Carousel of Spiritual Bends

Woke up in a “burn it all down” mood, and so far coffee isn’t helping as much as I thought it would. Still, I’m vertical and have my cuppa, and I’ve trimmed some energy expenditures from my calendar. It’s going to have to be enough.

Despite really wanting to do a few more organizational purges around the house, it’s probably best for me to stay in a holding pattern for a wee bit. The Princess remarked the other day that getting rid of junk or clutter isn’t just getting rid of things but also feelings and memories. (She’s been watching some Marie Kondo lately.) The decompression in normal times is a day’s worth of discomfort, but in these trying times it’s a bloody carousel of the spiritual bends.

At least I’m back on my reading schedule. Last night I finished the US Army Guerrilla Warfare Handbook, which is an interesting quasi-historical document. The Cold War was a helluva trip, and I was forcibly reminded several times of how much technology’s changed just in the course of my adult lifetime. Some of the implicit assumptions under the dry terminology were pretty startling–not surprising, more confirmation of things I already suspected.

To take the taste out of my mouth, I’ve started on Robert Chambers’s The Tracer of Lost Persons. Chambers also wrote The King in Yellow, which opened up some interesting doors inside my head. There’s a sort of creeping dread in the latter that reminds me of Lovecraft.

One of the more effective things Lovecraft and Chambers do (despite the rampant racism running through their works) is show just enough of the monster for the reader to effectively scare herself. Stephen King remarks near the end of IT that fully seeing the monster decreases the terror; we fear the unknown more than we fear tentacles, giant space-spiders, aliens, or kings in yellow or crimson. The trick and the balance is to show just enough and let the reader’s personalized, active imagination fill in the gaps.

A reader will scare themselves far more effectively than a writer could ever hope for. You just have to give them enough rope. So to speak.

I’ve been consuming said coffee and poking at social media feeds while writing this, and the caffeine-juice has soothed my ire considerably. Today is for walking the dogs, getting a run in, poking at three separate projects preparatory to getting back to serious work next week, and getting out to the store for milk and other necessaries. I wish I didn’t have to do that last bit. People are thinking the worst is over; they won’t find out they’re wrong for another couple weeks.

At least my writing partner made us all cloth masks with insert pockets. Masks, even the expensive ones, are pretty much just snot-catchers. They mean you won’t infect other people as much, and every little bit helps. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I knew I was asymptomatic and infected someone who died of it. I wish we had an actual adult in the White House instead of a criminal cabal centered around a demented malignant narcissist.

But we’ve got what we’ve got, I suppose, and it’s incumbent upon us to take care of each other. Heaven knows the criminals in power won’t. I’ll be picking up supplies at the store for more than one neighbor; if things get bad it’ll be those neighborhood links that save us.

And now my stomach has settled enough for a bit of brekkie, and to start the day. I’m fractionally less stabbity than when I started this post, thank goodness.

But only fractionally. The rest requires food, and working off the stress hormones with sweat and effort.

See you around.

Triage Endurance

I’m enjoying the morning Latin lessons more than I thought I would. Something about wrestling with lingua Latina before caffeine soaks in makes my brain feel sharper. Of course, the rest of me feels slow (stultae, even) before the caffeine soaks in, and I make far more errors than I like.

Latin for breakfast, French for lunch, Turkish before bed so sleep can hopefully help me retain verbs and grammar. I was doing German after dinner and Turkish before bed, but that was Too Much. I’d still like to study German some day, maybe when I’ve brushed up my French enough to read some Voltaire in the original.

Goals. I have them. Loads of them. Whether they’re achievable or not is an open question.

Instead of German, though, I think I want to go back to piano after dinner. I never thought I’d miss wrestling with Bach post cena, but here we are.

Mostly I’m trying to keep my brain busy so I don’t brood on current world events. I’m doing literally everything I can–social distancing, wearing a mask if I absolutely have to go to the store, washing hands, reaching out to friends, caring for my neighbors. It just doesn’t feel like enough, and I’m hitting empathy exhaustion on a daily basis.

