The Marked

It’s time! It’s finally time! That’s right, it’s release day for The Marked!

A winding road, a freak storm, and a lightning strike. Jude Altfall’s life, just beginning to coalesce after her divorce, is shattered afresh. Dazed with grief, she’s not sure if the weird things happening around her are hallucinations…or something more. And there’s the mark on her hip—a tattoo she can’t for the life of her remember getting.

Preston Marlock left a shadowy government agency two years ago, to hunt a killer. Each time the bastard strikes the trail goes cold, and not even Marlock’s more-than-natural abilities are helping. Now the killer’s taken one of his very few friends, and there’s a surviving witness. The Altfall woman is now that most precious and fragile of targets, newly Marked. All Marlock has to do is dangle her like bait, and the killer will eventually show up.

The Skinner knows some people are different. Special. He has a collection of stretched skin and pretty pictures, each harvested with care. The trick is to take them while the victim is still struggling, still alive, otherwise their power is lost. He is careful, methodical, and precise, but chance robs him of a prize. Once he realizes Jude Altfall has what he covets, and has possibly seen his face, her fate is sealed. And just to be cautious, the Skinner might swat at the annoying fly who has buzzed along his trail for two years.

Sometimes you survive. You bear a Mark. And some things are worse than death.

Paperback available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and independent bookstores. Ebook edition currently available through Payhip, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Special thanks are due to my Indiegogo backers, who are the best of the best (especially the lovely and gracious Ann Aguirre) and to Skyla Dawn Cameron, who helped me bring the book baby to print. And, as always, thanks go to you, my dear Readers. I hope you enjoy it

Writing The Marked was extremely difficult, and I was very sure it wouldn’t find a home in trad publishing. I’m very glad to have the resources and the backing to bring it out this way, and I hope you like it. If this book does well, I’ll be able to write Book 2, full of secret societies, conspiracies, murder, and longing.

Now doesn’t that sound like fun. If anyone needs me, I’ll be suffering my usual release day nerves over in the corner…

Dragging, Pulling

Macro Monday This morning I got the Prince off to school, absorbed coffee, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, and took Miss B and Odd Trundles for a morning walk. Trundles, despite dancing around my office groaning with the urge to Do Something, did not like that the Something required Effort. Maybe he had a game of tug in mind, but if he was going to grumble at me, a walk it was to be. He dragged the entire way, while B pulled, half a block down the hill and half a block back.

It was a looooooong half-hour, let me tell you.

Also half-pulling, half-dragging is the book. I’ve now gone too deeply into Harmony to come out now. I should be working on Afterwar, but until I know that series has a home, I can’t afford the time spent on it. Besides, Harmony is…not easier, but more assured. Less of a tightrope act and more of an unfolding.

Preparations for The Marked are on schedule, still. The copyedits have gone back to the editor, and I should have some draft covers for my perusal later this week. We’re on track for an October release, which means, of course, that Indiegogo backers will get it mid-September, at least a week (if not more) before it’s released to the world.

There’s a collaborative project on the horizon, and some decisions I need to make. But for right now, I’m happily working away on a book that’s purely a gift for someone I care about, and that’s a good feeling. I needed it, especially after the craze of revisions on Cormorant Run. Which has been orphaned, so it’s still up in the air. That sucks, because I think it’s some of my best work to date, and there’s a very real chance it won’t be published for a long, long while. *sigh* Publishing: dragging and pulling just like everything else. I should be irritated, but instead, I just keep telling myself “what do you expect, you’re a Gemini, everything is opposites.”

Not for the faint of heart, this career. With the rains returning and plenty of hot tea, though, I go soldiering on.


Grape leaf in rain Today is all about Marked copyedits. Publishing is always festino lente, and even though the kids have today off, there is no rest for the wicked or the writer. Even though my major focus is the CEs today, I’m going to alternate between them and Harmony. I started the latter as a gift to my agent and a way to keep myself occupied while waiting for a publisher or two to evacuate or get off the pot, so to speak, but it’s…growing.

It helps that gray skies have moved in. I’m more productive in the autumn, most productive in the rainy Pacific Northwest winter, middling in spring, and the summer is generally a sweat-soaked interval of beating myself over the head for diminishing returns. When the leaves start to turn and the rains sweep in, something inside me unfolds. Snowy winters, I think, wouldn’t do me much good. But the rain…it taps, it soothes, it whispers. It makes me glad to have a roof, of course. It is an immense luxury to come home from a run, sweat-soaked and miserably streaming with cold water, take a hot shower, put on dry clothes, and settle down to write.

