Mail Call

Man Reading his Mail
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Reader mail has picked up again, and so has my energy level. So I’m thinking about doing a weekly “from the mailbag” post. Or biweekly, depending on the volume of actual reasonable mail to hatemail.

Some days, the proportions are a bit bent.

Anyway! Let’s grab a few from the mailbag and take a look, shall we? First up is Reader E.P.:

I’m reading the Dante Valentine omnibus for the sixth time, I am simply drawn back to read it again and again, and I was wondering about Japhrimel’s feelings throughout the books. You do give us a brief insight into his feelings especially when he kneels before Dante and speaks to her of his failure. In numerous points in the books Dante notices his attention on her and I can’t help but wish to know more of what and how he is feeling, such as when he waits for Dante while she rides the slicboard or when he watches her spar with Jace. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love these books and will continue to enjoy them over and over, and I know the story is from Dante’s point of view, but more from Japh would be amazing, maybe his side of the story about his fall and how he deals with the infuriating Dante even though he loves her?

Sometimes I think about writing Japh’s POV. The problems with it are numerous–for one thing, he thinks in demon, not in English or even Dante’s Merican, so the translation is a bit…difficult. There’s also the fact that I dislike him so intensely. The key to Japh, for me, was my writing partner’s throwaway comment about demons destroying what they love. And to Japh, his love is intimately bound up in the idea of controlling the environment and everything around Dante in order to “protect” her. He’s not human, he wasn’t ever human, and his priorities, morals, and ethics are not human either. So…I don’t have any plans yet, though there are the books dealing with Gabe’s daughter (who is a Magi) and also the short story featuring Danny, Selene, Nikolai, and Japh all working together that have been bubbling in my head for a while…

Next up is Reader D.W.:

I’m currently reading your second Roadtrip Z book. I’m a little confused as to where Cotton Crossing is located. I thought it was maybe in Florida, but there is way too much snow and ice for that area. It would really help me enjoy the book more if I wasn’t constantly trying to figure out where they are. I’ve tried looking online for the answer, but couldn’t find it. Thanks!

About all I can say is that Cotton Crossing is not on any map, though Lee tells me it’s somewhere in Missouri.

It’s been a month for people asking me about the Valentine series, I guess. Next comes this, from Reader S.F.:

Hello, thank you for writing the Dante Valentine series. It was very enjoyable. I was wondering, however, do you think you will you ever write about Lucas Villalobos? Your afterward said that Dante and Japhrimel’s story is over, but I am curious about the Deathless and would love to read more about him.

Lucas is…difficult. (He’s always been difficult.) He doesn’t talk about where he comes from, and can disappear for long periods of time if you press. I can say that if you read Coming Home in The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, you’ll find out some of what happens to Lucas after the events of the Valentine series, and that it involves Gabe and Eddie’s daughter.

If you’ve got a question, you can use the form on my Contact page. I cannot answer even a quarter of the missives I receive, but you never know–if I start doing mail calls biweekly or weekly, you just may see your question here.

Now it’s time to go for a run. Over and out.

I Get Mail

Man Reading his Mail
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yeah, I get mail.

Yesterday I sent out my monthly newsletter; this particular edition was titled Not Spring Yet. Since I’ve received quite a few emails asking if Steelflower at Sea will be released in ebook, I decided to answer the question directly. Here’s what I said:

I’m also getting a lot of questions about more Strange Angels books–which there are no plans for–and about an ebook edition of Steelflower 2. There is a third Steelflower book in my production schedule this year, and hopefully I’ll be able to work on it between other projects. I would at least like to get through the Highlands War; after that, I think I can let the further tale of Kaia and D’ri’s eventual journey back to G’maihallan remain unwritten.

A lot will depend on if Steelflower 2 & 3 sell in paper, frankly. But I love Kaia, and eventually, the Highlands War will have its tale told.

In addition, I captioned a pic of the Steelflower at Sea cover with this:

A lot of you have asked me about an ebook edition of Steelflower at Sea.

There will NOT be one for the foreseeable future.

