their grip. A run might blunt the sharp edges, but only a little. I’ll be hard pressed to settle to any real work today; I might try my hand at a livestream around lunchtime if I can scrape together the energy and ignore the anxiety. (But don’t bet on it.)

There’s a certain sadness to seeing years of work–not just my own, but that of the editorial and production crews–come to fruition. Of course there’s a great deal of joy and relief, I’m just feeling the pangs of separation. The book (and the series) has to make its own way in the world now. Publishing means that I’m already working several books past the end of this one; it’s like seeing one’s past self encased in amber. If not for delayed gratification, there would be none at all in this industry.

Anyway, I’m halfway through my coffee and the office is quiet. So is the grey morning outside my window. The dogs have not yet started lobbying for me to make toast and get underway, so I suppose I’ll take a deep breath and enjoy the peace while I can.

Have a lovely Tuesday, my dears. See you around.

Pre-Release Nerves

It’s a lovely grey morning and the coffee tastes fine. I worked through the weekend and there’s a release tomorrow (The Bloody Throne), so I’m worn down to almost transparency. Maybe I won’t work through next weekend.

Yeah. Right.

There’s also a Tea With Lili today; I have a list of questions from previous teas to work through. The worldbuilding chats (Part I is here) were unexpectedly popular–of course, I am always surprised when anyone wants to hear me natter on about things. So today we’ll be answering a few leftover questions from those and then, if there’s time, talking about groups and emotional agendas, because several people have inquired about my remarks on writing/critique groups.

I spent the weekend getting a hush-hush sample together, and that went out early this morning. That was 5-6k of new text, but with revisions and deletions I probably wrote around 8-10k, so no wonder my hands are a little angry with me. There’s a lot of stretching in my future and quite possibly some icing too.

Last night, however, I was rather at loose ends since the sample and my chores were all done, so I bit the bullet and played some Elder Scrolls for the first time. I got a good deal through Steam and ended up running around Summerset Isles with no idea of what I was doing. I miss WoW a lot but Blizzard’s behavior as a company means I can’t play it (or Diablo) in good conscience, so I’ve been looking for an alternative. I could’ve been playing Guild Wars with the Prince all this time, but they’ve retired their Mac version, alas.

So I suppose I’ll learn this other MMORPG. I might even stream it a bit, since both my kids are positively dying to tell their friends “my mum streams games.” I don’t know what the attraction is, but they seem tickled by the idea. I wouldn’t mind streaming a bit of Civ V, actually, though watching me play that is no doubt incredibly boring. I’m honestly surprised anyone wants to watch me do anything at all, let alone chatter while moving a cursor around, but the internet is wide and varied, my friends, and apparently there is room for all sorts of things.

There’s much to do before I can game again, though. I need to get a chunk of work out of the way today, since I know tomorrow’s release will distract me too much. I’ll want to put my head in a bucket of ice water and scream, frankly, since that’s my usual response to “omg the book is out, yes, YES, the book is out.”

On the bright side, I made a huge batch of red sauce yesterday and I think I have my base recipe down now. The kids were very pleased, and tonight it’ll be used for a baked pasta–always one of their favorite things, probably due to the amount of cheese. I also use cottage cheese instead of ricotta, since I don’t like the graininess of the latter.

I suppose I’d best get started on the day. The dogs are not quite excited yet, but as soon as I move for the toaster they will be. Miss B was very pleased I spent this past weekend largely in one place, so she could supervise without much effort; Boxnoggin was not quite so pleased but he had the Prince’s rambling, not to mention watching the street out the front window, to keep him occupied.

…just as I typed that, Boxnoggin stretched, arose from his nap, and wandered over to lay his head upon my knee. That’s my signal that it’s brekkie-time, and he would like his morsel of toast and walkies, thank you very much, Mum, and don’t forget to skritch under my collar as well. So I suppose I’ve my orders, and had best get started carrying them out.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. It’s going to be a long one, but as usual, I’ve the baseball bat well within within reach. Let’s hope that menacing the day is enough to make it behave…

Recognizing Hungers

Finally have the ol’ YouTube channel sorted. I don’t know how long I’m going to keep up Tea with Lili–it does cut into my writing time twice a week–but at least the old teas have a place to live now when they drop off the Twitch stream. I have also been experimenting with Streamlabs, which is much better than Twitch Studio and doesn’t cause my desktop to crash, hallelujah. So maybe I’ll stream some gaming or something too, we’ll see.

My agent tells me I’m witty and personable, so this is a good marketing thing. I am not sure–one of the reasons why I write is the solitude. On the other hand, maybe nobody will watch the damn vids, so there’s at least that. And though writing is a lonely, solitary task, bringing a book to publication requires a lot of cooperation, so the writer’s life is a lot less lonely than one might think. At least, now in the age of the internet it is.

