Soundtrack Monday: No Difference

Blood Call

A long, long while ago, my writing partner and I were at a restaurant, and our server’s name was Josiah. It’s an old-fashioned name, and delighted both of us. Somehow during dinner, we both promised (each other, of course, the server was oblivious) to write a book with a Josiah as a character.

Blood Call was mine. It started with the name, and a single image: an old-fashioned (so to speak) flip phone vibrating on a ruthlessly clean desk and a man standing in shadow across the room, staring at it like it was a venomous snake before he lunged to pick it up.

When I was interrogating Josiah about the phone and why it was so important to him, Everything But the Girl’s No Difference cued up, and suddenly he started talking. You fix a drink, because it’s time to drown... the clock speeds up, and it slows right down

Anyway, Kit Marlowe showed up way later in the game, and a great deal of time later than that the book was bought, but its inception was a dinner with one of my favorite people and a single word, a name. Of course, I write books at the least provocation, but this one’s origin story is rather sweet, I think.

Enjoy.

From Every End

I finally have coffee this morning, no thanks to the dogs. Now I just have to wait for it to cool to a drinkable temperature.

It’s always something.

I spent the weekend doing housework and watching Buzzfeed Unsolved videos. (I like the true crime ones; life is always, always weirder than fiction.) It was pleasant to stay away from the news, though I made the mistake of looking Sunday morning.

The murderous carnival continues, piping merrily down the road to fascist hell.

Anyway, Season Two of HOOD starts this week. I’m going to try to get everything done in two seasons for this serial, but there’s no promises–there’s the FĂȘte and then the Rescue, and they might need a season apiece. After that, unless a publisher buys it, we’ll start Rook and Rose, the first book of which is Hell’s Acre.

That’s the plan, at least. Things are all up in the air here. It would be nice if a Certain Publisher would pay me what they owe; that way I could get the bank holding the mortgage in a fractionally better mood. Writers get it from every end, from theft of our work by piracy or plagiarism to credit woes because we’re basically freelancers. If we don’t pay our bills we suffer consequences, but if publishers/distributors don’t pay us we have little recourse unless we’re already wealthy enough to afford legal representation. It’s a shitshow, frankly, and though I’ve hustled to keep body and soul (and children and dogs) together for multiple years now I’m beginning to get a bit tired.

Just a bit.

In any case, I have plenty of cardamom in my coffee, everyone here at least has their health, and I have more work coming out. I even started writing a story last night, longhand in a spiral notebook as if I was still in high school. It may want to be written entirely that way, which means it’ll already be half-revised by the time the zero’s done, since I’ll have to type it from the handwritten pages. That will be interesting, I’ve rarely had a book come out that way before. Much of Rattlesnake Wind was written that way, and some of She Wolf and Cub. The lucky book choosing to come out that way this particular time is Memory Game, where a woman wakes up in a hospital bed and doesn’t know who she is.

I need to research trauma amnesia now. Hm.

Anyway, best to keep it sharklike–keep swimming or I’ll drown, and wear a big smile. At least there’s coffee, and I can worry about the stack of paperwork on my desk later.

Over and out.

Brain, Thunderdome

HOOD

I’m a little excited, my dear little sparrows. HOOD‘s Season One comes out next Tuesday (you can download a free teaser here) and I’m trying some new things with distribution and marketing, so we’ll see how that works out. It’ll be nice to have the first season off my plate, since I’m already 30K into the second. I think I can get this done in two seasons, and if publishers don’t snap up Hell’s Acre I’ll do that as the next one. (Considering Season 2 is going to be long, though, there’s plenty of time. For once.)

I’m also revising Incorruptible, which will probably drop in September. There’s other releases scheduled around then, but none under my real name. (Yes, I know you’ll all want details. As soon as I can disclose them I will, not a second before or after.)

Today, however, Serial Time subscribers (on Gumroad or Patreon) get the final ebook for HOOD: Season One way before anyone else does. It’s a tiny thank-you for their support. That small, consistent support means I can plan around several vagaries of daily life and publishing, which means the rest of you get more to read. So, thank you, subscribers! All my other readers owe subscribers a vote of thanks as well, because the books resulting from that support go out into the world.