Apparently, the newsletter reached someone with…well, I’m not gonna say a guilty conscience, but it’s interesting.

from: *redacted*
to: Lilith Saintcrow
date: 15 January 2018 at 21:19
subject: Re: Not Spring Yet

I have cancelled my subscription, because your actions imply all the ebook owners; and yes that means the people who have bought your books; out there are crooks. I wanted to catch you up on the internet news. In the past 18 months, all of the major pirate sites have been shut down, all the equipment impounded, and charges brought to the operators. So, your exposure to pirating is virtually nil now. In addition, all the largest internet providers police their customers, and act on the reports of copyright holders who tell them any website dealing with illegal materials, and anyone who has been involved in downloading copyright materials is dealt with. I suggest you have whoever handles your business operations check out what I said above thoroughly. And lastly, it only takes five minutes with Google search to find the sites who have your books. Just search by your name, and or book title, and all the little shit’s web pages pop up. Then report them. This is much easier than mistreating your fans, and is as easy as locking your door at night. Good luck with the paperback sales, but don’t be disappointed if they are dismal. God Bless.

Well. *sips tea* I could tell this person that there is an antipiracy service that does Google searches and reporting, and there are literally HUNDREDS of sites out there breeding with a facility rabbits might envy, and that if I spent my time reporting all of them I’d have none left over to write, feed myself, shower, or sleep, but why bother? Facts, I suspect, will be of little use here when someone’s convenience has been momentarily impinged upon.

I’m sure opting out of my totally free and voluntary newsletter was satisfying in the extreme to this person. I am also left with the nagging notion that perhaps, just perhaps, this person has torrented a few of my works, and is upset because one of my *counts on fingers* MANY series will not be released in e-format for…oh, reasons completely unrelated to entitlement and the ability to easily steal said e-formats. Completely. *nods sagely* Yes, definitely.

Yeah. I get mail.

*sigh*

From the Mailbag

I’m getting plenty of mail from my Gumroad post. This missive, in particular, asked a very good question, so I thought I would post it (redacted for privacy) and my answer.

Hi Lili!

Thank you for writing the article on The Gumroad Blog – “A patronage model with Gumroad.” (Link)

I’m a musician with a Patreon, and along with you I’m angry about the unannounced fee structure change they made – they lost my trust.

Your article explains with great detail how Gumroad can be a great Patreon alternative. Thank you for peeling back the curtain and showing us how you’ve set things up!

One question I have is not about Gumroad per se, but the PayPal subscriptions. When you have a $1 subscription, are you paying the 2.9% + .30 fee, leaving you with $0.66? I ask because the vast majority of my Patrons are $1 pledgers. Pinching pennies, yes, but it adds up!

If you could take the the time to answer this I’d appreciate it! I plan to follow your lead and give Gumroad a try!

With gratitude,

**redacted name**

Here’s my reply:

Dear **redacted**,

I believe I do pay the 2.9% and $.30 fee on dollar PayPal donation subscriptions. I don’t care about this as much as I do about Patreon’s fees, for two reasons: one, PayPal has always been up-front about said fees, and two, PayPal doesn’t add a second fee to the patron/customer the way Patreon was planning to do. I bear the cost, which I believe is only natural and proper. I offer the PayPal $1 subscriptions along with $3 and $5, and since PayPal lets them set up recurring monthly payments or choose to make a lump-sum donation, it’s super convenient for patrons in a way Patreon never has been.

Gumroad has a $.99 minimum, which may be a little more cost effective if you have enough subscribers to carry the monthly $10 premium fee; if you don’t, the free Gumroad option will take a similar chunk of the payment from you but still not charge the customer/patron more. I do have occasional Ko-Fi patrons, but I tend to steer new patrons who just want to show support with a couple bucks per month to PayPal, for their ease and for the consumer trust PayPal has built up. I seem to recall that at the time this all went down Ko-Fi didn’t have a recurring payments option but were looking at adding it in the near future.

I think if you already have a patron base, a mix of PayPal and Gumroad might serve the ones who want to move away from Patreon better—certainly that’s the route I chose, as you can tell! I know there are creators who have set up workflows to send perks to their PayPal patrons, but I chose not to, because I need my time for writing and Gumroad is way more flexible and time-saving when it comes to sending out perks. The limit to upload files for your Gumroad membership customers is 16gb, which is comfortable for musicians, I think. (Subscribers get updates through email, and I’m not sure what the file limits are there.)