I’d rather that than not caring at all, but still. If I tire myself out with work and study, the anxiety dreams are a little less fraught. At least there’s a delicate balance being held and I can sleep.

How are you doing out there, dear Reader? I meant to tell you the story of Big Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but Squirrelterror tales take a little more work than one might think. Maybe next week, because there’s more than one part. Knocking over the heavy iron pole and breaking a glass hummingbird feeder was only the beginning, and Barda’s got quite a mouth. Poor Boxnoggin literally could not believe some of the stuff she yelled at him.

Anyway… I do have something to say today. I was talking with a friend about the looming, constant empathy exhaustion yesterday, spurred by this Vice article, and she commented on the advice often given.

Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Well, for one thing, the distribution chains are creaking under the load, fresh produce and “healthy” foods are more expensive than junk–by corporate design, I might add. And if you start nattering on about “bulk buying” and “just make your meals ahead of time” I swear I will start tossing things and screaming, because that takes energy too and a lot of people live in food deserts even before the distribution systems took the first giant hit of lockdown. Not to mention some of us don’t have the equipment to exercise in postage-stamp living spaces, and if your only time to get some sweat-effort in is the evening and you’re female, going out to walk or jog when men who might have mayhem on their minds and nowhere else to congregate can be hazardous to your health.

And sleep? Don’t even get me started.

I know the science says this is what helps, but it’s just not feasible for a lot of people. I agreed that while veggies and exercise might be the best, they can also be out of reach for the non-privileged, and a bit of wine and pizza on the couch might be all one can achieve.

And you know, that’s okay.

If you, dear Reader, need permission to do things science says might not be helpful but you know are helpful for you and within your means, consider said permission given. We’re in an endurance round of triage, and whatever gets you through is A-OK.

For me it’s it’s legal weed on Fridays before D&D with a group of close friends, and setting aside Sunday to eat whatever the fuck I want in whatever quantity I desire. (Last Sunday was the Great Molasses Cake experiment, and I think I put away half a two-layer cake just by my lonesome.) It’s also mumbling Latin in the mornings and watching weird YouTube fanvids because I don’t have the energy or brain-cycles for binging new shows. (Although I did make it through The Umbrella Academy recently, which is less misogynist on the screen than in its original format–not by much, but I’ll take what I can get.)

Whatever it takes to get you through this in one piece and of reasonable sanity is A-OK. Feel free to tell me about your coping mechanisms below–you might even find a couple fellow Readers saying “hey, that’s a good one, I’m gonna try it.”

I’ve finished absorbing some coffee and my head is full of Latin phrases, if not declensions. (Mostly involving a drunk parrot, thanks, Duolingo!) Time to take the dogs for a walk and let the night’s dreams settle into their proper places under the floorboards of consciousness. Yesterday was difficult, today promises to be only slightly less so.

It’s okay. We’ll get through it together.

Over and out.

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.

Needs More Coffee

I had to add “coffee” to my to-do list this morning just to give myself something to cross off. But I haven’t been able to cross it off yet.

This is, I suspect, how Monday will go. Especially since there’s a holiday and I’m off running for a week to give my plantar fascia plenty of rest. Which means I’m going to be at sixes and sevens during the holiday itself, though I’m sure I’ll be too busy to notice. And there will be ham, so that’s good.

I did finish the zero draft of HOOD‘s Season Two before the weekend. It happened all at once, with very little pain, but the reverberations inside my head are a little unpleasant. I was probably due for a book that finished before I was really set for it, having always had to lunge after a retreating enemy so often. Catching the opponent’s army before it gets a chance to escape is a nice Cannae, so to speak.

Middle books in trilogies are always difficult. They get easier when I tell myself if the reader hasn’t read the first book, they’re going to expect to be a little at sea, let them be. I know a lot of editors want you to make every book in a series the first in terms of info-dump, but that’s never been the way I’ve rolled. I never expect to know everything when I read a series out of order, and I write for such sharp elves as myself.

I have always found it’s better to never underestimate one’s readers. My constant refrain when an editor asks me to dumb something down is Readers are smart, they’ll figure it out. I’m no cryptographer, but I like thinking through a puzzle on my own, and I suspect most–if not all–readers do as well.

