A Whole Free Mood

It’s been a busy morning, my coffee has gone cold, and the diffuser in my office is burbling away with a little sandalwood and jasmine, mixing with petrichor coming in through my half-open window. The neighborhood is quiet, except for crow-calls and some squirrel chitterings. This morning I saw a giant black-feathered beast sitting next to an equally robust figure of an arboreal rat; they hurriedly separated when they discerned my surveillance.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I’ve also received a rash of “I have this idea, you take half a year to write it while living on air and then we’ll split the profits! Or I’ll–this is an even better deal–TAKE ALL THE PROFITS! Isn’t that great? Don’t you want to do that? Why don’t you want to do that? Where are you going? I HATE YOUR WORK ANYWAY.”

Yeah, it’s a whole mood, and it plays out the same way every. damn. time.

On a brighter note, the creative well demanded filling yesterday, so I spent some time watching the second Magic Mike movie, wrote 4k, then ended up missing bedtime because I watched Netflix’s Russian Doll start to finish in one gulp. The former was enjoyable, and I have Thoughts about the male gaze of the director focusing on male entertainers. The latter was…thought-provoking. I did not like the protagonist but I was rooting for her and for Alan, the character the story really belonged to.

That’s something I wish more narrative artists–writers in particular, but also directors–would take to heart more frequently. The protagonist is the watcher/reader’s main point of entry into the story. The story belongs, however, to the character who changes the most, and failing to recognize that is a large source of reader/viewer frustration and disappointment.

Deciding who your protagonist is and who the story actually belongs to will make the structure of the work much clearer, and will allow the storyteller–in whatever format–to push and pull said structure to get the effect they want. Along with a list of what every character in the thing desires–even the walk-ons–it’s a tool that often arrives after a great deal of trial and error, not to mention hard work. Lucky you, therefore, getting it for free!

…yeah, I’m a little salty this morning. Time to drag both dogs out for a run before the rains come in, though I never mind running under precipitation. It keeps the assholes with unleashed dogs inside, at least.

All right, Thursday. Let’s not hurt each other, okay? I’ll play gently if you will.

*puts on hockey mask*

Mental Mustelidae

The headweasels are particularly bad this morning. Back and forth they go, treating my skull like a flimsy cage. I’d love to let them out–fly, be free, never come back–but they’re stuck inside a bone bowl. There’s nothing to be done about it.

They’re independent of how many books I write or how much my children love me, independent of how much sleep I got last night or how hard I strive to be good and do good. “Do no harm and take no shit” is my mantra; why should I take shit from ghosts of people who hated and tried their best to kill or maim Child-Me?

And yet.

Meds don’t answer the head weasels, though meds can send them into protracted hibernation or blunt their sharp, tiny teeth. Proper pharmacology makes it easier to see the headweasels in their correct proportions, as distorted reflections not of the world, but of what we fear the world might be.

It’s already terrible enough out there, one doesn’t need to make it worse. Even though there’s a certain amount of frantic quasi-safety and illusionary control in imagining the worst so vividly that whatever actually happens looks like a relief. It’s still shitty, but it could be so much shittier really isn’t a healthy way to live your life, though. The wear and tear on your nerves about absolutely imaginary shittiness takes up time and energy one could be using to fight real ordure.

I should run. Make some tea. Lose myself in work for a while. I dread ending up tired, sweaty, and hammering at a book that will never sell because it’s too dark, too complex, too dangerous, too grim. Or not dark, complex, dangerous, and grim enough.

See? Headweasels, whispering in the corners, padding around the skull’s shadowed nooks, pressing their claws against the soft folds of a vulnerable brain.

The weasels just don’t seem to understand if I go down, they go down with me. They’re still determined to crash this fleshly bus into the nearest abutment at high speed. They’re not even good villains, as such things go. They’re just…balls of anxiety, with sleek fur, red eyes, and needle claws. Short-sighted, poo-flinging, nasty-tempered little idiots without even a cat’s gracefulness or (abstract and imperfectly applied) loyalty.

So I hunker down. I endure the brainweasels. I let them play and do my work while they try to bleed off precious energy. I use every strategy the therapist gave me and a few I picked up on my own. I write about the weasels to perform an old variety of sorcery: naming my enemy so I may gain power over it.

They’re uncomfortable, yes. But they’re just…thoughts. I know the power of a thought, and I know what a thought isn’t. It takes hard work over a long duration to turn small thoughts into reality, and while I’m not in charge of the thieving little mental mustelidae I am in charge of my hard work and effort. I’m the spaceship the weasels are loose in, and I can open the doors and fling us all into space at any moment.

New ones will generate if I somehow get my hands on the old, I’m sure. But I am the life support system, and I am the one living this life, and I am the one who will steer on down the highway, grimacing and pained but still in charge.