So yes, PayPal does take a chunk of each dollar donation, but I’m fine bearing that cost because there’s more trust and they do NOT charge my patron for the transaction, which was the exact thing I was furious with Patreon for even considering. I do not advocate burning your Patreon to the ground—there are still several of my clients who prefer to stay with “the devil they know”, as is their right. As long as I have a single patron there, I’ll stay on the platform, but I’m open with them about why I think Gumroad’s a better option for both of us, and those who have made the switch seem to agree. If my patrons move on wholly to other platforms, I’ll feel just fine about deleting my Patreon, but as long as they want to use that service, I’ll keep content there for them.

I hope this helps. Thank you for your feedback!

I am extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from my darling Readers. If anything good has come of Patreon’s ham-fisted attempt, it’s that I’ve been shown in concrete ways just how much my beloved Readers care. (I mean, aside from buying my books, which is awesome in and of itself.) The internet has been a giant blessing and curse for creators, but most of the time the former overwhelms the latter for me.

Thanks, guys.

Uh, whoops…

Yeah, so, yesterday I changed a single tag on some SquirrelTerror posts and WordPress decided to vomit them ALL up as new posts, everywhere. Sorry about that. :/ (I am told Mercury is retrograde, so that’s what I’m blaming.)

Yesterday I could barely settle to a damn thing until around 3pm, when I’d achieved enough caffeine to impersonate a satellite launch. Fortunately, after that things were much easier; Beast of Wonder, Pocalypse Road, and Combine’s Shadow all lined up for work and were attended to in order. I think spending most of the day on Mastodon instead of Twitter improved my productivity tenfold. Twitter is a garbage fire of harassment, even though I have a truly robust block list. The effort of swimming through that toxicity is gargantuan; still, though, I have to retain a presence there because I’m a mid-list author. Having to hold one’s nose and do something is full adulthood, my friends.

So today: wordcount, revisions, Latin, Greek, piano practice. A full docket, and I have to get out the door for some speed work. I’m not sure I’ll take Miss B–she’s not fond of intervals. They probably interfere too much with her trying-to-kill-me rhythm.

So, I’m sorry about yesterday’s email blizzard, blog subscribers. Next time I change a tag…well, maybe I just won’t, because oh my God who needs that kind of hassle? Forgive me.

*zooms away into the sunshine*

A Gift for Yourself

fall to heaven This is, for me, the least wonderful time of the year.

The crass commercialism is merely annoying. Crushing seasonal depression mostly responds to medication. Anxiety hits a high whining note of stress. The desperation, aggravation, and just plain miserable anger swirling in almost every public place is worse, since it rasps on all my edges. The post office parking lot is a cesspool of barely restrained aggression; I suppose I’m glad that inside, the lines are mostly well-mannered. (At least, I haven’t seen any fisticuffs, mostly because I duck in, check my PO box, and duck out.) Years of working in retail and seeing parents explode at tired, cranky children overwhelmed by the sensory input has filled me with sadness. The grocery store is full of tired, cranky adults, many of whom use their selves and carts to block all progress in the physical sense, and in other senses as well.

I have the same problem with “Christmas cheer” that I have with church–plenty of people think that if they go one day a week, hair slicked down and good clothing on, that they can be complete assholes the other six without qualm. One grand gesture at Christmas does not outweigh 364 days of being a douchenozzle.

The explosion of false good cheer makes me nervous the same way presents from abusers did. You know you’re going to pay for it sooner or later, and a calm right now means the storm has only paused. Once the extended family has gone home, the presents one received (meant to impress said extended family) are easily taken away. Small things one has done during the holiday parties are dragged up later and furious punishments are meted out. God forbid you smile at another man during a holiday party while a jealous boyfriend is watching, taking notes for things to use later when he wants to use his fists.

Some years I manage to enjoy some aspects of this time of year, mostly through the happiness of my children. Their joy makes me think maybe it’s not so bad after all. To them, the holidays are full of special things and good food, burning paper wishes and lighting the vigil candle on the solstice, a few thoughtful presents and time spent lounging in the living room together, each of us engrossed in something–a book, knitting, a video game–but being proximal. And of course, winter break, that holy time of no school.

But for me personally, the joy of the holidays was shattered early, and mostly I just set myself to endure them. It’s like my birthday–I don’t want presents, I don’t want cake, I don’t want fuss, I just want the day to pass as quietly as possible, with no breaking plates or screaming or paralyzing fear. A few of my loved ones find this hard to accept, but it’s a gift that means the most to me.

