Polite Raking, Sun-Mad

In the immortal words of Wesley Snipes, “some mothafuckas are always trying to ice skate uphill.”

Suffice to say I have been forced to polite raking of some people over glowing coals lately, using terms like “has there been any movement upon this matter yet?” and “I do not need or care for ‘explanation’, I fully understand how this happened, I simply require this checkbox filled and for this to NOT happen again.” Lockdown has made me even more icily formal with those who have Behaved Badly. It’s not even disdain, it’s that I don’t have time or energy for bullshit, so let’s just not have any, mmkay?

Anyway. The last season of HOOD is undergoing a hard proof pass at the moment, then I think it will be time for the whole shebang, in omnibus edition, to be sent off for a final proofing. There’s some trouble with earlier editions, but switching distributors should mend that. One of the things about serials is that I use their seasons to experiment with distribution and other publishing minutiae, and sometimes, well, it doesn’t go happily.

But I learn a lot, and it means a longer career, which means more stories for my beloved Readers. So there’s that, at least.

I took one look at the blue sky and bright sunshine this morning and decided, “…oh, hell no.” The sun seems to drive everyone in this part of the world mad, probably because we see it so rarely. I absolutely don’t mind sharing the sidewalk, but that’s just it–sharing, which doesn’t seem a strong suit for the sun-dazed. Also, on days like this there tend to be a lot of middle-aged white men letting their dogs roam offleash. The dogs absolutely aren’t a problem, they’re far nicer than their owners, but dogs do not make good choices and that’s why we have leashes.

…I just heaved a heavy sigh. It’s the third of the morning and I’m not even done with coffee yet.

On the bright side, this state of low-grade irritation makes me prickly and precise, and that’s exactly the right mindset for finding errata and tiny little typos. It lies cheek by jowl with a particular, very specialized form of performance anxiety, and once I’m done with this phase of this particular project I can switch to a different one that will ameliorate both my mood and said anxiety.

I’m going to be working through the weekend again, but this time it’ll be on The Black God’s Heart. And next week I have a cover reveal and preorders for a certain romance to post; subscribers will get a peek this week. All in all, despite the heavy sighs and prickliness, I have more work than I can handle and that’s my preferred state. Certainly it’s far better than not having enough.

So off I toddle to finish my coffee, and to maybe slay a few baddies. I don’t quite look as cool as Blade, but I will be wearing shades while walking the dogs.

It will have to do.

Revisions, Safety, Post-it

It’s odd to be actually sleeping, instead of just lying in bed while my brain serves up millions of “what ifs” and “worry about this-es”. I did a lot of digital housekeeping lately, just generally attending to loose ends before starting a merry-go-round of revising the epic fantasy and reformatting ebooks.

The concomitant feeling of safety, and the pressure-release of being out and away, is doing good things. The relief when I attended to the last bit of housekeeping was so profound as to stagger me; I’m glad I was sitting down.

Things aren’t ideal, but at least I don’t have that energy expenditure hanging about my neck, an albatross of politeness siphoning away energy needed for other things.(Like writing, like revising, like getting these reformats done… you get the idea.)

In any case, I spent hours on a single scene yesterday, ripping at the underpinnings and ending up with something that looked very much like the initial work, but with a completely different thrust and tone. Sometimes you have to get down to the foundations before you can fix what’s wrong. Usually I’m a lot better about noticing something’s gone wrong during the initial writing, but sometimes… well, sometimes I’m not.

That’s what revision is for.

Still, I’m feeling the drag of “this is the third book in a series, it’s already 168k, it’s going to be bigger, why do I get myself into these things, just set it on fire, I hate everything.” It’s a usual, albeit uncomfortable, part of the process. I’ve got an extra week to get the revisions in and I should have known, because they always take three times as long as one thinks they will–about as solid a rule of thumb in publishing as there is. The only time things don’t take thrice as long is when they take six times as long.

At least there’s coffee. And at least there’s a lot of energy freed up by finishing housekeeping. I hadn’t realized just how deeply some things were bothering and draining me until I stepped away and felt the relief. I call it “the energetic bends”–so much pressure, removed so abruptly, makes for a short, uncomfortable period where one realizes just how bad it was. The trick is not to beat yourself up with “why did you stay so long, then?”

The only solution I’ve found is putting a Post-it with “just be glad it’s over” somewhere I can glance at it several times a day, like among the crop of notes festooning my desktop. They range from quotes to character lists, and one more doesn’t hurt. Quite the opposite.