New release stress is pleasant (mostly), but it’s still…well, stress, and added to the illness of a dear friend and a few other woes, I’m feeling rather in the low end of the pool lately. Work is the only panacea, even if one has to swim against the current of imposter syndrome.

In short, I’m a little tender-skinned. Summer is hardly my favorite time, though by all rights it should be–it’s when the kids are home from school (though the Princess is out of school and working by now) and work dials back a bit. You’d think I’d enjoy it, but I find myself longing for autumn and the rains.

I always work better when it’s raining.

I suppose there’s nothing to do but stick to the plan. It’s never comfortable when one’s brain decides to try killing its container, but like any villain, it can be outwitted. Having an adversarial relationship with one’s own brain isn’t the recommended way to get through life, but one works with what one has.

Anyway, I’d best get a run in before the heat makes everything unbearable. Despite my current bleak mood, I am excited for Robb, Marah, Giz, and the gang to make their debut. It’s just that the excitement is trapped in Thunderdome with a particular brand of anxiety-laced depression.

I can’t decide if I’m Max or Auntie. I suppose I just have to wait to see what happens.

Time to get punching on Thursday, chickadees. Over and out.

Eleventh Hour

Afterwar

I recently read Dachau 29 April 1945–finished it yesterday, as a matter of fact. It’s a collection of interviews and letters by the American division who first entered Dachau in 1945–I don’t know if I can say they liberated the place, because who can ever be set free of such things?

I’ve sometimes wondered if all nation-states have periods of brutal (internal or external) conquest married to racism as a matter of course, and the only thing stopping such things is geographic luck (double luck for their neighbors, no doubt), lack of resources, or just simply not being old or cohesive enough as a country to allow the racism time and space to grow and bear its awful fruit.

When I was younger I likened it to teenage acting-out, but that analysis implies a lack of responsibility. I don’t think it’s an inevitable stage of development either, but the curse of reading history is seeing countries and people turn in spirals, deepening atrocities with each pass.

The concentration camps for immigrants are a hot current news item; also hot is a bunch of apologists saying “they’re not so bad” and “you can’t call them concentration camps.” To the former I can only say “yes, they are, your racism is showing,” to the former, I will simply say, “Yes, I can, because that’s exactly what they are. Oh, and your racism is showing.”

“But there are no ovens!” some fuckwit racist apologist will wail, to which I reply, “Not yet.” There are no mass graves yet–or are there? Frankly, we don’t know, and the way things are going, I believe we will be extraordinarily lucky if the cycle of genocide is interrupted before we get to walls of bodies tumbling into bulldozer-dug pits. And if we are that goddamn lucky somehow, some racist fuckwits will try to use that sheer dumb luck to say “oh, it wasn’t so bad, you’re exaggerating,” because they know the comfortable disbelief of the half-somnolent who aren’t directly affected (yet) is their best cover.

The most hideous thing about this is that it’s not a natural disaster. It’s not an earthquake or a typhoon, it’s not a forest fire or a flood. People are doing this. People with hands shaped just like yours and mine, people who go home at the end of the day to their families or just to their solitary lives. People are caging, brutalizing, raping, and beating other people. The abusers look like you or me, they kiss their children, they drive to work and think about traffic. They are neighbors and friends and bring potluck dishes to events, they put shoes on feet that look just like yours, my friend, and just like mine.

We’re doing this to ourselves. Sometimes I think humanity deserves to be wiped from the planet if this is how we’re going to behave. Oh, Terra will still revolve, and Nature will wipe all traces of us and our catastrophe away, and in a few billion years the vastness of the globe will be alive with bird and whale song, whispering with wind through trees maybe stunted by fallout and long-ago pollution but still alive and murmuring. The planet’s going to be just fine after we choke on our own blood as a species.

Occasionally, the prospect even comforts me.

I don’t hold out a lot of hope. I used to think people could change, but change is painful and many prefer to stay miserably oblivious, content to let the rich and the malignant destroy everyone else as long as there’s a chance the bootlickers and crumb-stealers will remain unmolested. Which is a fool’s game–sooner or later, even the bootlickers are kicked.

