The Nose Knows

Rattlesnake Wind

The rains have moved in. It smells like the cusp of autumn–cedars drinking deep after dusty drought, the dust itself breathing out spice before it turns to mud, summer-yellowed grass stirring and greening at the roots, leaves preparing to dry and drop. It’s one of the better olfactory landscapes, and one of my favorites.

It was an article of family catechism that I always had a runny nose; my caretakers–such as they were–dosed me with Sudafed on an almost daily basis because my sniffing irritated them. The only time I escaped it was when we lived in Wyoming; the air was so parched I couldn’t have mustered postnasal drip if I tried.

It’s strange. I can close my eyes and remember how every place my peripatetic family ever lived smelled, even when I was supposedly a sniffle-blocked child. I know smell is one of the more basic senses; often, that’s where I start when building a scene or a character.

Moving to western Washington after the dry altitude of Wyoming meant relentless, insulting “teasing” by the adults, centered on my nose. It was a comparatively small thing considering the level of other abuse I endured, but I found myself thinking about it yesterday while I stood on the deck and breathed deep of autumn.

I don’t think I had any more postnasal drip than any other child. I think that the so-called adults just picked something tiny to gaslight me about as part of a wider pattern, and medicated me with Sudafed (to the point that decongestants based on pseudoephedrine no longer work when I actually have a cold) in order to have one more reason to beat or harass me when I forgot my dose. I think that, contrary to their long-held beliefs and constant harping, I was actually quite normal but ended up getting into the habit of paying a great deal of attention to smell.

I also think, my gods, what a stupid, stupid thing to fixate on as a parent. I’m just glad it didn’t develop into Munchausen-by-proxy. Instead, they were far more prone to neglect when it came to my actual medical needs, which I never thought I’d be grateful for.

Anyway, I stood on the back deck for a while last night between rain squalls, inhaling deeply, and I thought about Wyoming. I thought about long grass, about dry membranes, about the taste of pseudoephedrine pills, about the niggling penny-ante parts of abuse, about rain and leaves and lightning.

My nose always told me the truth, unlike so-called parents. And I find myself, at forty-plus blessed years old, untangling yet another lie I was told so often I half believed it, and appreciating my faithful, wonderful sense of smell.

Freedom smells like a dry wind roaring through car windows when I was finally eighteen and driving away. It smells like the books I can leave wherever I like in my own damn house without fear of their being shredded or tossed in the rubbish, like the shampoo I can buy myself and use without fear of being screamed at for using too much, like my own bed in the middle of the night when I wake and realize there will be no heavy, stealthy footsteps creeping into my room while I lie rigid and anticipating pain.

And I realized a deep truth, painful like lancing a boil: Of all the varied smells that have passed through my life, I like freedom the best. And I wish you, my friends, a deep draft of whatever means “freedom” to you.

From Every End

I finally have coffee this morning, no thanks to the dogs. Now I just have to wait for it to cool to a drinkable temperature.

It’s always something.

I spent the weekend doing housework and watching Buzzfeed Unsolved videos. (I like the true crime ones; life is always, always weirder than fiction.) It was pleasant to stay away from the news, though I made the mistake of looking Sunday morning.

The murderous carnival continues, piping merrily down the road to fascist hell.

Anyway, Season Two of HOOD starts this week. I’m going to try to get everything done in two seasons for this serial, but there’s no promises–there’s the Fête and then the Rescue, and they might need a season apiece. After that, unless a publisher buys it, we’ll start Rook and Rose, the first book of which is Hell’s Acre.

That’s the plan, at least. Things are all up in the air here. It would be nice if a Certain Publisher would pay me what they owe; that way I could get the bank holding the mortgage in a fractionally better mood. Writers get it from every end, from theft of our work by piracy or plagiarism to credit woes because we’re basically freelancers. If we don’t pay our bills we suffer consequences, but if publishers/distributors don’t pay us we have little recourse unless we’re already wealthy enough to afford legal representation. It’s a shitshow, frankly, and though I’ve hustled to keep body and soul (and children and dogs) together for multiple years now I’m beginning to get a bit tired.