Socks, especially. There’s just something about a good pair of socks on a rainy day. Of course, as my writing partner always gently ribs me, I’m overly concerned with my feet anyway. Dancing made me hypersensitive about my feet, my knees, and a few other things.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to more gray days, to the leaves falling, to comfortable temperatures, to thick sweaters and hot tea in the afternoons. Odd Trundles, of course, is surprised each year when the water starts to fall from the sky, and requires an adjustment period. He somehow forgets, during the summer, that such a thing as damp air exists. It’s both hilarious and a little saddening to see him high-stepping to shake his paws off, especially when he gives me a look of such mild, baffled dejection, as if suspecting I’m somehow responsible for the weather and have turned it upside-down just to mess with him.

I keep glancing out the window and seeing the clouds, the green of the cedars washed clean of summer’s dust. I know there will be at least one more torrid week or so, false summer ripening the last tomatoes, but there’s relief in sight.

School, Quiet

schoolbus Well, school has started for one-half of the children a la Chez Saintcrow. The Princess is graduated, so it’s just the Little Prince September-scrambling to get every duck in a row. Fortunately, we have enough leftover school supplies to equip a whole army of teenagers. Except a binder. A one-inch binder. I didn’t happen to have one lying about, so it was ambling through the doors of the office supply store at opening this morning to pick one up.

On the way I saw a man vomit a truly amazing volume of liquid onto the parking lot. I would have stopped to ask if he was all right, but he wiped his mouth and walked away quickly, in a straight line. So…I’m guessing he felt better?

Today there’s a long run–Miss B will be upset because she’s not allowed to come along–and a few emails I’ve put off sending. Then it’s more work on Harmony, which I will probably finish in spite of myself, and give to my agent as a gift. I spent a pretty productive hour yesterday, while waiting for the Princess who was in a job interview, sketching out the Harmony compound and listing the different people involved in the group. That sort of noodling adds depth and richness to one’s imagined world, but it’s so very easy to mistake that effort for actual writing work. One can end up with binders full of ephemera and no book. There’s no substitute for doing the damn work.

The neighborhood is very quiet since the kids have gone back to school. Especially in the evenings. I am unsure whether the incidence of broken glass on park paths will go down. Half my regular running routes are unsafe for Miss B’s paws. I’m not quite shaking my cane and yelling “YOU DAMN KIDS,” but it’s…close. Oh, how time flies.

So, in the new quiet, I’ll run, and breathe. And marvel at time flowing ever onward, as one is wont to do when one has survived multiple years past one’s expectancy.

Over and out.

War and Euphemism

httpwww I took a break from reading Foote on the Civil War to read a few books on Marines in the Pacific during WWII. I’ve since finished Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed, and last night started Robert Leckie’s Helmet For My Pillow. Very early on in the latter, I came across probably the greatest paragraph I’ve ever read in a military memoir.

Always there was the word. Always there was that four-letter ugly sound that men in uniform have expanded into the single substance of the linguistic world. It was a handle, a hyphen, a hyperbole; verb, noun, modifier; yes, even conjunction. It described food, fatigue, metaphysics. It stood for everything and meant nothing; an insulting word, it was never used to insult; crudely descriptive of the sexual act, it was never used to describe it; base, it meant the best; ugly, it modified beauty; it was the name and nomenclature of the voice of emptiness, but one heard it from chaplains and captains, from Pfc.’s and Ph.D.’s—until, finally, one could only surmise that if a visitor unacquainted with English were to overhear our conversations he would, in the way of Higher Criticism, demonstrate by measurement and numerical incidence that this little word must assuredly be the thing for which we were fighting. (Robert Leckie, Helmet For My Pillow)

It reminds me of “The Proper Use of English Word Fuck“. Sledge, bless him, could not bring himself to write about the military habit of blasphemy, and Leckie had to content himself with euphemism to describe it. But what euphemism! The structure alone of the marvelous paragraph above delights me, with its call and response, its tension of opposites resolved in a single blaring call of hilarity.

I plan on reading some James Jones too, even though novels are not quite good for me to read while writing one. Reading fiction feels like work when you’re writing it, and it can exhaust one’s slender leftover resources after a day of chipping words free of the cranium. I feel like reaching for a red pen if I read too much fiction during my writing stage or when revisions heat up. I read a lot more nonfiction because I don’t feel the urge to edit or dissect the prose inside my head. (Unless, of course, it’s egregiously bad.) The memoirs kind of straddle that line, but they’re what the Muse wants right now, and what that bitch wants she gets.