Anyway. Now it’s time to get the dogs walked, run my poor corpse now that all the snow is gone, and stagger home to fall into revisions once more. I still need to reward myself for finishing the last zero draft I stabbed to doneness, but I can put that off until I get this revision out the door and then, then maybe I’ll give myself a double prize.

Not quite sure what it will be, yet, but now I have the time–and the energy–to figure it out.

It’s a nice change.

What Weekend?

I spent the weekend on line edits for an upcoming romance (you guys are gonna love this one) and crashed pretty hard Sunday afternoon. Every wound and swelling left over from Boxnoggin trying to murder me via pavement was speaking up, and I had a headache so bad I was thinking “brain bleed, Lili, you’re gonna die.”

So I made dinner and went to bed early, figuring if I was going to shuffle off the mortal coil I might as well be snuggled under comforters when it happens. There were confused dreams of the fall of Gondolin mixed with a bank-heist caper and a Shannara-style wishsong sequence through a city overgrown with giant sentient tentacles, too.

It was fun inside my skull last night.

In any case, the headache is gone as if it never existed, I feel a thousand percent better, and the swelling has gone down dramatically. Of course I just needed rest, and was unwilling to take it because there was work to be done, dammit.

I also learned a new word this past weekend: Irisu. Apparently it’s Japanese for “not answering the doorbell even though you’re home.” It pleases me there’s an actual term for it.

I don’t know if this is exactly accurate–if a native or educated speaker is reading this, feel free to correct in the comments–but it’s a concept I love. The doorbell, like the telephone, is a convenience, not an obligation, and in a world where we’re expected to be “on” all the time it feels delicious to carve out a little space for oneself. (Especially when it’s employers expecting us to cater to corporate whims 24/7.)

In any case the line edits are sent off–my editor is a bloody saint, I love her, and she is available for hire if that NaNo novel of yours wants a shot at rising to the top of the query or slush pile–and today I take a short easy run and a whirl through the portal fantasy one last time before it goes out the door and on submission. That should eat up half the day, and maybe if I play my cards just right I’ll be able to take half Monday off in recompense for working all damn weekend.

I don’t want to relax too much, though. For one thing, the sudden release of pressure might cause the bends.

Boxnoggin feels pretty bad about the murder-by-pavement thing; I might not take him on a run for a while just in case. His stomach seems a little nervous, probably because I was not my usual self this weekend, being mostly nonverbal and stare-y. He keeps trying to lick at my healing wounds, his big brown eyes full of pleading when I flinch and say “ow, kiddo, maybe not that.” Miss B, of course, has decided to show her concern by relentlessly bossing and herding both of us. Boxnoggin will break off playing with her to trot back to the office and check on me, his head cocked at an anxious and inquisitive angle; she will race down the hall and skid into said office to give a sharp, half-muffled bark (since I will snap “don’t take that tone in my office, woman” at her) and nips and herds him out to the living room to play some more.

It’s a good thing they have each other to keep occupied. Just thinking about amusing either of them for a stretch makes me tired.

And now it’s time to get out the door, since I’ve already crossed off a few things on the to-do list. Retreating to the couch with Unfinished Tales sounds like a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and might even give me more fuel for yelling about Tolkien™ at a later date. Which I’m sure you’re in breathless anticipation of, my dears. (I have a lot to say about Feanor, but who doesn’t?)

Anyway. Happy Monday, beloveds, we’re on the downward slope of 2020 and it looks like the coup might have failed this time (of course, they’ll just try again harder in 2024, I’m sure) but the damage is deep enough to satisfy even the worst sociopaths in office.

…yeah, I’m not very optimistic today. Maybe it’s the scabs and the residual swelling.

Over and out.

Some Victories, Not All

The dogs are quite upset that I won’t go anywhere without finishing my coffee. I try to tell them it’s for the best, that dragging me anywhere uncaffeinated is a Very Bad Idea, but since they’ve never known1 the glory of tea or a latte they are unwilling to be convinced.

Yesterday was… not very productive. I should have known that two days of normal work would require a day of threadbare wandering the house, muttering to myself and being utterly unable to settle or produce anything like real text. I did roll around in a couple trunk novels and change a hair color in the portal fantasy–what on earth did we ever do without Ctrl-F, I ask you–and savaged myself internally for being so apparently lazy I can’t produce at my usual rate during a pandemic and attempted fascist coup.

I’ll take “Things you say to yourself that you would never dream of saying to a friend” for $400, Alex.2

I do know what we did without Ctrl-F; I wrote two novellas on a manual typewriter when I was a very young sprout. Both are resting safely in a landfill somewhere; I couldn’t go back to retrieve them like a gecko running back to eat a tail they left in a predator’s claws, even if I wanted to. Still, both burn in me, and sometimes I think of them and my old diaries, safe amid tons of rubbish.