Some holiday seasons aren’t so bad. This one, well. I’m not responding to contact-form emails until January. (Sorry about that, but you don’t want me responding when I’m on edge. TRUST ME.) I’m withdrawing from many things, holing up until the storm passes. Spending what little leftover energy I have on work, which is ironic since publishers shut down from December to February.

Like I said, I know a lot of people love this time of year. That’s great; I’m unreservedly happy for them. For those who share my sentiments, though–you’re not alone. Take care of yourself out there. It’s okay to say no and conserve your energy. It’s all right, I promise. You can give yourself the gift of getting through the end of the year intact, and it’s a great gift for yourself and for everyone you care about.

Over and out.

Vampire Tampons

SA_REVISED.indd I get mail. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s a genuine question, or someone who thinks they’ve found a plot hole and wants to gloat, but I’m pretty sure this is the former. Reader C.A. writes in:

Subject:
Hi

Message:
Hi Lili,
I’m a huge fan of your books, and I know you’re crazy busy so if you can’t reply I’ll just make up my own answer to my question. But something’s been bugging me for while about the Strange Angels world. What happens when a svetocha gets her period? If the djamphir smell the blood, how does everyone deal with it?
Anyway, thank you so much for writing that series. For the record, I loved the ending. I finished the series when I was around the same age as Dru, and having the girl be the most important one in the story was something I really needed at the time.

*Reader C.A.’s full name redacted*

First, dear C.A., I am so, so glad the ending gave you something you needed. That is important to me, and it makes the fighting I did for that ending all worthwhile.

Now, on to the menstrual cycles of half-vampire girls! I am happy (is that the word?) to say this is something I thought hard about. When the first physiological changes begin to happen to prep Dru for blooming, her blood started getting the happy stuff that drove the boy djamphir crazy. The problem comes, however, only when enough of the blood hits the air. (I tried to ask Dru about the exact chemical reactions in the oxidation, but she doesn’t like chem.) A nosebleed, for example, is right there on the face, exposed to air the second it shows up.

Menstrual flow is tucked into a different bodily space. Also, it’s a sloughing–most of the time it’s old blood and tissue, instead of straight from the vein. It’s not quite as potent as, say, bleeding from a laceration. (Except ritualistically, but that’s–say it with me–another blog post.) Except near the end, when there’s a trickle of fresh blood because the walls of the uterus are raw.

The menstrual cycle is some fascinating shit, let me tell you.

So the solution is: tampons. Svetocha tend to have irregular cycles before they bloom, and Dru had a bit of amenorrhea due to the stress of killing her zombified dad and running for her life, so it didn’t come up often. The Kouroi don’t go into the girls’ bathroom–that’s how Dru could be attacked in the shower scene–and as long as she’s a little conscientious, it’s largely moot.

Plus, Nathalie, like a true werwulfen friend, could tell Dru if she was, you know. Leaking. Or about to leak. Or bring Dru her homework for a couple days if necessary. The small wastebaskets for such products in the girls’ loos at every Schola had an ingenious method of sealing each, um, little package, sort of like a Litter Genie.

There was a scene where Nat had to tell Dru to button up and they would talk while Nat stood guard at the stall door, but it didn’t survive the revision process. It’s a pity. Along with trying to force me to give Dru a romantic ending (when she clearly did NOT need one) the publisher also got kind of weird about her menstruation.

I could go on, but I suspect it would be uninteresting. Suffice to say blooming, as a component of puberty, is a messy and uneven business, dependent on several hormones and other processes within the svetocha‘s body. (I also won’t go into the uses Anna put some of this knowledge to.)

So…yeah. I spent a significant amount of time, while writing YA, thinking about half-vampires wearing tampons. You’re welcome.

Process, NaNo, Prep

Is this thing on?
Is this thing on?
I get mail. And sometimes it’s really awesome mail! Reader MV (who I believe is Brazilian?) had a very interesting question.

Do to the approaching NaNoWriMo time, I’m searching about outlining process and how to better structure my story to face an entire writing time without failing. As a film and television production student I’ve learned to do really extended story bibles to my screenplays and that seems to work when sharing the writing process with other writers.

When writing prose I still didn’t find my way yet. I don’t feel myself a good pantster, but when I do expented outlines it somehow kills the story for my.

