Not Quite Planned

Rain last night and a sunny morning; I can almost feel the grass stretching, not to mention the grapevines, the hop vine, and the salvia. I’m sure the foxglove out front is pretty happy too, and the blueberries appear to have taken transplanting well. I also woke up with Janet Jackson’s Black Cat in my head at high volume, so of course I had to listen to it and dance a bit before brekkie.

Yesterday was a complete, total, utter Monday. At least it lived up to its name; one has to admire the thoroughness with which some days set out to become annoyances. Oh, I have to admit Monday wasn’t bad; I got basic wordcount on both Hell’s Acre and Cold North.

But that wordcount was mostly me ripping out and redoing the architecture on a foundational scene so that things I plan for later in the serial have a proper footing. So I wrote about 1.2k, but deleted a good 800+ words, so it was fiddly, finicky work that felt like running in place. And of course after a couple of 4k+ days on Cold North, the characters are exhausted and I barely got 600 words out of them.

At least the latter were good words, and I know more about a certain character now. I think he’s got a thing for the heroine, but she’s oblivious and in any case they have plenty of problems, including escaping an elvish cave-city. The Valkyrie in the story is having a bit of a day, too. Fortunately she has a spear, and with a spear all her problems become things to be stabbed.

Funny how that works.

I don’t quite have today planned out yet. All I know is that the dogs need walking and I must run. Yesterday I burned off a lot of anxiety by hauling my carcass along at what passes for high speed–I am not anything approaching swift, mind you, but I can keep a steady pace just about forever. As long as the zombies aren’t sprinters I should do just fine. Then I think I’ll go through some more Hell’s Acre to make sure all the foundation-stones are in place before edging into new territory, and get everyone in Cold North ready to leave the damn city.

I do have revisions on Sons of Ymre to turn around in the next few months, but right now I’m going to work on fresh wordage rather than editing. I’ve spent the majority of my time recently in revision, and while I don’t really mind–it’s where a lot of magic happens–I still prefer the heat of creation.

Both dogs are slumped in a rare sunbeam coming through my office window; mornings are often cloudy and the cedars along the back fence generally block any direct glare this time of day. It’s rare for them to be able to bask, and they’re enjoying every moment of it. Still, the instant I shift to take my empty coffee cup into the kitchen and lace up my shoes, they’ll be beside themselves with glee and anticipation.

I have only a few more minutes of quiet left before that, and I plan to use them breathing deeply. See you around, beloveds.

Hellebores and Chorin’

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So far Monday hasn’t been its usual sweet self, but then again, neither have I. At least the hellebores are still blooming.

Half the weekend was spent working despite my best efforts; I meant to take it completely off and get a bunch of chores done but 4k of Cold North fell out of my head. One of the elves brought the heroine a gift with teeth, and I just had to see how that worked out.

Sometimes, when a story heats up, one’s required to put everything else aside and get it out of one’s aching head. Come Sunday, though, I had to get some damn chores out of the way.

So I did, and read a lot of manga. I finished Amu Meguro’s Honey So Sweet series, which was a lovely palate cleanser; then I started on the kids’ Rurouni Kenshin collection. For years, I used to take the kids to Borders (now closed, sadly) and they got one or two manga every time; as a result, they’ve quite the mountain of right-to-left reading. Years of the kids excitedly telling me everything about the stories at the dinner table mean it’s like meeting old friends. They can talk for hours about plot points, ins and outs, and character motivations; I love listening.

I like manga a bit more than anime; I’ve always liked reading more than just about anything else. The kids are fond of Yu Yu Hakusho in anime form, and if I ever got around to watching it I’m sure I’d recognize everyone just from the descriptions I’ve gotten during dinner.

As a result of dipping my toe into the manga waters again, the Princess is reading Hellsing once more, and the Prince is watching a new anime he’s going to give us all a rundown of at the dinner table. I’m sure the kids will argue about the difference between Hellsing‘s manga and anime form, and I will once again mutter about Vampire Hunter D.

Goodness, that takes me back. Wow.

In any case, I also got a chunk of chorin’ done, including sweeping the garage and taking a swipe at the car upholstery. Miss B got a bath once the Princess got home–she was furious, of course. The funniest thing about bath days is about an hour after the washing is done, when Miss B is still damp but doesn’t remember quite why, she only suspects something dreadful happened and is determined to express her displeasure through interpretive dance around my feet.

