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.

Shillin’ My Wares

I am so close to the end of revisions for HOOD‘s Season Two, I can taste it. Of course, there’ll still be CEs and proofing, but the season has its shape now, and it’s… actually… not a bad book? Which means I’m almost at the final gate.

I go through phases of hating each book. Generally the first one hits in the Slough of Despond from about halfway through the zero draft until four-fifths through, when the gallop to the finish takes me and I have no time for any emotion other than weary focus, then again it strikes midway through the revision into a reasonable first draft, then there’s the point halfway through other revisions when I think I have always been revising this book, I will always be revising this book, and weep.

It gets to where I’m afraid, each time, that I will always hate the book, and that it will go out into the world an unloved child. Which dovetails neatly with the “everyone will hate this, then they’ll hate YOU, then your career will crash and you’ll be homeless and your kids and dogs will starve and then the sun will go out and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT, LILI, ALL OF IT!” that strikes right before Release Day.

But in between those bursts, I have shoals of time where I think, well, this book ain’t perfect, but it’s not totally awful, and I’m grateful for the respite.

This particular burst of “maybe not bad” came when I reached a particular scene, frowned, and realized that the hole I’d sensed in the book was right there, plainly visible. I just needed to let the season rest for a wee bit before I got enough distance to see it. Which meant I could reel back in Scrivener and drop in an extra chapter (hey, I wrote about that earlier this week!) that makes the entire book hang in the shape it needs like a 3D tapestry.

It was a welcome discovery. I knew the hole was there, I just couldn’t see it.

Which reminds me! Some of you are asking about Haggard Feathers, my writing Substack. Come February, one weekly post there will be free and the rest will be subscriber-only. I’m still going back and forth about what’s a reasonable price to charge for it; the Substack will focus on being a working writer as well as refining your craft as a casual hobbyist. I plan on also doing a Thursday Evening Open Thread over there, where subscribers can ask questions, play, and generally interact with each other and me. I’m thinking around $5/mo wouldn’t be too much to ask; I might end up doing subscription tiers if Substack supports that. In any case, it has not changed to subscriber-only yet, and one post a month (probably on the first Tuesday) will be utterly free so you know what you’re getting. Come February, I’ll trot out the subscription option.

Also, if I’m shilling my wares (as one is frequently required to do in order to keep body and soul together) I have a Patreon, and also have subscription options at Gumroad. They fall into three classes: A Latte’s Worth (a once-monthly fiction drop, the price of a cheap but good coffee), Crow’s Nest (weekly fiction drop, generally on Thursdays) and the Nest Egg option, which not only gives you the weekly fiction drop but also gives you access to whatever serial I’m running currently–including the unedited and edited ebooks of said serials, before they go on sale and most times before they can even be preordered. The current serial is my Robin Hood in Space story, of which Season One is available in entirety and Season Two is spiking for a finish involving a ball, assassination attempts, and a GIANT SPACESHIP BLOWING UP because hey, write what you love, right?

I’m trying to maneuver myself into an emotional-mental space where I can have the next serial be The Highlands War–that’s right, the next Steelflower book. But there’s still Season Three of HOOD to get through, so I have time to think about, doodle, dream, and prep to my heart’s content. The next serial might end up being Lightning Bound instead of Highlands War, too. I haven’t decided yet.

Giving yourself enough time to make decisions is a skill that edges into a luxury. But if one can possibly take it, I recommend it. There are very few decisions that are as pressing as the world would like us to believe, especially that slice of the world full of people who (wrongly) think they’re entitled to something from us just because they want it.

Anyway, the dogs need walking, I have a workout to get into, and there’s correspondence to take care of before I can get to what I really want to do–revise this book so I can get to the next stage of the publication process.

See you around, chickadees.

Fewer Books of Less Quality

We are in the throes of the shopping season. Stress and tension are everywhere, from the aisles where tired, overstimulated children cry to the checkouts where overwhelmed parents, counting their pennies, feel the sick thump of what if I forgot someone or what if I can’t afford what Little Spawn wants? It’s just as bad online, too, and the usual “Should I have run a holiday sale, what price points are good, things are ordered and I have to stand in long queues to ship them” discussions are afoot on author loops and social media.

This year I’m also seeing a lot of discussions about ebooks. Specifically, the question “Should I lower my ebook prices in the new year?” has been asked at least five times (and counting!) on different loops and in different social media I’m privy to.