Just a bit.

In any case, I have plenty of cardamom in my coffee, everyone here at least has their health, and I have more work coming out. I even started writing a story last night, longhand in a spiral notebook as if I was still in high school. It may want to be written entirely that way, which means it’ll already be half-revised by the time the zero’s done, since I’ll have to type it from the handwritten pages. That will be interesting, I’ve rarely had a book come out that way before. Much of Rattlesnake Wind was written that way, and some of She Wolf and Cub. The lucky book choosing to come out that way this particular time is Memory Game, where a woman wakes up in a hospital bed and doesn’t know who she is.

I need to research trauma amnesia now. Hm.

Anyway, best to keep it sharklike–keep swimming or I’ll drown, and wear a big smile. At least there’s coffee, and I can worry about the stack of paperwork on my desk later.

Over and out.

Oh, Publishing…

HOOD

Just a reminder: you can still download the first few chapters of HOOD: Season One for absolutely free.1 So if you want to see if Robin Hood in Space is to your tastes, this is a good way to find out!

Mornings here have been nice and grey, the marine layer shielding us from the worst heat. Of course, that means the humidity’s been through the roof, but at least it hasn’t been hot and feeling like the inside of Mother Nature’s mouth.2 The dogs are puzzled, but I explained to Miss B that this is what summers used to be like back before climate change accelerated.

Boxnoggin, of course, is absolutely surprised by everything the moment he steps outside. Rain, insects, wind touching his rump–it’s all a cavalcade of new sensations every damn time. He’s like a goldfish swimming circuits past a castle decoration and thinking it’s a new one every time. (“Look, Benny, we’re on the Rhine!”)

Yesterday I sent a sample of Hell’s Acre to my agent. So if a publisher wants Assassin’s Creed crossed with Da Vinci Code in an alt-Victorian London, they’d better get on the stick. I’m so tired of trad publishing saying “write the entire series, then give us the first book and in six months we might condescend to look at it.”3 That makes one book pulled from submission (Incorruptible), one full book out (Reader’s Shadow), and two samples (Sons of Ymre and Hell’s Acre) out in the world. I haven’t had this few works on submission in ages; it feels almost like a vacation.

Of all of them, I’m most worried about Reader’s Shadow because the protagonists are teens. I don’t want to set a toe in YA publishing again; twice was enough and both Harmony and Rattlesnake Wind are doing well without having the “YA” imprimatur. Sure, I’d love it if those books could get to the teens who need them, but going through a bunch of people who want me to water them down so some Bible-belt evangelical doesn’t get their panties in a wad takes time and effort I’d rather spend on writing new books.

Anyway, I think for a little while I’m going to concentrate on the serial and samples. I’m tired of a lot of things in publishing, and glad that my career is at a stage where hybridization is a possibility. You’d think the publishing industry would understand that without writers they don’t have jobs or profits, but we’re treated like embarrassing afterthoughts and hated stepchildren. Which sucks because I like trad publishing; I like not having to deal with plenty of the minutiae of producing a reasonable printed product. I’m an easy audience, and trad seems set on driving me away.

In any case, none of that changes the fact that I’ve work to do. Today is slated for a chapter in HOOD‘s Season Two, a chapter in Sons of Ymre, and making baked pasta with yesterday’s homemade red sauce.

My dance card’s packed, and the dogs are very excited at the prospect of walkies. First, though, it’s time for a run. Hopefully by now the cereal and coffee are resigned to their fate and will not attempt a high-speed escape.

It’s the little things. Over and out!

RELEASE DAY: Rattlesnake Wind

That’s right, my darlings–finally, one of the books closest to my heart is out in the world and ready for your delectation. I always meant to go back to Wyoming, and I have; though perhaps not in the way anyone might have expected. Dez’s story is pretty brutal, and since she’s young, a lot of publishers wanted it as a YA–but only if they could take some of the blood and meat and gristle out of it.