Looking throughout you blog I found post titled Some basic questions (http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/2009/06/some-basic-questions/) in which you say you’re more a pantster and that you know your entire story from line one and that you only write down some important events in the narrative beforehand. Because it seems to be an old post I’m interested in knowing if your process remains the same. How would you prepare yourself to a writing marathon such as NaNoWriMo?

MV is right–NaNo is approaching. (I’m doing a side project this year; you can find me here.) I sometimes don’t sign up, since I’m finishing novels all the damn time, but it’s sometimes nice to take a side project during November and have outside pressure help my discipline. NaNo’s structure a good balance between my natural intransigence and my perfectionism and desire to please; normally, I hate any sort of bit or bridle that isn’t self-chosen. But it’s good to challenge oneself, which is how I view NaNo. It’s a game I play solely against myself, one other people are playing on adjacent fields at the same time. That’s the closest I get to team sports, I guess.

MV’s questions here are extremely interesting, because they assume the problem is a structural one–that if one can just find the right balance between plotting and pantsing, the rest will follow. Which is somewhat true, but as with all things involving creative production, it’s a wee bit more complex.

Digression: I should note here that in the intervening years since the post MV references, I have shifted to drafting in Scrivener and revising in MSWord, mostly with TrackChanges turned on and an editor’s comments in the margins. Scrivener is a relatively new change for me, but the big update they did in ?2013?, I think? really made the entire program easier to use, and I took the plunge. Most of the bells and whistles are still unnecessary, and I don’t use a lot of them, but a few features–project targets, character sheets, ease of footnoting for glossary terms, the ability to move whole scenes–make up for it.

With all that said and out of the way, let’s get to the meat–what’s my process now, and how do I recommend prepping for NaNo?

My process is basically the same. For some books I do a sort of halfass outline with major scene points [[written bold inside brackets]], so I can search for the brackets and see what the fuck I was thinking, or delete them once I have a zero draft. Most of the time, the novel veers away from what I think the scenes are going to be, at which point I delete bracketed scenes as I come to them. One never learns how to write novels per se, one only learns how to write the novel one’s writing now, but after one has finished a few, the relaxation into the process makes it marginally easier.

Marginally.

Now, as for prepping for NaNo…really, it’s a question of scheduling. Make it a priority to schedule time for writing in every damn day during November. This is the single most critical piece of prep I can think of. I know a lot of people will resist this, or call my advice cruel. That’s fine, they’re allowed their opinions. But making the commitment now to set aside some time will save so much heartache later, and sticking to it through November (come hell, holiday, or high water) will get you in the habit of prioritizing your writing. The commitment to writing every day breaks down the amount of text you’ll have to produce into manageable chunks, AND will help you get back up on the horse if you miss a day. (Which happens, since the world is an imperfect place.) Put it on your to-do list. Wake up a little earlier and use the extra time to write; schedule your lunch break so you can write longhand or on a laptop and then transcribe it when you get home, pitch your daily television-watching or Buzzfeed surfing out the window and write instead.

As for facing the entire writing time without “failing”, well, better to attempt than to do nothing, right? I’m going to recommend this: don’t worry about pantsing or plotting or failing once November starts. Just get in there and get your daily wordcount (the NaNo site has tools to help you with the brute count needed to get 50K in during the whole month) done with whatever happens next in the story. If you haven’t outlined what happens next, guess. Take the most logical path, or just send in aliens and death rays. Trust the story. This will get you a lot closer to the end than you think, AND you’ll have a chunk of text you can go back and shape and trim once December hits and you have that headache that tells you why writers drink. Outlining is fine, as far as it goes, but a lot of people mistake the work of outlining for actual production of the story, get sucked into building the elaborate bones, and run out of steam. The road to Hell is paved with pretty outlines and good intentions. Get your ass in the chair and your hands on the keyboard once November starts, and if the outline isn’t behaving, set it on fire and ignore its screams while you concentrate on your daily wordcount.

Other writers might give different advice, but I’m the one you’re asking, and that’s what I think. MV, you’re welcome to throw questions into the comments if you don’t mind outing yourself. Anyone else attempting NaNo this year can use the link above to buddy me, and feel free to throw questions into the comments here too if you want. I can’t promise to answer all of them, but I’ll try, and other prospective NaNo participants might have some good ideas too.

Over and out.