A Whole Free Mood

It’s been a busy morning, my coffee has gone cold, and the diffuser in my office is burbling away with a little sandalwood and jasmine, mixing with petrichor coming in through my half-open window. The neighborhood is quiet, except for crow-calls and some squirrel chitterings. This morning I saw a giant black-feathered beast sitting next to an equally robust figure of an arboreal rat; they hurriedly separated when they discerned my surveillance.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I’ve also received a rash of “I have this idea, you take half a year to write it while living on air and then we’ll split the profits! Or I’ll–this is an even better deal–TAKE ALL THE PROFITS! Isn’t that great? Don’t you want to do that? Why don’t you want to do that? Where are you going? I HATE YOUR WORK ANYWAY.”

Yeah, it’s a whole mood, and it plays out the same way every. damn. time.

On a brighter note, the creative well demanded filling yesterday, so I spent some time watching the second Magic Mike movie, wrote 4k, then ended up missing bedtime because I watched Netflix’s Russian Doll start to finish in one gulp. The former was enjoyable, and I have Thoughts about the male gaze of the director focusing on male entertainers. The latter was…thought-provoking. I did not like the protagonist but I was rooting for her and for Alan, the character the story really belonged to.

That’s something I wish more narrative artists–writers in particular, but also directors–would take to heart more frequently. The protagonist is the watcher/reader’s main point of entry into the story. The story belongs, however, to the character who changes the most, and failing to recognize that is a large source of reader/viewer frustration and disappointment.

Deciding who your protagonist is and who the story actually belongs to will make the structure of the work much clearer, and will allow the storyteller–in whatever format–to push and pull said structure to get the effect they want. Along with a list of what every character in the thing desires–even the walk-ons–it’s a tool that often arrives after a great deal of trial and error, not to mention hard work. Lucky you, therefore, getting it for free!

…yeah, I’m a little salty this morning. Time to drag both dogs out for a run before the rains come in, though I never mind running under precipitation. It keeps the assholes with unleashed dogs inside, at least.

All right, Thursday. Let’s not hurt each other, okay? I’ll play gently if you will.

*puts on hockey mask*

But Soft, Coffee

I will not ever go out uncaffeinated again. Saturday was enough for me, thanks. Having to tear my dogs away from some neckbeard’s unleashed canines–because a certain type of heavyset white man thinks that leash laws are just advisories for someone of his exalted status–while lacking a base level of caffeine in my blood is not a good time.

Pre-coffee I’m irritated with everything. EVERYTHING, even the need to breathe, not to mention clothes, or even my very flesh itself. Not to mention anyone who tries speaking to me before I have elixir in my veins. The kids get a pass, of course, and the dogs make me laugh. But otherwise? STABBY McSTABBERSON, that’s me.

I did have a lovely weekend otherwise, what with a Sekrit Projekt and a mess of housework. There were books to finish reading, too, like Luce D’Eramo’s Deviation and a very old, very tiny hardback on the French Revolution. All in all, it was pleasant–except for the jackasses who won’t leash their dogs.

Anyway, I’m using the Sekrit Projekt as a carrot to get me through HOOD‘s Season One and the next big chunk of Epic Fantasy #2. If I can just get through the rest of the epic fantasies, I swear I won’t ever make this mistake again. *sigh*

In any case, the dogs are itching for a run, and since it’s a clouding-up Monday we hopefully won’t come across any entitled chucklefucks with legal comprehension problems.

Hopefully.

I should also mention that due to ongoing piracy, there will not be an ebook edition of Steelflower in Snow. Further Steelflower books will also have to wait for me to have the time and resources to write them. At this rate, the return to G’maihallan and the Dark Mountain saga will not ever be written; if I get through the Highlands War it’ll be a miracle. If you want to be mad at someone for depriving you of Kaia’s future adventures, be mad at e-pirates and torrent sites. I wish I could demand that any further work coming out through trad publishing be paper-only, too. If it’s not the pirates stealing from a writer it’s a publisher wanting you to do unpaid clerical work finding and submitting piracy URLs before they bestir themselves to act.

I’m beginning to hate ebooks, and I really shouldn’t. It’s not the format I hate, or the readers–definitely not the readers! It’s the goddamn thieves, and the asshats who make excuses for the thievery.