She gets many a pet, pat, and treat to make up for the horror of being bathed, poor thing. And of course Boxnoggin needs a brushing (his skin gets irritated with too much bathing; he is a very slick-coated fellow) and many a pet, pat, and treat as well. He loves bath days–unless it’s time for him to get in the tub.

That was the weekend; now it’s Monday again, and neither the day nor I are quite ready for it. I’ll be all right once I have a run under my belt and a few moments to fall into a story. Not quite sure what’s going to happen in Cold North today, but I know precisely what Hell’s Acre needs next, and that’s a very tired heroine learning the rooftops of an alt-historical Victorian London.

She might even make a few friends, or at the very least, engage in combat with a very surprised hero.

And of course when I get to bed tonight there’s a nice big omnibus of Rurouni Kenshin to make my way through. It’s something to look forward to; I’ve just got to survive Monday’s attempts to shake me from its back. And I should water those hellebores.

I think today’s run will sink my teeth firmly into the day’s ruff, and once that happens I’m impossible to get rid of.

Off I go, then. Wish me luck.

Sunny Spring, and a New Serial

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I usually do a Friday photo, but this is a special week. I just got the covers for the next serial after HOOD, along with this shiny graphic to announce its advent. Pretty neat, right? The covers are from the inimitable IndigoChick Designs; I love Skyla’s work.

HOOD1 will finish in May, and subscribers in the relevant tiers will get the unedited and edited ebooks of Season Three for free2. I’ll take the last week of May off, then Nest Egg and Serial Time subscribers will be able to automagically dive right into the first season of Hell’s Acre starting in June.

I describe Hell’s Acre as “alt-Victorian Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate mixed with The Da Vinci Code in a world where the Roman Empire didn’t fall to Christianity or the Vandals”, so there’s a whole lot I’m excited to play with. Fans of Bannon & Clare will like the return to a London of steampunk and grime, though there will be no sorceresses3.

Hell’s Acre should run in two seasons; I have (for once) something approaching an outline. Of course the tale will grow in the telling, as it always does, and I’m already finding out things I didn’t know about the characters. It’s nice to be in the joy-of-discovery phase instead of the revision phase.

And with that I’m off to spend a Friday writing, beloveds. I’m very excited for what the next few months will bring, which is a super nice change from last year. I hope you have a fine weekend; I intend to spend mine writing and watering, since we’re having a sunny spring indeed.

Retrenchment

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue blogging. It’s not that I want to stop–I enjoy it, which is a good enough reason for continuing. And it’s not quite a journal or diary, because those are separate and private. I suppose it’s always been a way of shouting into the void, even during the ol’ LJ days.

Man. Livejournal. That takes me back.

Every once in a while I look to see if I want to keep doing it. I used to have more post ideas–there were Soundtrack Mondays and Friday Writing posts, for example. But then 2020 hit, and kept hitting.

And kept hitting, and kept hitting. And kicked for good measure.

I know everything changes. Still, I miss telling backyard stories. (There was a squirrel on the deck while we were having dinner just the other day, and the quick movement when all three of us involuntarily checked for footwear was hilarious.) Norbert the Gargoyle is in a new home–I never did tell you guys how that turned out–and the gnomes, from Emphysema Joe on down, are their usual cranky selves. We have a new crop of squirrels, though–the old ones have either changed their territories or moved on.

Brief is the life of a garden squirrel.

In short, there’s a lot going on, but getting it all down is the difficult part. There’s been so much else to talk about. Plague, war, fascist coup–all of it’s exhausting.

There’s no ringing conclusion or grand decision today. I’m just…looking at things. And I don’t think I want to make any hard and fast resolutions until there’s been at least a short period of calm. The news cycle hasn’t been pummeling me like it did last year, for which I am devoutly grateful, and yet the hole we were cast into is just so deep, getting out is an epic in and of itself.

Speaking of which, how am I writing two epics at once? There’s Hell’s Acre (which premieres in June) and Cold North, both massive undertakings. But then, I’m not really myself if I’m not juggling slightly1 more than I think I can manage. I’ve edits coming down the pike too–a final look at The Bloody Throne, revision on the second half of The Black God’s Heart, and today I hear from an editor about Sons of Ymre.

Publishing is such a delayed-gratification game. It’s unreal. By the time a book hits shelves, I’m already two years farther down the road. Also, Moon’s Knight is resting with a certain other editor now, and if they don’t take it, I’ll be looking for a cover. Because dammit, my beta readers deserve to see that book out in the wild, sooner or later.