Yes, I read that book deliberately. When I saw it on the library shelf I thought let’s try, and if I can finish it and honestly not see where current events are going echoed in those pages, I’ll hang up my crystal ball and keep my mouth shut.

Well.

You see where I ended up. There is no way to look away or keep one’s mouth shut. It’s not quite the eleventh hour before the apocalypse–but really, do we need it to be the eleventh hour before we put a stop to the bullshit?

Do we?


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Tired. Just Tired.

Yesterday I did a thread about how much I hate seeing female action stars (or backup dancers) in heels. Cue a deluge of asshattery in my email inbox from guys who tell me I’m ruining all movies by having an opinion on social media.

Just another day, ho hum. No death threats yet, but they can’t be far behind.

I suppose I should view it as a sign that what I’m saying is almost becoming important, since the Misogyny Troll Brigade only comes after women they think have a chance of being heard and believed. At the same time…I’m tired. I’m just so damn tired.

Even getting up in the morning is becoming a chore. Tearing my heart out, over and over, to write stories is what I was meant and made for, but it’s still exhausting and the mass of misogyny, violence, bigotry, and hatred makes for rough swimming.

I often think about how much better it would be–how many more amazing stories, paintings, music, sculpture, poems–there would be if we weren’t struggling under that mass. It would be lovely…but so many people contribute to the stone over our living graves, either by inertia (very common) or by conscious evil (least common) or by just not caring when the boot lands on a human face as long as the face doesn’t look like theirs (most common of all).

Then I shake myself, smile ruefully, and get back to work. And yet…I’m so tired.

So, so tired. And I have no answer.

It will be better tomorrow, I suppose. But every once in a while, I wonder why I bother when so many people are seemingly determined to either be cruel or ignore cruelty until it reaches their very doorstep–and by then it’s too late.

*sigh* I’m gonna go pet the dogs now, and let them help me feel better. It’s not a panacea, but it’s damn close and I’m lucky to have it.

Over and out.

Associated Disruptions

It was a long strange weekend, but at least I got all the housecleaning done. And thanks to the fireworks ban, both the dogs and I were quite calm all the way through. There was artillery in the distance, certainly, but we didn’t have any mortars popping near the house, which I am devoutly grateful for.

Also, I’ve been experimenting with BookFunnel. The first half-dozen or so chapters of Harmony are available for free download here; when HOOD gets its wrap cover and begins wending its way through the last quarter of the publication process there will be a free teaser for it as well. I might put some other freebies up, just to see how they do and if they drive interests to other titles. Might even put up a Freebies & Swag page, but I need to think carefully about whether or not I want the deluge of entitled demands it might spark.

I also spent the weekend polishing off a few books–reading, not writing. The Coldest Winter and The Coldest City, as well as a graphic novel adaptation of The King in Yellow, kept me occupied for an afternoon; I also finished James Holland’s The Rise of Germany and polished off two Christine Feehan novels. The last are like crack, I can’t read just one, kind of like Shannon McKenna novels. Now I’m on to a history of the Byzantine state, which is filling certain lacunae in my understanding of just how things were administered in the late Roman empire.

What I wanted was to get a few more chapters of Season Two done, but the Glorious Fourth and associated disruptions put paid to that little dream. But I got the revised cover list off to the artist, and there’s plenty of time for everything that needs to get done for the next couple books.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few days thinking about growing up, logistics, rain, how to get a prince back to his homeland, whether or not I want to write The Highlands War, whether or not I truly want to write Hell Tide, how I’m going to get Maid Marian dancing with Prince John, genetic plasticity, and a whole host of other things I’d put on hold to think about after HOOD‘s Season One was sorted. Now all those things have come back to roost and I must give each the time they demand, from a few moments’ worth to a day or so of concentrated thought while the rest of me goes about the business of living.

It’s a form of mental housekeeping. Plenty of writing is keeping the creative cauldron bubbling at a certain pressure so the steam moves everything through one’s internal tubes. Weird facts, historical narratives, tangential fiction–all these things are fuel. So is the habit of observation when I have to leave the house, storing up notes on how these human creatures behave.

Can’t write what you don’t understand or observe. It’s probably the only use of my over-sensitive empathy that won’t drain me to transparency and leave me day-drinking. (Of course, I can’t drink without getting hives now anyway, but you know what I mean.)

