Prolific, No Choice

NaNoWriMo proceeds apace. I dumped out 6k on Ghost Squad #2 yesterday, but realized late in the evening that I have to go back and change a Rather Significant Plot Point in order to make the rest of the book hang as it needs to. That will be today’s work, I should think, plus some cleanup.

Reader mail comes in waves. I’ve been getting a lot of the “How are you so prolific?” questions lately. Which is odd, because I’m working at about half productivity right now due to ongoing pandemic stress, and I hate it. But I did take a look at things, and realized Working For the Devil–not my first published book, just my first trad-published book–came out in 2005.

That was a minute ago, wasn’t it. My stars.

So I’ve been around for a few years, which isn’t so rare. (Writers, as Tess Gerritsen once memorably pointed out, tend to die with their boots on.) But there’s also the fact that I do little else.

I started in this game back when submitting one’s manuscripts by email was just beginning to be standard practice. It was also the Wild Wild West era of Ellora’s Cave, and we all remember how that was.

…sorry, I just had of of those old lady “those were the days” moments.

Anyway, I had two toddlers and another dependent to feed, as well as the cats, and I had the dubious benefit of a spouse who simply wouldn’t get a job they felt beneath them. (Spoiler: This eventually turned into “wouldn’t get any job at all.”) Writing stories, which I’d always done, could occur at home while I raised and homeschooled two very young kids. I could fit paragraphs between the constant disasters of young childhood and the relentless backbreaking work of trying to keep the house fit for human habitation despite the best efforts of cats, human-toddler chaos emitters, and said spouse, who not only wouldn’t get a job but seemed bizarrely determined to undercut any success I could find, too.

Which was odd, because by then I was the one paying the bills, so said spouse’s behavior seemed counterproductive at best. Anyway, I wrote anything possible for anyone who would pay me, and sometimes I even think of those days fondly.

I learned, as they say, a lot.

Fast-forward a couple years, I was beginning to get some real traction and the divorce was well underway. Which eased some pressure–instead of three dependents, the cats, and a constant battle cleaning up after and putting up with said spouse, I only had three dependents and the cats to support with a notoriously fickle career in a highly competitive industry, where returns on investment dribble in over months at best and years at worst.

If I’d had the time to think about it, I might’ve considered giving up.

The kids went into public school, and eventually my dependent count dropped to two. The cats stayed about the same, but a dog came along. Things eased up to the point where I could, with a lot of luck, get us moved into the current chez. But it was never certain. I had to produce at a frenetic pace just to keep the lights on, the new mortgage paid, and some milk in the fridge.

Now, I had (and still have) a great many advantages. I’ve been writing stories all my life so I had some practice, and I managed to keep an internet connection all through the entire deal. The spouse, when they’d had a job, was fond of technological gadgets, so I had what passed for a reasonable laptop until I could generate some income and get better tech.

I still have that original Asus laptop in a file cabinet drawer. The thing gave signal service, and the duct tape shows it.

I got a lot of lucky breaks; because I was desperate I used every one of them. I read slush, I edited and charged per page, and I wrote cover copy on the side while learning the ropes of small-press and trad at high speed. I lucked into an agent–I was such a baby writer I didn’t even know she was offering me representation during our first phone call.

So I was incredibly privileged and fortunate, even if it was never a sure thing and the stress was mind-boggling. I managed to keep the lights on, but it meant I literally didn’t have time for anything else.

No telly. Very few cons or events–which truth be told I didn’t miss, between the hassle of getting childcare and the ever-present harassment. No real hobbies or leisure. Tried dating a couple times, but my workload (and, let’s be fair, probably my personality) put paid to that.

So I parented, I wrote, I made deadlines, I read history and research when I could, and I fell into bed after eighteen-hour days for a few fitful hours of tossing before I got up and did it all again, for years. Was it great practice? Yes. Did it keep us fed? Yes.

Would I do it again? I hope I never have to. I had what amounted to a breakdown during the divorce and went into therapy–cash pay, with a therapist who had a sliding scale, but part of my privilege lays in knowing things like that are even an option, so I was operating with a distinct advantage.