When you have to throw away things that matter to you to survive, their ghosts can still comfort you. The important thing was that my adult caregivers–I don’t really want to call them parents–couldn’t grab and befoul them. Some victories, even though Pyrrhic, are still worth celebrating.

Not all. Just some.

Anyway, I’m vertical, if not technically awake, and sucking on some lovely espresso-ground caffeine sent by a dear friend. The dogs are patrolling up and down the hall, ready to nudge me for where the leashes hang near the sliding glass door to the deck upon the very instant I seem ready to take them for walkies. Yesterday held no thunderstorms–for which said dogs are grateful, even if I am slightly disappointed–despite the unsettled rain-sun-rain bands moving through. That’s probably the cause of the throbbing headache I barely even noticed all day, being occupied with kicking myself for being unable to work.

I even went so far as to think “it’s raining, I don’t deserve to be in this house because I’m not working, I should go out and stand in the rain and be miserable.” I know it doesn’t make sense, but apparently control over making myself feel bad is the only control I feel like I have left with the world spinning so violently.

Fortunately I did not go stand in the rain. For one thing, the dogs would insist on accompanying me, and I didn’t want them cold or wet. For another, I realized it was a ridiculous thought, though it recurred at jet-takeoff volume inside my head all throughout the day. Instead, I made myself hot chocolate, texted friends, snuggled the dogs, attempted to read, touched shelves of books, and tried to watch Richard Armitage smoldering in a cravat.

Finally, I settled in bed last night with old war documentaries. I don’t know why they’re so soothing–probably the fact that the situations in them are long done with, nothing I can affect either way, and the narrator’s voice stays at a steady droning pitch throughout, maybe. It does mean my dreams are mostly in sepia with weird flashes of hypersaturated color instead of all-color, which gave me a bit of startlement when I surfaced this morning. I thought holy shit, have I lost dreaming in color too?

I have absorbed a bare minimum of caffeine now, so am probably safe to leave the house for dog-walking and the running of the Boxnoggin. Said Boxnoggin is prancing up and down the hall, attempting to drag me forth by sheer force of will; Miss B has settled on my feet as I type, on the principle that the instant I move she will be alerted and ready to supervise and heeeeerd me.

Suppose I’d best get going, then. This is the downside of priding oneself on sheer endurance; one can’t even mope in the rain like a silly romantic poet.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know it’s rough, but it’s survival, and that is a victory. A non-Pyrrhic one, even.

Over and out.

Best, Ignored, Work

I was tooling around on the internet yesterday, and a realization struck me: what I think is my very best writing often goes unnoticed.

Good writing is supposed to go unnoticed a lot of the time; that means it’s efficiently carried its cargo into another person’s head and left it there. But there’s also good writing that goes unnoticed for other reasons, and that’s what I was thinking about.

I happen to think Cormorant Run is some of my best work, and Afterwar will probably survive me. There are other books with individual passages I don’t remember writing and when I am forced to reread I stop and think huh, that’s well done. (For some reason, things I remember writing rarely pass my internal editor without a fight.) Some series–like Gallow & Ragged or the Human Tales–contain some very beautiful things I was so frightened I’d mess up, but which came through without a lot of damage. And there are short stories I feel like I’ve knocked out of the park. It’s a feeling like a good clean hit with a bat or a perfect strike with a sword; you know you’ve done it as soon as you start to move.

But the books I think are objectively my best very rarely get a whole lot of fan love. It doesn’t bother me–such are the vagaries of writing for a large population–and I am allowed to think what I like of my own work.

It’s funny that the books I think are my best are rarely the ones I enjoyed writing, in the usual sense of the word enjoy. Instead, they were painful to create, with an edge of pleasure like lancing a boil or scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds. The relief once the writing was done was almost exactly that of reopening a wound to let it drain, knowing it would heal and queasily fascinated by the entire operation.

Not that I’m comparing my books to carbuncles. *snort* Even though it might be warranted, I have some pride.

I have very little hope of most of my work surviving me. Being treated as disposable both by society and the publishing industry provokes me to severe doubt on a daily basis, frankly. And even if some of it does survive me there’s no guarantee it will be what I consider (a la Henry James) my blest good stuff.

And yet there’s a quiet glow inside me of knowing that I’ve done my best with every single book or story, worked every time to my absolute limit, and part of that glow is some pride in what I consider my finest work. (So far, that is. I plan to die with my boots on and my fingers to the keyboard.)