You can guess my response to that.

It finally found a home with Fireside, the best place it could have landed. It’s one of the more marvelous feelings in the world to able to trust your editor and publisher, to know they’re behind you all the way.

So…I won’t say enjoy, because I’m not sure it’s an enjoyable book. It was necessary for me to write, and doubly necessary for me to send it out into the world unwatered, with colorless fumes smoking from its trembling surface. I offer it with both hands, my friends, and hope it finds you well.

Desiree Sarpe and her family–minus their domineering, abusive patriarch–have settled on the Wyoming plains, where the wind speaks, the grass whispers, and power comes in the strangest, most ordinary of forms. Unfortunately, the past and its terrors can’t be easily shaken, and Dez is about to find out how brutal, bloody, and costly magic really is…

Now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent retailers.

COVER REVEAL: Rattlesnake Wind

There are some books that live very close to the writer’s heart, and this is one of mine.

When I was much younger than today, we moved from Great Britain to Wyoming, and the culture shock was immense. The only thing to love about the place was the wind coming over vast sweeps of long grass and whispering secrets into my aching ears. When we left again, this time to move to the Pacific Northwest, I cried as quietly as I could in the car, telling the plains and the wind I’d be back.

It took many a year, but I finally returned. Not physically, but I’m not sure it matters.

Fireside was the only publisher willing to take a chance on this book, for a variety of reasons, and the only publisher I felt comfortable trusting its bloody beating heart to; this beautiful cover was made by Eleanor Chuah. I’m proud and honored to invite you into this book, my dear Readers, and I hope you enjoy it…

The first night we spent in that ancient mobile home, the wind mouthed its corners with a low whispering almost like words from another room.

Desiree Sarpe and her family–minus their domineering, abusive patriarch–have settled on the Wyoming plains, where the wind speaks, the grass whispers, and power comes in the strangest, most ordinary of forms. Unfortunately, the past and its terrors can’t be easily shaken, and Dez is about to find out how brutal, bloody, and costly magic really is…

Coming in December 2018; now available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent retailers.

If I Can Just…

Woke up this morning with Thomas Newman’s To the Shock of Miss Louise playing at high volume inside my head. Promptly tripped twice making the bed, had to almost drag Odd Trundles out for his morning eliminatory round, barely got the dogs’ food bowls filled without spilling, accidentally stepped on Trundles while trying to make coffee–the dog will be underfoot, it is a bloody constant–and apologized profusely, got scorched by the coffee maker, dropped bits of hot breakfast in my décolletage, there’s not enough coffee in the WORLD, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

Tuesday is, in short, a fucking Monday. I’m pretty sure getting out the door for my run is going to be an odyssey and a half. If I get through today’s spadework without breaking an ankle I’ll call it a win. Especially since Miss B, a morning dog if ever there was one, is extremely bouncy today.

I only managed a few chapters in revision yesterday. Book launch plus finishing a first draft under a severe time crunch has scraped me dry and left me reeling. I thought taking the weekend completely off might help, but apparently that wasn’t enough. I itch to be back at work, and at the same time, find myself dry-firing. Which, you know, is great for aiming and teaching purposes, but it doesn’t get stuff crossed off my to-do list. If I can just get through this first revise on Atlanta Bound

Wait. Wait a second. Wasn’t I just saying “if I can just get this first draft of The Maiden’s Blade out the door, I can relax”?

I was, wasn’t I.

*headdesk*

Anyway, it’s 9am, time to get out for a run while it’s still relatively cool outside. Let’s all hope for no broken ankles, and maybe when I come home I’ll have a better idea for the day, one that doesn’t involve me driving myself past threadbare and into full-blown burnout. Maybe. Except it’s June, which means edits for Rattlesnake Wind are going to land and I’ve got those comic book scripts to get off the ground, too.

No rest for the weary wicked. Let’s kick Tuesday in the pants, my friends.

Over and out.