How the world has changed. Reading Anaïs Nin’s diaries and thinking about how long it took a letter to get to its recipient in those days fills me with a strange sensation. On the one hand, I wonder what Henry Miller’s emails to her would have been like; on the other, he probably would have sent unsolicited dick pics and she might’ve blocked him. (Good riddance, too.) It’s fun to think about her and Antonin Artaud’s text messages though. Artaud was apparently an experience–no less than Nin herself, I fancy.

I recognize some of my own hungers in her diaries. I am profoundly uncomfortable with small talk–I want to speak about the real, sooner rather than later, and social pleasantries are akin to being slowly peeled. The household I grew up in was aggressively, violently shallow and superficial; that way, the adults could retain control, and they relentlessly mocked and belittled anything to do with art, culture, deep or real feelings. Maybe it was a mercy, since showing any true emotion or letting the adults know what one thought was a recipe for further abuse, beatings, and just general disaster.

I learned to hide, but I never liked it. Being able to play the game–and play it well–even with narcissists is a useful skill, one I can wish it wasn’t so damn necessary.

Anyway. We need groceries. I did run out and get milk over the weekend, but it’s about time for another trip to get, well, everything else. Not looking forward to it–there were far too many naked faces breathing disease while I made the milk run. Each time I see someone unmasked in a public building I feel disgust, nausea, and great sadness. The utter selfishness is stunning, but then again, what did I expect in ‘Murica? The sense of being chained to a seat on a train merrily heading for a cliff-edge is overwhelming, and no matter how I struggle to free myself and others, I can’t halt so many tons of moving metallic catastrophe.

All I can do is mask up myself, encourage others to do so, and keep writing. It doesn’t feel like enough. It probably never will.

And yet…several of you have sent me suggestions for office chairs I can sit cross-legged in. Thank you! Every time I start feeling too down, someone passes along a kindness and I am reminded there’s good in the world, too. We somehow muddle along, one way or another. I’m trying to focus on that rather than the firehose of bad news. Of course the bad news isn’t like it was during 2016-2020, but the successive retraumatizing doesn’t help. A body-and-soul can only absorb so much.

I suppose I’m in a bit of a mood today. A run should set me right–yesterday’s was lovely, between the rain and my body suddenly deciding to slip back into the groove after injury and bad weather dropped my mileage to a pittance. The road back is always thorny, but also always reaches a point where the body decides oh, okay, I remember this and suddenly things become a great deal easier. I was hoping it would happen soon-ish, and it appears yesterday was the day, thank the gods.

There’s a release next week (the third and final Hostage to Empire book) and I’m already feeling the nerves. Submerging into a cave to ignore them and keep writing is the best possible course, and I should get right on that…

…as soon as I walk the dogs, get a run in, and dodge the murderously selfish unmasked in order to get us supplies for another few weeks. There’s a storm in Hell’s Acre and I need to write a certain character’s arrival before going through and braiding in a formerly written scene, and I positively have to get the monster hunters in Sons of Ymre #2 caught. That last has been hanging fire for at least a week, because there’s something the heroine needs to realize before it happens, but I don’t know what. I’m waiting for her to speak.

Sometimes one has to settle outside a character’s mousehole with a bit of lemon candy and wait. There’s nothing for it, especially early in the book when whatever they say will have knock-on effects all the way down the line.

And with that, I’m off. Happy Tuesday, my beloveds. Stay safe out there.

Covers and Schedules, Oh My

Oh look, The Bloody Throne has a cover! Whew. I’m still waiting for the author’s copies, which will mean the series is all the way done instead of just mostly done, but it’s very nice to reach each semi-final milestone.

Winter–such as it is in the Pacific Northwest–has arrived. The first line of real, lovely storms moved in, dumping rain and stripping plenty of leaves. The clinging remainders are brightly colored, as a rule; there are bits of wet flame everywhere. The dogs are extremely glad for the heated mattress topper1 on my bed; Miss B’s old bones and Boxnoggin’s slick coat mean they both enjoy the heat on “their” side.

Yes, they have a whole side of the bed. In the first place, I’m a sucker. In the second place, they’ll alert me of hijinks and intruders, and that’s part of their job.

They work hard, the fuzzy little brats.

I spent the weekend with kitchen chemistry. My candymaking is improving by leaps and bounds, mostly due to having the proper tools. It’s been a real journey of, “Oh, this is why they recommend using one of these! Who knew?”

I did not work on the NaNoWriMo book more than lightly. Ghost Squad #2 (Klemp’s book, for those playing along at home) is moving right along. It’s about time for the first real danger, which I think will be cut brake lines.

I just have to figure out what in hell the cutter of said brake lines is bloody well thinking. They’re utterly convinced of the rightness of this course of action, while I’m mystified. They’ll tell me in a bit, I’m sure, I just have to trust the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing when she insists on something like this.