First on the agenda is a run to bring my mood back into line. Then it’s tea, and work. The weasels will scream or whisper, threaten or cajole, blandish or brandish, but I remain unmoved.

Or at least, I’m going to pretend to be unmoved, and go about my day. Good luck, everyone.

Let’s hope it works.

But Soft, Coffee

I will not ever go out uncaffeinated again. Saturday was enough for me, thanks. Having to tear my dogs away from some neckbeard’s unleashed canines–because a certain type of heavyset white man thinks that leash laws are just advisories for someone of his exalted status–while lacking a base level of caffeine in my blood is not a good time.

Pre-coffee I’m irritated with everything. EVERYTHING, even the need to breathe, not to mention clothes, or even my very flesh itself. Not to mention anyone who tries speaking to me before I have elixir in my veins. The kids get a pass, of course, and the dogs make me laugh. But otherwise? STABBY McSTABBERSON, that’s me.

I did have a lovely weekend otherwise, what with a Sekrit Projekt and a mess of housework. There were books to finish reading, too, like Luce D’Eramo’s Deviation and a very old, very tiny hardback on the French Revolution. All in all, it was pleasant–except for the jackasses who won’t leash their dogs.

Anyway, I’m using the Sekrit Projekt as a carrot to get me through HOOD‘s Season One and the next big chunk of Epic Fantasy #2. If I can just get through the rest of the epic fantasies, I swear I won’t ever make this mistake again. *sigh*

In any case, the dogs are itching for a run, and since it’s a clouding-up Monday we hopefully won’t come across any entitled chucklefucks with legal comprehension problems.

Hopefully.

I should also mention that due to ongoing piracy, there will not be an ebook edition of Steelflower in Snow. Further Steelflower books will also have to wait for me to have the time and resources to write them. At this rate, the return to G’maihallan and the Dark Mountain saga will not ever be written; if I get through the Highlands War it’ll be a miracle. If you want to be mad at someone for depriving you of Kaia’s future adventures, be mad at e-pirates and torrent sites. I wish I could demand that any further work coming out through trad publishing be paper-only, too. If it’s not the pirates stealing from a writer it’s a publisher wanting you to do unpaid clerical work finding and submitting piracy URLs before they bestir themselves to act.

I’m beginning to hate ebooks, and I really shouldn’t. It’s not the format I hate, or the readers–definitely not the readers! It’s the goddamn thieves, and the asshats who make excuses for the thievery.

Well, that’s the last of my coffee. I can’t wait for spring rains to come in. At least when it’s pouring I can run alone with the canines. I have a scene with Little John and Alan-a-Dale to write today, as well as getting back into a “tell me about these assassins” moment between a general and an astrologer. I’m swamped.

Let us embark upon Monday, chickadees. It will get better the further in we get.

Or we’ll stab it.

On Formality

I am a somewhat formal creature. My emails start with “Dear Sir/Madam” most of the time, and I will never call someone by their first name until specifically asked to do so, and even then it will be Ms/Mr Firstname for a while.

This meshes somewhat uneasily with my chosen career. Generally the people I write to are glad of the formality–politeness, after all, is a plus when dealing with editors, publishers, or other writers.

But it also means that the modern slide into informality irritates the living daylights out of me. Strangers who start their missives with “Hey Lili” or “Hey Lilith” get an automatic strike, and guess what? If I haven’t deliberately told you to address me informally at least once, you’re a stranger.

I wouldn’t mind so much, except for the Saintcrow Law of Informal Address1: the informality of address by a stranger is precisely proportional to the “favor” they wish to extract from you, and their concomitant fury when denied is multiplied by each factor and then squared.

In other words, I see “Hey Lili” at the beginning of a stranger’s email and wince, knowing ahead of time that I will be asked for something and when I say “no” I’ll get a screed2 in return.

It never, ever fails. I can count the exceptions to this rule on one hand and have fingers left over, and that’s after being on the goddamn internet for decades now.

By contrast, the emails I get with formal address (including, hilariously, missives sent to an entirely nonexistent “Mr Saintcrowe”, because somehow if I’m a man the extra “e” needs to be added, don’t ask me, I just work here) are uniformly much better spelled, not to mention more reasonable in content, and when I send a gentle “I am sorry, I cannot,” the letter writer takes time to pen a short, very polite, forgiving missive to close out the interaction.

Consequently I am much more likely to use the extremely limited time allotted to correspondence to respond to a letter or email using formal address than the alternative.

I offer this insight not to complain3 but to advise. The joking informality currently in fashion might be working against you if you want people to go out of their way or read past your greeting. Especially if you’re asking a busy person for a favor.