Well, that’s the last of my coffee. I can’t wait for spring rains to come in. At least when it’s pouring I can run alone with the canines. I have a scene with Little John and Alan-a-Dale to write today, as well as getting back into a “tell me about these assassins” moment between a general and an astrologer. I’m swamped.

Let us embark upon Monday, chickadees. It will get better the further in we get.

Or we’ll stab it.

Cold, Critical Gloss

I find myself muttering, “Christ I wish I still drank” more and more often these days. Breaking out in hives the morning after I indulge in any alcohol isn’t as much of a deterrent as it might be.

It’s a busy month. Birthdays, tax preparation, phone calls to be endured. At least I have a few recipes to work on and perfect. I’m considering leek and potato soup in the Instant Pot, but we’ll see. I also want to try focaccia with the method in SALT FAT ACID HEAT. Normally I’m not a fan of enriching bread with anything that’ll coat the starches and keep the gluten from firming up, but there’s always room in life for experimentation, right?

All the social and life obligations mean less time for writing. I’ve been working at white heat for a while but apparently, it hasn’t been enough. I wanted to have a zero of HOOD‘s Season One by this point, but it just hasn’t happened. Plus, The Poison Prince needs steady filling work, being the middle book in a trilogy. Everything needs to be balanced just-so, and being called away from the work at this point is frustrating in the extreme.

It’s also very chilly, which means the dogs don’t want to go outside unless they can use me as a windbreak. And each time we do so, my hair rises up in rebellion and does its best to strangle me. I suppose I should tie it down but then my nape and ears get cold. At least there are no bees nesting in my mop; they generally wait for warmer months.

I also have, by virtue of an excellent best friend, a tea bush–an actual tea bush–that was raised locally so is hardened to our peculiar conditions. I want to wait until it’s no longer so frigid to get it in the ground, maybe right next to the butterfly bush or in one of the southern garden boxes. Just imagine–one’s own tea leaves, hyperlocal and hand-dried.

I did get a few books knocked off this weekend on the reading instead of the writing end, including a kind of useful but startlingly stuck-up review of just-before-modern Japanese literature. I’ve been defeated by The Tale of Genji numerous times but with annotations, lit crit, and glosses, one day I might climb that mountain, and critical works are a good way to begin to figure out what to look for in books I don’t understand the milieu of. I want to value what I read properly, and that means I must search for understanding.

My TBR has a dent in it and I should shelve everything on the “this has been read but not yet put away” section of my office just to get some breathing room. Maybe I’ll just take March as more reading-friendly than working-friendly, throw up my hands, and call it good…

…but I wouldn’t bet on it. I am, I suppose, a stubborn pumpkin, and one who needs a run no matter how cold the wind.

See you around, my dears.

Going Gets Tough

I’ve been blogging for a long while now. There are dry periods, where I have nothing much to say except for the minutiae of daily life–how the book-sausage gets made, what the dogs have done now, how publishing is changing. Oh, and the weather. Of course the weather is a constant concern.

I partly blame reading military history; weather is always the third general upon the field, and one who can’t be ignored. Today the rain has washed away everything except a few sheltered snow holdouts. The streets are awash, the roof kissed over and over by falling drops. The dogs aren’t going to like our outing, at least not when the initial oh boy we’re outside WITH MUM wears off.

That takes about ninety seconds in a downpour. They must love me a lot.

This morning I woke up with Jack T. Colton from Romancing the Stone yelling “Oh, man, the Doobie Brothers broke up!” Which meant I had to go listen to What a Fool Believes and then onto a Twitter rant about how much I love that damn movie and how it’s probably responsible for my current career.1

Now you know who to blame, I guess? When the going gets tough

Copyedits continue apace. I spent some serious time yesterday looking into Ingram Spark and mass-market paperback trim sizes. If I get the whole PDF cover template thing done, the first experiment is Steelflower in mass-market size.

It’s a great time to be self-publishing, IF one knows what one’s doing. If one doesn’t, the options available might boggle one into inaction or worse, signing away one’s rights without proper compensation. Or one might think that because of a crying fit brought on by frustration (I fucking hate PDF cover templates, let me sing you a whole song about how I hate them) the entire thing isn’t worth doing, and toss it all out the door.