Never been wrong yet, but there’s always a first time.

I also have to reserve a significant amount of time today for revisions on The Black God’s Heart. I’m getting to the point where I distrust both projects, revising or in the process of creation, which is normal at their respective parts of the process but hardly comfortable, especially when I’m staring at the NaNo book and muttering, “why the fuck did I think I could do this, who the fuck do I think I am, everyone is going to hate this book, YOU MIGHT AS WELL STOP WRITING NOW, LILI.”

Plus ça change, and all that. Plus there’s the pressure of other deadlines looming. My ability to distinguish between “deadline RIGHT NOW” and “deadline a little later” is all caddywumpus, despite all the scheduling software I use to keep on track. (I like Cushion.) I thought I could also work on Jake’s book (Sons of Ymre #2) at the same time, but instead of being able to juggle four projects at once I’m down to two slots during the day when I can give my full attention to things.

I’m torn between “lo, how the mighty have fallen” and “this goddamn pandemic, we could have been past this by now if YOU PEOPLE2 would just cooperate.” Neither are particularly comfortable.

At least there’s some rain. Most mornings are nice and grey, just the way I like them. Boxnoggin is definitely not pleased by that, but he loves the occasional blaze in the fireplace, cuddles on the couch, and (of course) the heated mattress topper, which sometimes I turn on during the day for his napping pleasure.

There are good things in this season, even for a summer dog.

My scheduling app informs me that it’s time to swill the rest of this coffee and get the canines walked. We’re a bit early this morning, because there’s a lot to do. I suppose I should get started.

Let’s hope our respective Mondays behave, my dearests. If not, I’ve got that ashwood Louisville Slugger ready.

It’s nice to have a plan.

A Dawn Refused

Woke up to the very last (I should think, I hope) proof queries for The Bloody Throne, which I answered and sent back while absorbing coffee. The series has had a particularly difficult birth, what with orphaning (though my editors have all been stellar) and pandemic, but I think–or I fondly hope–it has come through all right. Mostly due to my beloved and long-suffering sensitivity readers, I suspect.

In any case, I won’t heave a sigh of relief until the author’s copies come, because that will mean it’s really-for-true done, not just sort-of-done.

Tuesday started with a rosy dawn, a clutch of work coming down the pike, and some very excited dogs. Both B and Boxnoggin are prancing about, eager to get to walkies; Boxnoggin in particular has already barked his fool head off at a delivery once this morning and, I suspect, cannot wait to get strapped into his harness and cause some kind of mischief outside the house.

I’ve a newsletter to get out, some more Hell’s Acre to write–Gemma, I think, has an uncomfortable interview with the director of an orphanage and then is accosted at dinner–and some She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero to get done too. (The antagonists are arguing, the hero is tied to a post, and I think I know how this scene ends but I could be wrong…) All in all, it’s a very busy day, and I’m…

[[time passes]]

…I had to get up twice to calm Boxnoggin down. He is just beside himself this morning, since the aforesaid delivery came much earlier than expected and consequently constitutes a Change. And, of course, for this dog–even more than for usual canines–ALL CHANGE IS BAD. Even good change causes him a great deal of upset. He’s as nervous as a tired toddler, all the damn time.

Poor fellow. I do my best to keep everything calm and even for him, but sometimes even a human with opposable thumbs and a swollen prefrontal cortex can’t deal with everything, sheesh.

I suppose that’s my cue to get my teeth brushed and the silly fur-covered critters ambled. Boxnoggin’s not going to rest until he gets me out the door, and Miss B’s getting into the act as well. It’s a wonder I get anything done with these fuzzy-ass toddlers “supervising” every breath.

At least I was able to lie in bed for about ten minutes while dawn tiptoed through the east, and could see a slice of pink clouds through my window. Rising with the sun is never my favorite thing, so being able to throw an arm over my eyes–peeking out every once in a while to see the beauty–and refuse to do so was pleasant indeed. Alas, I was coaxed out of my warm bed (for a certain value of coax, Boxnoggin is really earning his “von Titzpunch” title lately) and set upon the day, so I suppose I’d best get to the next thing on the to-do list.

I keep giving longing glances at the new baseball bat, but I can’t practice with it inside. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Ah well.

We are embarked upon Tuesday, my beloveds. Please keep all limbs inside the carriage, and don’t look too closely at Wednesday’s formlessness in the distance. (The abyss tends to look back into one, and that’s never comfortable.) Make sure you’re buckled in, and remember, just getting through the day is a victory in and of itself. Take the win, no matter how small, where you find it.

Over and out.

Sense Behind Chaos

This morning I sent off the final proof for The Bloody Throne, third and last in the Hostage to Empire series; it should come out next March. (Book one is here.) Writing a series-ender during pandemic (I finished the zero about the same time I wrote Moon’s Knight last year) was uncomfortable in the extreme, and the poor Production department has turned in a yeoman’s job getting it through copyediting, formatting, and proofing.