I realize my habit of formal address is often seen as cold or standoffish, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for behaving in a decent fashion according to my own lights. I’ve never had a person call me rude for using proper address4. So, of course, your mileage may vary…

…but if you don’t get responses to your familiar, joking little emails, you might want to consider how you’re starting them out.

‘Nuff said.

Breach, Gasp, Dive

So not only did the garbage disposal explode (relax, it’s fine, there will be no plumbers called today) and the Moka pot decide to cough the instant I lifted the lid (again, relax, I was standing far back and the stovetop is used to worse) but the dogs are entirely too energetic (an entire weekend off means they are incapable of relaxation until we run) and I decided, in a fit of pique, to wash my sheets this morning. (There were, alas, a number of squeaky toys dismembered upon my bed in the recent past.) So of course there were also many Canine Attempts to Help, of the sort that are Amusing but No Real Help At All.

I’ve two cover questionnaires to fill out, since I took the weekend entirely off, and a full day’s writing as well as Latin and piano practice. Dinner must be thought of too, but I’m already worn out, and having to wait for yet another phone update before we go running is rasping the dogs’ nerves as well as my own.

All that aside, though, I feel way better than I did before the weekend. I was plunged into a despair, the world on fire and no help in sight. I am still pessimistic about the survival of humanity as a whole (who could fail to be, at this point?) but my determination to do the best I can with what time I have left remains unshaken, and that’s the important thing.

Even if it’s not, I’m going to treat it as such. Of course it’s all hopeless, but it’s important to fight anyway. Just keep swimming, and all that.

So I’ve breached the surface of despair and taken a deep breath. It’s good to get some air after all the darkness. Friar Tuck and Prince John are on a space flagship, Maid Marian’s getting ready for a speeder race, and I’ve a couple of assassination-happy princes maneuvering for political advantage. As soon as coffee settles, the dogs need a good medium-length run, and I could do with some endorphins. I’ve taken all the Roadtrip Z books from KDP to Draft2Digital, so that’s done1, and I’ll think about if I want to do the same with the other self-published stuff that isn’t so recent.

May you likewise find a breath of deep relief today, dear Readers. Over and out.

Break to Fight Again

I’m drained today, my friends. The news is so awful, the fight seems so hopeless, nothing seems worth it. Part of the problem is I’ve been on Twitter a lot, and the firehose of bad news takes a toll. And then I feel weak, because I am relatively privileged and so many people are dealing with so much worse than I could ever dream of–and I can dream of a lot, as we well know.

I don’t mind admitting I feel sad, vulnerable, and broken right now. I know there’s no choice but to keep going, if only to make the defeat less severe for those with less advantage than myself. I feel like the job of telling stories is an important one, but I’m not up to the task and just fooling myself thinking I can make any difference at all.

I’m going to keep fighting–accepting defeat is not an option–but I could really use a break.

There are dogs to pet and walk, there are children to raise, there is coffee, and there is work to be done. Today the work might be all about renewing my will to fight, to keep putting one word after another, one foot before another.

I hope you’re doing better, chickadees, and if you’re not, at least we’re in the boat together. I’m holding the line as best I can, and I won’t let go no matter how the rope cuts.

Over and out.

Kept From Brooding

I finished up the revisions on two short stories yesterday–the Hansel & Gretel kung fu story and the Alice in Wonderland/Resident Evil one. Both are sent off to the editors now, since they need another pair of eyes to figure out where the lacunae are. The stories are so vivid inside my head I forget the reader can’t peek inside my skull and watch them. Maybe one day technology will allow for that–I remember a Tanith Lee novel where someone had a job doing as much–but for right now, text is the tool I’ve got to pry the stories out of my head.

There’s an update on yesterday’s post about Atlanta Bound. It’s particularly telling that KDP only responded once I unpublished the book, which cuts into their profits. I expect Amazon to drag its feet over listing the book as distributed by Draft2Digital, too, especially now that I’ve publicly called them out. Which isn’t perfect, it is an inconvenience I did my best to prevent, but there’s nothing to be done for it.

Anyway, today I have a scene in The Poison Prince to rip apart and rework–an Emperor and his second concubine having a long-overdue conversation–and Alan-a-Dale has to visit Maid Marian’s clinic besides. My work is cut out for me, and there’s also lasagna to be made for the Princess’s houseguests. Somewhere in there the dogs need walks, and I should probably take a shower before the morning gets much older.

The Princess greeted me with coffee this morning as I shuffled into the kitchen, a truly welcome event. Boxnoggin and B are still worn out from yesterday’s wind and long-ish run, and the advent of visitors will explode their Tiny Little Minds. There’s a lot of excitement planned for today.

I should probably get started. No rest for the weary or the wicked, my loves, and sometimes I prefer it that way. It keeps me from brooding.

Or at least, it tries to. I’m pretty sure I can brood anywhere, anytime.

Over and out.