Yes, I was tempted yesterday. But today’s a whole new day, I’ve got my spark back and the heat set to the wick. Today is for more copyedits, and when I can’t do that anymore because my head will explode if I look at one more comma placement question, I might put together a soundtrack for HOOD and poke a bit more at cover templates.

But for right now, it’s raining and the dogs need a walk. See you around, chickadees.

Read ’em and weep. I always do.

Weekend Fyre Viewing

They’re saying snow, but so far there’s nothing but a restless, half-frozen rain going on. I’m hopeful we’ll avoid a layer of ice on everything; since we live near the mouth of the Columbia Gorge the wind often gives us a final fillip of freezing that makes tires refuse to grip and shoes refuse to stick.

This weekend I watched both the Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival. The Netflix one was structured like a morality play and had access to footage shot for what was going to be an adulatory documentary (if the thing came off); the Hulu one was structured like a true-crime documentary and had an interview with McFarland, the grifter who put the whole show on (and, incidentally, spent the money). I do recommend seeing both, for different reasons. McFarland, in the Hulu documentary, has pupils the size of saucers and a complete lack of remorse; if you want to see what a con man looks like when he’s high off his gourd and visibly remembering what his lawyers have told him not to comment on, there it is.

All during both shows, I just kept hearing my grandfather’s voice inside my head, saying “y’all can’t cheat an honest man.” My ex-husband used to say something similar–that grifts work because of people who want something for nothing or something too good to be true. I won’t deny a bit of schadenfreude watching “influencers” with more money than sense end up in a waterless, Lord of the Flies-esque FEMA-tent village, but the locals who weren’t paid–and the people working hard on the Fyre app whose paychecks stopped coming regularly but who were seduced into keeping on through a sick system using their best qualities against them–didn’t deserve this bullshit, and the Netflix app goes in much more detail about the effects McFarland’s con had on them.

For those who did watch the documentaries, there’s a “where are they now” article.

One of the things that struck me watching both documentaries was how images of scantily clad women were used to sell “the dream.” More than once, a man on either documentary says “on a drug island surrounded by beautiful women? Who wouldn’t want that?” The models used for the now-famous promotional video had no idea they were part of a con and were presumably paid for their work; after the reality set in, plenty of people got shirty with the models and the “influencers” instead of with McFarland, who stayed out of prison much longer than anyone non-white or non-male could ever believe possible.

Another strange thing: at least once during each documentary, someone who was being interviewed got a call from McFarland, and answered it on screen. There are still people who pick up the phone when that fellow calls.

Just…wow. Being a rich white boy–or even looking like one–is a helluva drug.

I’m also surprised that, with our “justice” system the way it is, Ja Rule didn’t get into more trouble. He must have clearly and unequivocally been innocent of wrongdoing and had super high-powered lawyers, since the usual thing in these cases is to harass the bit players (especially if they’re people of color) endlessly and let the head of the pyramid scheme go with a slap on the wrist.

Anyway, I spent the weekend watching that while a houseful of teenage boys pillaged my kitchen, since the Little Prince wanted a Smash Bros. sleepover. I put on a Burrito Night to end all Burrito Nights and, once they were full to the gills with beans, rice, chicken, and tortilla, promptly banished them downstairs with mountains of crisps and sodas. A few odd smells and bursts of deep, loud laughter drifted up the stairs, but other than that, it was a reasonably quiet event, and I remember feeling quite grateful. After all, I’d been watching event planning go horribly, terribly wrong all weekend.

That was my weekend. I hope yours was peaceful, dear Reader, and remember: never trust a blinking con artist, especially one who calls you “bro” all the time.

Too good to be true inevitably is.

Merry Go Round, Go Round, Round, Round

Today sees the very last of the prep for Atlanta Bounds release next week, and also the debut of HOOD. I figure I’ll offer a little of the latter for free, as dealers are wont to do, in order to entice a customer or two in the door. Imagine me in a hoodie on a dark street corner. “Pssst. Hey. Hey, you. Wanna read some Robin Hood in Space?”

True to form, I have a great deal of nervousness about starting a new serial. Roadtrip Z was a ride and a half, and I was (relatively) relaxed since I was doing something new, for me, and able to make a mistake at any time. Now that I (somewhat) know what I’m doing, I’m back in the territory of terror, so to speak.

I should just make friends with the fact that I’m always going to feel that fear. Maybe if I make friends with it, it’ll be a little less sharp.