Not to mention my current editor, who dealt with meltdowns of every conceivable type through the last two books of the series, and especially Bloody Throne. The poor woman deserves some kind of peace prize; I can’t imagine juggling multiple authors through all that.

I also had the great good fortune to read Stross’s The Bloodline Feud while attempting to spool down from the proof, and enjoyed it muchly. Other than that, I’ve been consuming true-crime books at an astonishing rate–probably for the same reasons I’ve been watching horror movies. There’s a kind of catharsis in thinking there’s some manner of narrative which makes sense behind the chaos of Real Life.

The season has turned, and the nights are growing chillier. Not a moment too soon as far as I’m concerned; this past summer was absolutely horrid. Autumn is when my productivity skyrockets anyway, and winter is my preferred season.

I’m taking the rest of October to work at about half-speed in lieu of a vacation. I can’t halt work entirely–neither the pocketbook nor my brain will allow it–but I can, perhaps, slow down a fraction and try to gasp in a breath or two.


Of course a chunk of work will probably land in my lap later this week, putting paid to that ambition. Never rains but it pours, and all that.

For right now, I’ve coffee and the giant liberating feeling of a series-ending proof sent in. There might be some proofreader queries to finish everything up officially, but…Hostage to Empire is done, and I am relieved. 2022 is going to see some neat stuff from yours truly. I am not quite at the point of anticipating the future with pleasure instead of deep unease, but I’m trying.

The dogs are waiting patiently for their walkies, and since I’ve managed to get two-thirds of my coffee down I suppose a bit of toast is called for, then strapping on their harnesses and getting out the door. Monday has started out reasonably well; I can only hope the trend continues.

See you around, my friends.

A Frail Fence

It’s October, which means I’m on a true-crime jag. True crime books, while horrific, also have endings. One can pretend there is some kind of meaning or narrative structure to horrid events, or to life itself.

Given that we’re dealing with ongoing pandemic and fascist soft-coup, the idea of a neat ending, of some kind of sense to be made of all this, is comforting. It’s akin to watching horror movies for catharsis. At the end of a horror movie, one can go back to one’s own life–a little more cautious, perhaps, but still, one has returned.

It’s better than just looking at the mess, throwing one’s hands up in despair, and walking into the sea. At least, I think it’s better. Time will tell.

Anyway, I reread some Ann Rule this weekend, and a first edition of Michaud & Ayenesworth’s The Only Living Witness. Michaud did not like Rule, and seems rather upset that she had some success.1 Reading his jabs at her is super annoying. It’s also interesting to see how different editions of the book morphed.

Today’s work is all about the proof pass on the third (and final, yes, it’s the last one) Hostage to Empire book. When I have a cover and all that it’ll be posted. I’m hopeful that the proof pass will be light. It’s not the book’s fault it was written under such harsh conditions, or that I will be relieved to see the last of it.

I plan to submerge pretty hard to get a great deal of work done before the end of the (formal) year.2 The weather is cooperating, with a heavy veil of beautiful grey cloud. It will be nice to settle on the couch with a cuppa and the proofs, while the dogs cuddle close.

Sometimes I complain about this career, but never for very long. I suspect I am deeply unfit for an office job (let alone retail) anymore, since I have no patience for interpersonal bullshit and am very used to going at my own pace, whether the frantic bursts of six months’ work crammed into two weeks or the short dormant periods. A lot of what happens in formal offices is makework, very much like the security theater happening at airports. It doesn’t make anyone safer, but it does tighten the grip of a petty, middle-managing bureaucracy.

At least the physical symptoms of burnout are receding, slowly but surely. The few days of insomnia were a gauntlet to run, and I’m feeling much better.

Well, “much” is kind of relative, given where I started. But the scratchy throat and full nose have retreated, and the exhaustion is manageable. My running mileage has taken a hit, but short runs more frequently aren’t a bad thing. I’m in the game long-term, and the long game means small incremental gains are perfectly acceptable.

The compost heap also needs turning, and the garden to be readied for winter. Which will provide a nice antidote to the firehose of bad news. I feel terrible that I simply can’t stand to be hooked up to said hose at the moment; it feels like a betrayal. Still, nothing and nobody is served by me staring paralyzed at the horror of our current situation.

And with that, ’tis time to embark upon Monday. The dogs are extremely ready for walkies, coffee needs to be finished, a short run had, and the day stretches before me like heavy mist. There might be a little homemade focaccia left over from yesterday’s baking, which will be extremely welcome around lunchtime.

Small things to look forward to. I suppose they’re all I have at this point, but they’re enough. A frail fence against the despair, but a fence nonetheless.

Over and out.