The amount of work I managed to get done last year is somewhat shocking. I didn’t think I’d done anything at all. Looking back and realizing “no, Lili, you kept working frantically because the alternative was sinking in quicksand” is…well, not quite uncomfortable, but not pleasant either.

I suppose it’s a measure of hope that I keep going, both with the books and with blogging. I’ve always hoped that seeing the life of a working writer a little closer–though not intimately, I save that for other spaces–might help other writers feel a little less alone. This kind of career is both achingly lonely (when there’s nothing but you and the blank page) and shockingly crowded (when one deals with agent, editors, marketing, production staff, and all the other quality-control staff). The dichotomy can drive one mad.

I mean, if one isn’t already mad just contemplating this kind of work. It does tend to rattle one’s bolts.

Case in point: When I started this post, I was thinking solely about whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I’ve ended up amazed at the amount of work I did last year under some harsh conditions, and am bracing myself for another glut of revisions to fall on my head.

So it goes, I guess. And through it all, the dogs need walking and I need caffeine–the withdrawal headaches are no fun at all. So I bid you a fond adieu, beloved Reader.

But only for a short while. I think I’ll keep blogging after all.

Over and out.

No More Anvil

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I lost Sunday to post-vaccine fatigue. I’m not entirely sure if the exhaustion was from my body being taught how to fight off the plague or the sheer relief of getting the first dose. I suppose it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Spending yesterday catching up on Sunday chores means I feel like today’s Monday. It isn’t, I swear I know it isn’t–but I keep checking, just in case. I probably need more coffee, too.

That’s a given.

Walkies were accomplished in a state of near quietude. There was nobody else out, which meant the dogs could take their time and Boxnoggin wasn’t disposed to yell at anything. He’s very certain any fellow pedestrian is suspect at best and openly threatening at worst, especially if they’re accompanied by their own canine duennas. Miss B, of course, just rolls her eyes and nips at him, but that sets him off further and I have to separate them like toddlers in the ball pit.

All the time I’m telling him, “This is why nobody will play with you, you’re bossy and mean. If you’d calm down I’d let you say hello–No? This is how you want it? FINE.”

Other walkers no doubt find this hilarious.

Today’s run, the first post-vaccine, went extremely well. So much of running is a mental game, I literally can’t tell if it’s just the relief making the activity easier or if the vaccine has genuinely wiped out some long-hauler’s syndrome. It doesn’t help that we were never able to get tested to see if we’d had the damn plague, but at least the entire question’s academic now. I managed a full run, though somewhat slower than usual. I’m going to blame the time off after finishing the diptych and the further recovery time after the jab.

Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on social media, but I felt like changing it up today. It’s just such a blessing not to carry the anvil anymore. And there were a few bees, bumbling into my hair and making themselves at home for a short while before staggering out, falling into the air, and zooming away upon their regular business.

I don’t even know, man. But it’s nice to be back. Today I work on Hell’s Acre, getting chapters ready for the June launch–there’ll be a cover reveal soon–and also a little on Cold North, since I want that in good shape before I make final decisions on my post-June writing schedule. Soon I’ll be getting revisions, proofs, and other stuff back, so I’ll be complaining about revising when what I really want to do is write.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. For now, there’s more caffeine to be had, and plunging into a fresh new world to accomplish.

I can’t wait.

Pleasant Waiting

I woke up from a barrage of weird Silmarillion dreams (I’m doing a reread) to find Looney Tunes playing inside my head at full volume–orchestral stingers, Bugs and Daffy singing tunes, a whole Coyote-and-Roadrunner cartoon’s background music playing on loop.

It’s interesting inside my skull. Especially right after I finish a book.

I’d thought that taking a day completely off–no work, no chores, nothing even resembling proper nutrition, even–would cut down on the recovery time from finishing what is, in essence, one very large book broken into a diptych. It doesn’t appear to have; I’m still nerve-scoured and twitching.

I did get some gardening done yesterday, though. Many of the seeds are old, so we might not have a good yield. But if even one sprouts, it’ll be more than we had before. I’m not even going to try tomatoes this year; they only bring grief and pain.

Instead it’s pumpkins, beans, and peas, blue hyssop, nasturtiums everywhere (I love the peppery little darlings) and sunflowers (we’ll see if the squirrels leave any of those to sprout), rudbeckia and a bag of seeds I’m not quite sure of. They may be California poppies; that’ll be nice.

We’re supposed to get some rain soon. I know better than to turn on the sprinklers in April. Another thing that only causes grief and pain.