Anyway. I had interesting things to say, I’m sure, but they’ve fled into the retreating fog of under-caffeination. I’ve to go looking through old book soundtracks for something nice. it’s Soundtrack Monday, after all, and there’s so much music out there. Maybe I’ll do a Viral Agent tune. (I always wanted to go back and do Fray and Bay’s story. They’re a fun pair.)

But first, coffee needs to be finished. I might even go back to the well for another jolt; today feels like it’s gonna need it. We’re in the home stretch for NaNo, after all, and there’s a food coma approaching on Thursday to get ready for.

Over and out.

RELEASE DAY: Throne of the Five Winds

Did you ever want to do something really, really different? So different, indeed, nobody would guess it was you?

I did. And my publisher was willing. And now you can read it.


The warlord Garan Tamuron and his general Zakkar Kai have unified Zhaon. The crown to their conquest is the neighboring country of Khir, a dagger pointed at Zhaon’s heart—now bled white and dulled, forced to send tribute to the conqueror.

Two queens, two concubines, six princes—the palace complex is full of jostling, sly gossip, and danger. A hostage for Khir’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself… and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to bring a tenuous peace.

The Emperor is aging, and only one of his many sons may take the throne. Whether they wish to or not, all six princes are locked in a deadly battle, and a Khir princess and lady-in-waiting are merely pawns to be used. Still, it will only take a single spark to ignite fresh rebellion in Khir. If that spark is the mistreating of their cherished princess, Yala’s beloved lady, war may be closer than a maiden’s blade itself.

And then, the Emperor becomes ill, and a far more deadly game begins…

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I’ve seen a few people saying the book takes a long time to get underway. That’s true; it’s like every first book in an epic fantasy trilogy that way. Just sit back and settle in, my friends, there’s two books left and enough heartbreak, intrigue, dazzlement, tea, and gore to suit you all. Sip your drink and let me tell you a story of an emperor, six princes, three lands, a barbarian horde, and a lady-in-waiting with secrets sharper than her blade.

Originally titled The Maiden’s Blade (which some of you will remember pieces of for my dear subscribers) this first book has had a long hard road to publication. I sort of didn’t want to tell anyone, but it’s too good a secret to keep–especially according to my publisher.

So, my dears. Enjoy. I’ll be out for most of the day, trying to take deep breaths. Even a quasi-unannounced release day is enough to give me nerves.

Deeper Levels

I just had to laugh. Dear gods, Astrology App, do you think I do anything else?

I have to say, the notifications from this particular app have made me break down laughing on a regular basis. It’s been sorely needed merriment, indeed.

Here’s to having a good weekend, my friends–and to giving as much access as you prefer, ever and always.

Small Prices

She-Wolf & Cub

I promised myself I wouldn’t start autumn’s round of baking until the daily high temp became a comfortable mid-seventies1 or so. The forecast appeared good, I put together a starter while prepping the pot roast yesterday…

…and today the forecast has changed and the goddamn high is supposed to be in the eighties, just where I didn’t want it.

Ah well. A little sweat is a small price to pay for the season’s first bread.

Last night Damage finally dropped into its groove with a deep, satisfying internal click. One of the characters is a cagey beast indeed, and I had to wait just outside his mousehole for him to get interested and stick his nose out. Now I’ve got him, and the real work can start.

So much of this job is patience. Waiting, while frustrating, is often the most efficient strategy. If childhood didn’t teach me that, motherhood certainly did, and writing’s just sealed the deal, so to speak.

I also have to put together a short survey. I may cancel HOOD after only two seasons and shift to a different serial. It’s sad, but the story is structured like a TV series and that might be a little too much for some readers. Sometimes when the audience numbers aren’t there, one has to refocus.

So if you like Robin Hood in Space, be ready to say so when the survey comes around. Only actual Serial Time or Nest Egg subscribers will get a chance to vote, since they’re the ones funding the whole deal.

I’ve the dogs to walk, bread to mix and set for its bulk rise–if I get it done early enough I might escape the heat later–and more of Damage to write. It’s going to be a busy day, just how I like it.

And so, off I go.