All of this is not an origin story. Women all over the world do far more with much less every day. This is just to explain that I’m prolific because I had (and still have) no choice. I don’t write, we don’t eat, and good gods but the dogs love eating. Not to mention the kids.

Things are way easier now. The kids are older and contributing to the household to keep us on more or less an even keel. I’ve achieved some small success in my chosen field, and all those years of sleepless, laser-focused intensity are paying off–though said payoff is invested right back into the career keeping us afloat, as has been the case for years.

I still don’t watch a lot of telly other people do, even with streaming. I still put in eighteen-hour days, just far less often. I do now have semi-hobbies–I knit and cook, for example, and hot-glue googly eyes to things–but the fact remains most of my time is spent writing. I haven’t really slowed down, though several outside stressors have either vanished or been mitigated. I’m highly productive because I have to be in order to feed us all, and because I literally don’t do anything else.

It’s not bad. I’m doing the thing I was meant and made for, so the work is often enjoyable. Lots of people have it worse. I’ve never really thought of stopping–for one thing, I’m not fit for human consumption most days, so an office or retail job would quickly founder under my atrophied ability to put up with entitled customer or middle-manager bullshit.

So, to answer the question, I’m prolific because I do little else but write and have for almost two decades now. In other words, “that’s my secret, Cap–I’m always working.”

I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. It’s a helluva career, but it’s mine and after all this time I’m peculiarly fond of it. I look forward to telling you many more stories. Maybe one day I’ll get some spare time…

…but don’t bet on it. I suspect I’ll die, as Gerritsen says, with my boots on.

So to speak.

Ambitious Blue-Word Hilarity

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It is a lovely grey morning. I get to run today, after tweaking my ankle last week on the stairs. Everything should be healed up and ready for another brutal road-thumping session.

I can’t wait.

Before that, though, coffee must be absorbed, the dogs need walking, and some breakfast probably wouldn’t go amiss. Once I get all that done and my corpse pushed through a few kilometers at what passes for high speed, the rest of the morning will be given to administrivia like answering correspondence, since there seems to be a fresh crop springing up like mushrooms after rain.

But the afternoon, ah! The afternoon will be for a combat scene (Hell’s Acre is coming along nicely) and some hilarity in a short story (She’s Fleeing a Byronic Hero) for my subscribers. I might also be able to shoehorn a bit of Klemp’s book in, too. I am ambitious today.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to feel ambitious. Maybe I’m adapting.

Last week ended with a great deal of hilarity. Someone was very upset at the fact that there are (gasp!) bad words in my books, and that the protagonist of Moon’s Knight standing at the funeral of her best friend was angry at a god.

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What precisely have you been reading of my work, that this is a surprise?

I find this fascinating as well as risible. I did a whole five-book series about a Necromance, a seven-book series about a hellbreed hunter whose feelings on her own Catholic god are complex at best, both full of bad words galore, and all my books have violence and questionable content, let alone wrestling with questions of belief and going toe-to-toe with the divine. Said books, not to mention my social media feeds, let alone this very blog, are stuffed with four-letter and blue words deployed for maximum effect, hilarity, or emphasis.

What, precisely, about a grieving character thinking–not saying aloud, mind you, but thinking–a few bad words in a sky-fairy’s direction while standing at the side of her best friend’s grave offended in a way that the constant use of every bloody-blue word I wish to employ doesn’t? How exactly could this ever be a surprise to anyone with even a cursory relationship to my work? It’s baffling and hilarious at once.

I don’t mind the one-star rating–you do you, Anonymous Reader, you’re entirely entitled to your opinion–but the pearl-clutching does irritate me a bit. It seems just a teensy tad disingenuous, considering my oeuvre. And yes, the only reason I’m highlighting this is because said person is entirely anonymous and will stay that way. Otherwise my amusement would be entirely private.

Though no less intense.

At least I can laugh at the absurdity. It’s always nice to have a chuckle or two on a Monday. Sets everything going in the right direction.

The dogs are crowding close, expressing their ardent desire to get out the door for their usual sniff-and-trot. Miss B is reminding me I am, after all, made of meat, and Boxnoggin is using the strategy of giant dark puppy eyes to slather on a layer of guilt. I suppose I should get moving instead of snort-laughing while I type.