In any case, today is for getting a needle back in the groove of work. There’s Incorruptible to revise and HOOD‘s Season Two to pile bricks for, and Hell’s Acre to think about. I’m pretty sure the last will be the next serial, which will be super fun to write. I always did like steampunk.

I hope your weekend was pleasant, dear readers, and that there was a paucity of artillery in your neck of the woods as well. I’ve got a bellydancing bagpiper to listen to while I write, and honestly, since my coffee is staying down, I really can’t imagine anything better.

Over and out.

Waffles and Huck

Steelflower in Snow

The Princess beat me at resurrecting this morning, so she made me coffee; also, a crow has decided that the gutter right over my office window is the premium perch for keeping an eye on the backyard. I’m most of the way through Holland’s The Allies Strike Back, too, though I’ll have to grab book one of the trilogy from the library next. I dislike reading history out of order, but there’s nothing to be done for it.

Yesterday was pure Monday, ameliorated only by the prospect of waffles for dinner1 and the fact that HOOD really isn’t a bad story. When I finished the zero of Season One, I was feeling kind of low and like I wouldn’t be able to pull the series off, but now I’m much more sanguine. There’s one more revise after this, but first I’ve got to get through the initial pass. Thankfully, layering in more details and adding things I didn’t know when I started writing is the sum of the edits; structurally, the book holds up rather well.

I’m also reading Huckleberry Finn with the Princess. I’ve halted at the point where the king and duke show up, mostly because that’s when the narrative takes a turn and I want all my faculties about me during the Nonesuch and Mary Jane bits. If I have a favorite novel, the honor must go to Jane Eyre, but Huck is definitely in the top five2. One of the best school papers I ever wrote was a monstrous (somewhere around twenty pages, single-spaced, typed on a balky old manual typewriter) examination of the Mississippi as a symbol. I’m sure the teachers were not at all prepared for what they got, but I’d found a list purporting to be the right way to write college essays and followed it to the letter. Not only did I approach every damn thing the list said, I threw in all the alternatives they had listed under the main paragraph idea breakdowns.

I was a real joy to teach, I’m sure. But I got an A on that fucking paper.

This particular critical edition has the raftsmen’s scene in it, and I can see why Twain (or his editor) excised it; I can also see why Twain would want it in. And of course the breathless racism is jarring. Every time I read the n-word it’s like a punch to the gut, and while I still admire the scene where Huck says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,”3 it doesn’t work unless Huck absolutely believes that the right thing to do is to turn Jim in. Even the right decision is suspect and provisional in a racist culture, and it’s sobering to unpick the logical consequences and knock-on effects.

And to see how little has changed since Twain wrote in the aftermath of the Civil War. I don’t quite see Huck as an answer to the war, though. Twain was struggling with endemic issues much as Dickens did (though with much more humor, it must be said) but the lacunae are huge. It makes one wonder about one’s own blind spots, swimming in different (but directly descended) cultural waters.

Or at least, it should, and if it doesn’t you should make it.

I tend not to halt to allow fellow readers to catch up while book-clubbing. Instead, I swallow the book whole, and if my fellow clubbers fall behind I go back and read certain bits to keep my memory fresh. So we’ll see how it goes. The Princess has the same edition I do, and wants to read critically, so it’s much slower for her than for me. I have about twenty years’ worth of skill she doesn’t, but on the other hand, she sees things I don’t, so I’m really looking forward to her analysis.

For a little while, after finishing Poison Prince revisions, I crawled into a movie or TV show at the end of the day, just stuffing my head with visuals to get my brain to stop chewing at itself. Now I’m in the secondary phase of recovery, where I’m stuffing text in; I’m crawling to the couch with a book instead. The kids are somewhat downcast, because watching movies with Mum is apparently pretty hilarious, but they’ll bring their Switches out and play quietly while I read, and every once in a while someone will say something amusing and we’ll all laugh. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.

I just have to get a full day’s work in before I can get there, which means I need to get out the damn door and run. Breakfast hasn’t quite settled but at least I’m pretty sure I won’t lose my coffee if I head out, and that’s the important thing.

Over and out, my dears.