I had to put the Foote Civil War books down after reading about a raider pulling up to a Yankee whaling ship that had just killed a whale and was harvesting the fat. The raider took the crew prisoner and fired the ship and the whale’s carcass, which made my stomach turn. A useless death of a beautiful, noble creature, murdered and set afire on the sea. It’s to Foote’s credit that his description of such things is so powerful, but it turned my stomach and I had to take a break. Reading about the waves of horses dying in battle or ridden to pieces on raids is difficult, too. War is a brutal fucking waste.

Anyway, I’m deep in the first flush of honeymoon writing, working on a book that will never be sold. I should be concentrating on a paying project, but I’m stealing time to write something for my beloved agent, and enjoying the hell out of it. I love the books that grow organically from a single hallucinatory scene best, but a close second are the books I do for my writing partner or my agent because I love them and want them happy. It feels good to give a gift.

Now, after a lunch of triple-ginger gingersnaps and very cold milk, it’s back to work.

Something Solid

EXPECTOPATRONUMsmall My agent wants me to write her a YA. It’s one of the more fun ways to write a book, either for said agent or for my writing partner. It fees me up to do a lot of things I wouldn’t normally, since I’m not writing for anything but their happiness. Given my druthers, I’d probably work half on the projects that sink their teeth in my head and need to be popped and drained like an access (what a mixed metaphor, ew) and half on personally tailored books that make my writing partner or agent happy. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to do both to the extent that I have. Most of them end up selling, though no YA publishers will take Rattlesnake Wind because it’s “too brutal”. I keep telling them it’s not a YA, it’s a book with a teenage protagonist and that doesn’t automatically make it YA, but they don’t listen. Which is fine, it would kill me to have that particular book edited by committee, and I would not be graceful to suggestions like “give her another love interest!” or “make her more LIKABLE”.

Fuck that noise.

So I gave my agent a choice: Robin Hood with werewolves, or a cult–both books I have scaffolding in my head for, ready to be built upon. She picked the cult. All yesterday I was tooling around with it, turning it this way and that, and now I know where the book actually starts (which was not anything I’d written yet) and where it finishes. The things in the middle are hazy, but that’s always the way. Getting there is most of the fun.

This morning, absorbing coffee and scheduling the day out, I suddenly had the first scene. It burst upon me in hallucinatory detail, tied to a very specific sound: car tires on a long, unpaved country driveway.

When you think about it, tires crunching on gravel is one of the worst sounds in the world. It sounds like thousands of little teeth grinding away at each other, a real headache right through the ears. With the windows—even the cracked ones—open for a little bit to air the farmhouse out, it reverberated through plain rooms and rattled in my head in the kitchen, where I stood in front of the balky old stove trying to convince it to boil a pot of water. You had to watch it and not let the element go for too long, or it would blow a fuse and you’d have to troop into the cellar, past dusty shelves with non-dusty jars of preserves and pickled beets—ugh—to flip it. Well, there were other things pickled besides beets down there, to be honest. For once we hadn’t worked through all the string beans or the pickled garlic. The woodstove in the living room was hot, and I’d have to close everything up and sheet the windows before too much longer, or it wouldn’t warm up in there and I’d shiver all through the night.

*peruses paragraph above* Not bad. It needs work, of course, but there’s a definite voice in there. She’s speaking loud and clear. Next she’ll look out one of those cracked windows they have to block with towels in the winter, and see what’s coming down the drive. It won’t be pleasant, of course. It never is.

So that’s today’s work all laid out for me, a tiny feast. It’s nice to be back in the engines of creation again, after so much revising. For all its frustrations (oh, and there are plenty of those) that’s the part I like best. The heart-trembling-in-throat sense of breaking new ground, stringing together the words, uncovering the new set of people in my head and their various joys and tragedies. All this, and best of all, I can wear pyjamas while I forge a whole new world. Though today I probably won’t, since there’s other things to be accomplished.

But for most of the day, I’ll be at the forge, hearing the music of hammer and anvil, and making something solid where before was only air. Best job in the world.

Ramblin’ B


Since B is no longer capable of long runs, we ramble a lot. A ramble is at least an hour long, and we have several routes about and around. One of B’s favorites is this park that has a Little Free Library. I want very badly to put one in my front yard, but each time I mention it, someone tells me it’s a bad idea. (Sometimes I even tell myself that.) So I get my little free library fix during the rambles.

Today is the last day to get in on THE MARKED Indiegogo campaign! Remember, even if it doesn’t fully fund, you still get your perks, and the book will still be published. It will just take a little longer for the latter, and I built that time into the schedule for the book. If you like the idea, please spread the word.

And that’s it for this week, my dears. I’ll be huddling in my office for most of the weekend, ignoring the artillery fire outside. Some idiots have already started blowing up bits of native soil. My nerves are already raw, and Miss B’s are almost gone. It will be a relief when the Fourth is over.