Let’s kick Monday in the pants, my friends. See you, as my grandfather used to say, in the funny pages.

Tuesday, With Questions

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I have coffee, and it’s finally not feeling like a Monday anymore. Small mercies, silver linings, and all that.

It struck me this morning, waiting for Horace de Brassiere (my espresso machine, who is a cousin to Phillip, the great French patent thief) to finish his burbling, that if I had to be dealing with these kinds of historical events, I am probably at the best age for it. I’m 45 this year, and all my fucks are gone. As a matter of fact, the number of fucks given in a room automatically drops when I walk in. Not only do I not have any more fucks to give, but I am operating on a fucks-to-give deficit and will automatically cancel out a few when I get within a certain radius.

It’s a nice feeling.

I’ve had a couple questions pop up from more than one person lately, so let me answer them here.


Is there a sequel to The Marked?

I do have the sequel in my head. What I don’t have, sadly, is the time, energy, and cash to write it just at the moment, especially since the e-pirates are getting kind of active lately. If I do manage to finish Oracle–the sequel’s working title–I’ll let you guys know, I promise. As it is, Jude and Press’s first adventure does end at a natural resting-point if it has to be a standalone.

Is there a site or format that provides you the best return on reader purchases? Does purchasing through the Gumroad store net you more proceeds than from Amazon, for example?

I answered this in comments, but I’ll answer it here too: The short answer is, it honestly doesn’t matter. Amazon, for example, tries relentlessly not to pay writers, but the discoverability and the bumping of their algorithm with sales of a particular book can aggregate over time. Other large distro platforms have their pluses and minuses, and direct selling like Gumroad does hand over a larger share of the proceeds but has a tightly scoped-in audience so not a lot of people end up buying there.

The best answer, from a writer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t matter where you bought the book but THAT you bought/checked out the book–torrenting and pirating doesn’t count.

Another thing that’s really helpful is rating/reviewing the book, wherever you bought it. Algorithms tend to bump rated/reviewed books more, so that does good things for a writer’s backlist.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter, it’s all about what’s more convenient for the Reader.

What’s happening with The Highlands War?

A lot of people are writing me about Steelflower lately. This remains my most-stolen series; it’s difficult to write against that current. If you wish I’d write more of Kaia’s adventures, and more quickly, the reason I can’t is because people keep torrenting/pirating/stealing them. It’s not a compliment, it’s a theft, and it feels so much like a violation I have trouble going back to the books even if I had the time and income to write them.

That said, I am considering writing The Highlands War as a serial once Hell’s Acre is finished. We’re at the start of Season One of Hell’s Acre, and there are two seasons planned–so that will take a while, and by the time it’s over I’ll see if people have stopped stealing Kaia’s books. If they have, I’ll probably be able to use the serial slot to at least bring the adventures of Steelflower and the Gang in the North to their conclusion.

I originally planned another, subsequent trilogy dealing with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan, but that’s a lot of epic fantasy to write for little-to-no return and a bunch of people stealing it in the bargain.

I know most of you reading this will say, “But I paid for my Kaia books!” And if you did I am very glad and grateful; you (and Skyla Dawn Cameron) are the reason why Steelflower at Sea and Steelflower in Snow are published at all. I thank you kindly, and I’m very sorry other people are behaving so badly. I wish they weren’t.


I’ve been getting some other questions (more like comments, alas) in the mailbag (and other places) lately, but these are the most common. And now that I’ve finished absorbing coffee, some brekkie is called for before the dogs drag me around the block.

Boxnoggin in particular is in fine form today–he’s not called Baron von Titzpunch for nothing, the dog outright demanded snuggles this morning. Miss B, of course, has her rigid schedule to adhere to, but she also plundered his breakfast bowl this morning since there was bacon grease and the Baron wasn’t quite off the mark quick enough.

Never a dull moment chez Saintcrow, alas and hallelujah. At least the week of Mondays seems over, and the weather is holding.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Tuesday Tuckerizations

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They’re saying 95F today. I’ve already closed the house and turned the AC on. The ceiling fan in the stairwell is going too. Such as it is, we’ve got some remedy against the heat.