The world will do its best to rob you of joy. Hewing to said joy is a survival mechanism, a necessity, not a luxury.

After all, without some small measure of joy, what’s the point?

Anyway, these are the things I’m thinking of lately, especially since my career is changing. I haven’t done a bad bit of work, really, when I survey its dimensions.

Maybe things aren’t hopeless after all.


It’s Tuesday, which means at 11am PST there’s a new paid-subscriber-only post up at Haggard Feathers. The theme for March is marketing, so this week’s post is about the #1 marketing strategy for writers. It’s not what you think…

Off My Glass Menagerie

It might be time to retreat to a cave for a while. The world’s on fire, and the stress is very bad this month for other reasons. It takes a concerted mental effort to keep repeating “this is just a professional change and could indeed work out very well in the long run” while most of me is running in circles screaming, hair afire and pants smoldering. (Or is it pants afire and hair smoldering? Either way, it’s not comfortable.)

So I’ve been eating ice cream, crying (sometimes from stress, sometimes from sheer rage, other times because I might explode otherwise) and dumping out reams of a vampire pr0n trunk novel loosely based on Eugene Onegin. (At least, the story starts near Onegin… but then it gets weird.) It’s probably the healthiest response given the size and scope of the problem, but Lord if it doesn’t make me feel a bit like I’ve gone off my glass menagerie.

Not that I was ever very secure upon that perch, indeed. We’re all mad in publishing.

Anyway, it’s a sunny Thursday morning. I had the windows open a bit to change out the air in the house, and the dogs are very interested in the prospect of walkies. Boxnoggin suspects there might be a run later, too, and that excites him. We’re upping our frequency but not our duration or intensity, and I’ll go far more slowly, push much less, when he’s trotting alongside me. I’ll shove myself right over the edge and into meltdown, certainly, but I wouldn’t dream of asking that of him.

Dogs. They save us without even trying to.

Today I have decided I must absolutely get back into the swing on the paying projects. The trunk novel will have to wait. I can even use it to make the paying concerns jealous, so to speak. I seek solace in work far more than is probably healthy, but it’s served to keep food on the table so I suppose I can’t complain.

So, my chickadees, I’m off to the races. (Or the walkies, and the gentle run with a bouncy, fuzzy primo uomo, as the case may be.) Be kind to yourselves, please. If your March is anything like mine, we both need a little tenderness.


Today’s subscription day, and there’ll be the open thread over at Haggard Feathers. Ah, Thursdays–never a dull moment.

Unexpected Directions

I had a run scheduled for today, but both Boxnoggin and I spent a restless night and are somewhat bleary; there’s also a fog advisory on. I suspect he’d like a nice hard run to work the fidgets out and get everything into its place, but I am not made of such stern stuff on this particular Tuesday. Especially with the way most people drive in the neighborhoods around here.

Not with a zero burning my fingers. I have everything but the final eyeballing of the e-proof of HOOD‘s Season Two done, and I really thought I’d also be done with Sons of Ymre by now. But then it went and turned into two books instead of one, and I’m scrambling. I do have about a week to get it either done or so thoroughly stabbed I can split my focus between it and another project (despite not wanting to work on more than one at a time this year, alas) with very little ado.

Bloody novels, always taking unexpected directions.

I had a fit of absolutely murderous irritation last night before I realized I was both hungry and in the throes of the last fifth of a zero draft. the last screaming push for the finish is generally when my temper, never too smooth, frays to the point that the kids roll their eyes and suggest simple dishes for dinner, or even just toast and eggs. It’s quite a relief that they’re both old enough to cook for themselves if I’m late, or if what’s on offer doesn’t please them.

Anyway, I was hangry enough to snarl at my desktop, and it occurred to me I could bring the book to a simple close by just killing everyone in it, in various terrible ways. I decided to wait for food and morning before actually deciding, and I’m glad I did. While satisfying, that would have been wasted work.

Not going to lie, though, it would be incredibly satisfying.

As it is, I have La traviata playing softly, the morning’s caffeine standing ready, and the whole day to make serious progress on stabbing Sons. There is a bit of industry news I want to highlight in Haggard Feathers, but that can wait for an hour or so while I eyeball the day’s work and take the dogs on a walk to get everything settled inside our respective skins. Right now Dame Sutherland is singing Sempre libera and absolutely flowing through the notes like cream. Her voice really is that velvety, that smooth. Wow.

Maybe Tuesday won’t need the machete after all. But I’ll keep it handy just in case.


Hey, the Free Agent February giveaway is still going on for a couple days! You can enter here–and enter daily too, if that moves you.