I’ve typed some shorter answers, but I figured why scatter them all over the map when I can put them all in one place?

So. Generally, my TL;DR answer is “…no.”

You already know my thoughts on the convenience of ebooks (without concomitant protections against theft) leading to massive entitlement and piracy. The convenience has YET another unpleasant aspect, made monstrous by Amazon’s business practices.

The race to the bottom in ebook prices is terrifying for any author trying to earn a living. The way the industry is currently set up, either you starve because your ebooks are priced too low for you to get a reasonable return on the investment of time needed to produce a quality product, or you up your production schedule and end up burning out, in the meantime risking cranking out heavily compromised texts that could have been great if you’d had the resources to take the proper time and care with them.

Or, if you price your books reasonably in line with the time and effort spent, you can be inundated with nasty emails calling you a sellout or accusing you of “taking advantage” of readers somehow. And, as a bonus, informing you that your books are going to be stolen in “protest.”

Fun times for all.

Here’s the thing: low across-the-board ebook prices are not good deals. You end up getting fewer books of less quality in the long run, not just because of writer burnout and starvation, but because that’s the way the business model is set up. That’s what it’s engineered for.

Amazon’s success means it’s been able to impose a number of conditions on the market. Amazon profits on volume when prices on ebooks are kept artificially low, because they don’t care what you’re buying as long as you’re buying a lot of it. Authors do not benefit–they work themselves into the ground or the grave, or they quit publishing because they literally can’t afford to keep going. That means readers don’t benefit either; the quality fiction you crave gets harder and harder to find because selling algorithm bumps is profitable as all get-out and/or because the writers experienced and talented enough to provide that quality fiction have been driven out.

Who does benefit from this? You guessed it–Amazon. They profit both coming and going. There’s a fresh crop of hopeful new baby writers willing to be fleeced each season, the plagiarizers and page-stuffers pay Amazon for the privilege to play, writers are working themselves into burnout, and it’s all going into Bezos’s pocketbook. The ‘Zon gets their cut of even a $.99 ebook, you’d better believe it, and enough of those going out the door is a nice chunk of change. Who cares if it’s readable, if it’s quality, if it’s what you actually wanted? You’ll buy anything, according to Amazon, as long as it’s cheap.

Now, Amazon’s done some good things, largely without wanting or trying to. I suppose you could find a few beneficial effects in any cancer if you narrow your focus enough, too. And I’m sure a lot of people will say “books are a luxury anyway, nobody who creates them deserves to make a living because it’s not a real job.” I’ve heard it all, from “all authors are rich anyway”1 to “but if books aren’t less than a dollar apiece people will HAVE to steal them, you just hate FREEDOM.”

But if you’re a fellow publishing professional looking for advice on ebook prices this fine holiday season, take it from someone who’s been in the game for a little while and saw the first explosion of ebooks and witnessed the race to the bottom afterward: Price your books however you damn well please. I’ve raised some of my prices recently to better reflect the time and energy spent on writing and taking the books through quality control; I haven’t been sorry and haven’t noticed any dent in sales. In fact, pricing my books to reflect the quality I try to put into each and every one has had a somewhat salutary effect, I’d say, because it’s clear I respect myself and my work and Readers tend to follow suit.

Trad, indie, and small publishers all refine price, discounts, and deals all the time. It’s part of the game, and self-publishers should do the same. There may come a time when I look at the industry and say “yeah, prices are outta control, I’m dropping mine.”

But today is not that day.

Amazon profits immensely from the race to the bottom in ebook pricing, and has been doing everything possible to keep it going. Nobody else gets a good shake out of the deal, and we’re all somewhat at the mercy of the elephant in the room. Until the rapaciousness of their business model provokes a reaction and a shakeup, it’s pretty much every self-publisher for themselves, not least because getting writers to work together for better conditions is like herding caffeine-crazed hyperactive felines.2

In the end, very little will change until readers are tired of swill choking the gunnels and their purchasing habits change as a result. When a market reaction comes, it’s going to be quite painful for a lot of people and I’m not looking forward to it. In the meantime, though, I’m going to price my books to reflect a fair value for my time and experience, and I encourage any of my peers considering the question this holiday season to do the same.

And I wish everyone, publishing pro, Reader, or anything else, a low-stress holiday full of good food and free of family or other arguments. This time of year’s awful on everyone; I say we all go to bed until New Year’s.

I know we can’t, but it makes me feel better to contemplate the prospect. Over and out.