In plenty of the country, it wouldn’t be considered bad weather. But here, we are pale temperate mushrooms, and this dries us out. Even the moss in our crevices is cracking. (Hyperbole? Yes, but only a little.)

Of course it means I’ll be able to crouch in my darkened office and work today, since the holiday weekend is over. I managed double wordcount on Cold North yesterday, but only a pittance on Hell’s Acre. Which isn’t bad (just a reminder, you can read the first few chapters of the serial for free) and today I get to write a chapter where I Tuckerize some of my beloved subscribers. It will probably end in their eponymous characters’ gruesome deaths (Avery has a temper, and quite a bit of training in mayhem). I was kind of unprepared for how many people wanted to, erm, risk a violent end in the serial.

Sometimes the deaths are pretty neat–a certain character in Roadtrip Z got to be an end-of-movie hero, bit by a zombie and saving one last bullet in the chamber for himself. (Hullo, MM!) And since I’m writing a combat scene today I have a list of names to use now, and I think at least one is going to switch allegiances mid-fight.

In other news, I got a very nice letter from Reader B. L., who liked Steelflower very much and entreated me to continue the series. I do go back and look at The Highlands War from time to time. If I can open the file without stress nausea burning a hole in my gut I’ll put it on the writing docket.

Unfortunately, it remains one of my most-pirated series. The level of theft means I literally can’t afford to work on it, and the emotional cost is super high too.

But again, if I can get to the point where I can open the Highlands file without the stress nausea, I’ll consider it, because I really do need that arc finished. Originally it was to be a trilogy–the first book where everyone meets, the Skaialan book, and then Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan–incidentally, that last book was to explain D’ri’s scar, and tie a bunch of other narrative threads pretty neatly.

Best-laid plans and all.

In any case, I’ve got to get the dogs walked and my own corpse through a run before the heat mounts to an unlivable degree, so I’m out the door as soon as the last bit of coffee is swilled. Happy Pride Month, everyone, and I hope your Tuesday goes smooth as silk.

If it doesn’t, we can get out the machetes and the RPGs, and teach it not to mess with us.

Over and out…

Knitting Weekend

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The weekend was almost as exhausting as the week it closed out, wasn’t it. Whew.

But it also held good things, and this morning I want to focus on the good things. On Saturday I decided to do something I’ve never done before, and livestreamed a bit on Twitch. It wasn’t much–just me sitting, knitting, bitching, and answering questions from the chat. There were a lot of questions about writing, and a lot of me staring blankly because I couldn’t think of anything to say. I am told I have a restful voice, though.

It was an interesting experience. I intend to have some regular Saturday sessions, only for as long as it’s fun. I’ve promised myself the power to can the whole experiment the moment it becomes un-fun. it was nerve-wracking and exhausting but also cool to get Reader questions in realtime, though I’m sure my frequent digressions are maddening.

Come Sunday, there was a full day of chores, and finally I could settle with more knitting and Secrets of Great British Castles, which was fun to binge and deeply interesting. (There was a lot of knitting this weekend.) Of course I did a lot of doomscrolling, too.

I can barely look away.

Still, it’s Monday, which means work. There are copyedits to get done, and the last thing on the master to-do list hanging over my desktop–finishing the zero of HOOD‘s Season Three–to strike off. I have been waffling about what serial to do next. It might be Division Seven, it might be the story spurred by my Sapphire & Steel binge… I am also thinking about whether or not I want to try The Highlands War as a serial, but the chance of someone being pissy and torrenting chapters, thereby killing the entire series all over again, is not really one I want to run.

Before I get started on that, though…

Last Thursday I blogged about cookies and the fascist rioters storming the US Capitol. I woke up this morning to find a commenter (who has apparently had comments approved here before, which is how this particular one got through the mod queue) taking issue with my loathing of fascists, and telling me I had LOST a READER because of it.

I shall repeat my response here, so there is absolutely no confusion, grey area, or lack of clarity: GOOD. If my loathing of racists and fascists means you won’t buy my books, GREAT. I do not want you or your money. Off is the direction in which you may fuck.