It takes a while, but yes, I can be taught.

I probably was inspired to actually get outside by a couple documentaries on the Emerald Triangle. I watched Netflix’s Murder Mountain, then went straight into Hulu’s Sasquatch, which was surprisingly good. I suppose my inner hippie perked up; go figure, I watch stuff about weed harvesting while knitting and am tempted to braid my hair up and plant beans.

Growing into the hippie I always knew I was has some benefits. Even the rosebush I was pretty sure wouldn’t make it is showing signs of resurrecting. The roses have all summer to recover, and–drumroll please–both grapevines as well as all three blueberry bushes are alive and well too. The grape I moved to along the north fence is showing fresh leaves; I’ll have to trim it once the season’s over because otherwise it’ll try to take over the dogwood. But that’s fine.

Even the tiny oak seedling I replanted, pretty sure it wouldn’t make it, has fresh, hard red little buds on the branch-tips. Considering it’s from a stray squirrel-hidden acorn, it’s doing really well. I put a couple peas near its roots to maybe get some nitrogen into the soil.

All told, the garden’s doing better than I thought it would. It was therapeutic to get my hands in the dirt. Now all I do, as mentioned, is wait for rain and try to get out to do some weeding every once in a while. The kids are excited at the chance to help, since they’re both old enough and the Prince will have his last totally free summer on his hands in a month and a half.

He won’t want to spend it weeding, but we’ll have downed branches and stuff to burn, and that’s right up his alley. The ash makes a good addition to the compost pile, too.

I would go out and do more today, but the Looney Tunes music inside my head is sort of disconcerting. I mean, the last thing I want to do is step on a rake, and I feel like my brain is warning me there’s a stratospheric chance of hijinks if I test the patience of the gods. So maybe I’ll just try to get some work arranged. Not done, mind you–just arranged.

After all, there’s Hell’s Acre to get situated and Cold North to fully schedule, not to mention getting the master to-do list and the hoovering I didn’t get done this past weekend sorted. But every once in a while I’ll look out the window, waiting for rain.

It’s a pleasant kind of waiting when you know the forecast says “soon.”

Over and out.

The Diptych, Done

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I’m gonna need a few days to recover from the weekend. I spent said weekend in a fever of typing, and the zero draft of The Black God’s Heart Book 2 is now…done.

Whew.

It’s a difficult project, because it’s not really two books. It’s one monstrous book split into two parts, a diptych. I’m used to working in book-sized chunks, but I feel the way a fresco painter must have felt when finishing a giant cathedral piece. I mean, there will be revision, especially on Part II, but the main corpus is out of my head and lies, steaming gently, on a zinc table ready for slicing, arranging, padding, and painting.

To mix a metaphor.

So for the next few days I’m going to be all but useless. I did manage some Sunday chores yesterday, but the hoovering is going to have to bloody well wait. I’ll probably get it done tomorrow as an antidote to thinking; a big spate of physical cleaning is normal after I finish a zero draft.

The “real world”–the world outside my head–looks strangely flat this morning. It’s not being filtered through the story throbbing in my head. Black God’s Heart is hypersaturated, its palette either greens and bright gold light (in Nat’s POVs) or sepia with crimson highlights (very movie-300, in Dmitri’s). Now that the zero is gone, both of them have moved on and I’m left with just the regular world. Not only that, but the scents are gone too–which is kind of a blessing, given how some of the scenes played out.

Fortunately, the real world is always beautiful and vivid enough. It’s just a huge change to go from four or five-plus streams of sensory input (regular world, what’s under the regular world, and stories’ POVs) to the regular two (regular world and what lies under it). There’s a sort of ringing echo, a sense of empty space, like after Faure’s Requiem ends and the silence containing beauty is brimming with the memory.

Anyway, I’ve plans to recover from this, involving getting through the daily run and a whirlwind of cleaning. The recovery phase is always difficult. The persistent feeling that this was the last leftover gauntlet of 2020 to run–because I wrote most of this project last year–has been a millstone around my neck, and being suddenly free of that weight is a decompression sickness all its own.

Usually, the morning after a zero, I’m already aching to get to the next project. This is one of the few times I’m simply grateful for a chance to breathe before diving again. And with that, I’m going to finish my coffee and get the dogs walked.

They don’t care what I’ve finished or when; they only know that it’s morning, and that means walkies. Simple joys and rituals are their bailiwick, and I am pleased to have it so.

Over and out.