I am deeply and genuinely baffled that this commenter thought they’d get any other response. At least it gives me the chance to be absolutely clear about where I stand. And that, as they say, is that.

I’m doing my best to focus on the good things–the dogs thrilled to be embarking on another day of adventures and snuggles, the kids going about their own lives full of daily victories and setbacks to share, books to write, knitting to do, friends to cheer on and console, the cedars at the back fence to talk to, a run to accomplish, coffee to drink, the prospect of lunch, the fact that I’m still breathing. There are good things still, and things worth fighting for.

Gods grant I don’t forget it.

So, to end in a more pleasant place, what good/fun things are happening in your slice of the world? Tell me all about it, if you’ve a mind to–no matter how small. Tiny victories are still victories, indeed.

After all, we’re still here. And I think that’s grand.

Coffee, Cats, Banquet

My goodness, I get mail. Do I ever get mail.

In response to several recent questions, no, there is not a projected date for The Highlands War, which is book 4 of Steelflower. The ongoing piracy means I can’t afford to take time to write it, frankly. Yelling at me because you want to download it for free off a torrent site is not going to make me work on it, either.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s a Tuesday, and the only thing dragging me out of bed was the prospect of coffee. Well, that and the fact that the dogs needed a loo break after a hard night spent trying to get under me to sleep. They both long to be as close as possible, though Miss B is, like many elderly beings, a light sleeper and is up and down several times a night to seek the tile floor in the loo when she gets too warm.

Boxnoggin, however, picks a spot and stays there, at least until B moves and he can get into a better spot. He’s a great believer in patience winning the battle of location. Although he rarely uses said patience for anything else in his canine life. Especially cats.

Man, does he ever want to catch a cat or two. Even the rabbits down the street don’t fill him with as much frustrated longing, although you’d think a terrier would be more into rodents than felines. But no, it’s a big juicy cat Boxnoggin wants, to love and lick and SHAKE.

I’ve tried explaining to him that they’ll last longer if he just cuddles them, but the terrier in him is absolutely baffled by this chain of logic and insists shaking is the proper way to show affection to small things. So, no cats for him, just toys.

It will frustrate him, but better that than the alternative.

Today I have a Banquet of Death to write in the epic fantasy. All sorts of stuff has been boiling away, and it’s about to bubble over. I realized last night I could cut a planned sub-arc and that will save me around 15-20k words, although the arc can be added in later if the rest of the book isn’t hanging properly. But I think it’ll be fine.

If I can turn in another few 5-6k days like yesterday, I might even finish a messy, hole-laden zero this week, which would be ever so nice. There’s a whole lot of brackets in this thing, though, since the entire last half of the book has been laboring under pandemic stress.

I suppose I’d best get to it. Tuesday is marshaling its forces, and I’d really like to get this particular Big Goal off my plate. All I need is to draw a line through the zero; that’s all I’m asking out of this week. We’ll see if it happens; be kind to yourselves today, my beloveds; remember, survival is the victory.

Percy Rolls For Me

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We’ll return to the tale of Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable on Monday. For right now, meet Percy, my liver-shaped D&D mascot.

My current D&D character (I’m playing online with a few friends; we’re using Roll20 and Discord to handle communications and other minutiae) is a baby high elf cleric with an… interesting… upbringing. Somehow, she’s gotten in the habit of collecting organs from those NPCs silly enough to choose combat over discussion with our group1, so her best in-game friend (the rogue with several false identities who just had to steal from the banshee during that one session, don’t ask, we survived, it’s good enough) sent her this beautiful plush liver from IHeartGuts.

His name is Percy, and during our next D&D sessions he’s going to roll for me. Maybe he’ll have better luck with the strength checks than I do. I can hope, right? (Of course, who needs strength when your charisma’s insanely high?)

The world is on fire, but I’m looking forward to having some fun with my group tonight. I hope you have something pleasant to take refuge in as well, dear Reader. If anything can save us, it’s human connections–and it doesn’t get much more human than playing games.

Have a lovely weekend.