One can hope.

I finished the skeleton of the Cyborg Alice in Corporate Wonderland yesterday, and will leave that short story in a mental drawer for at least a week before going back to put muscles and skin on said skeleton. Between that and the Hansel & Gretel Kung Fu short story, I feel like I managed to actually work all through the holidays, though to be fair I did spend most of my office time cleaning and reorganizing instead of writing. Physical cleaning helps your brain sort through and clean stories too. Letting things bubble and stew in the subconscious before opening the gate makes for a sense of furious transcription rather than painstaking creation. Building up just enough pressure that the story comes out quickly but doesn’t tear its way free causing injuries is a fine art, and one I doubt I have mastery of even at this late date.

I also managed to get out to Barnes & Noble with the Princess. I had Yule money to spend on books–always a welcome event–and I scored some interesting things.

I’ve been wanting to get into old-timey cowboy romances–I love that genre, as readers of The Damnation Affair no doubt will recognize–and the abridgment of Glantz’s magisterial Stalingrad trilogy was a happy accident. The biography of Stonewall Jackson will be difficult reading; American history is a catalog of genocide and slavery permeating every aspect of society and culture up to the present moment, and nowhere is that more in evidence than in the hagiography of treasonous Confederates. But to understand where we are, we must understand where we come from, and that’s part of it.

Something tells me I’ll need something good as a chaser after the awfulness, and it’s a pity I’ve already finished In Want of a Wife.

In any case, the day’s work beckons, and as soon as I finish this post it will be time for a session with Boxnoggin and Miss B. Tiring them out with pets and wrestling looks to be the most enjoyable part of my day by far, even if I can get bread dough put together before 10am.

In short, it’s a Thursday, we’re all back at work, and the devil’s not after the hindmost only because he has holiday paperwork to catch up on too.

See you around, chickadees.

King and Gemini

Spent most of the holiday yesterday working, of course. I didn’t mean to, I just sat down to tinker with a scene that had been giving me trouble and…the next thing I knew, it was lunchtime. After shambling out to eat, I decided I had too much momentum to quit.

The next thing I knew, again, it was time to turn the oven on and start making dinner. It’s been a while since I’ve fallen into revisions like that, and I’m grateful it’s finally happened. Momentum is better than drag.

This morning, standing on the deck while the dogs went about their business, I could see my breath. The days are still warm, but the nights are becoming crisp. The year has truly turned, thank goodness. I can’t wait to see the back of 2018. It hasn’t been as bad as some other years, at least not personally, but I will be extremely glad to shut the door upon it and kick a wedge underneath to keep it closed. Too much bad luck happening to people I care about, and too much fascism in the air.

I’ve also been on a Stephen King jag, my brain rebelling at research reading. I tried Doctor Sleep, but the ongoing misogyny was jarring. I mean, King’s never been a feminist–just look at IT, for God’s sake–but I was hoping for something like the terrible objective lighthouse beam of compassion he turned on Jack Torrance and his alcoholism. I was really, really hoping…but no. It’s been a long time since I set a King book aside; I think Tommyknockers was the last one–but I had to.

Instead, I’ve gone back to his earlier works. Not my favorites, but the ones I perhaps didn’t get the first time around, being extremely young. Like Christine, for example, which is really well-constructed. ‘Salem’s Lot, another hideously misogynistic book, is nevertheless a book that has internal consistency even in its horror.

It’s that internal consistency I miss most when I read King’s newer stuff. The ending of Needful Things was probably the first time I ever saw it slip1, and it boded ill for later. The place where that consistency is truest, of course, is in the short stories and novellas, so I’ve gone back to Skeleton Crew and Different Seasons and Night Shift, perhaps my favorite of the anthologies.2

I’d forgotten John D. MacDonald’s foreword to the last, which is a fine piece of writing in and of itself and has one particular bit I always think of–how writers read everything with either grinding envy or grinning contempt, so to speak. Of course, the fellow who wrote the Travis McGee books could spin a yarn or two, there’s no question.

I’ve stopped asking why the Muse wants particular things at particular times. Right now she wants King, and King she shall have. She’s probably turning over the last batch of research reading I stuffed into my head in her hands, humming, while she finds all the edges and polishes them.

That bitch polishes sharp, let me tell you. I’m just glad she isn’t yelling for some Bukowski, who was a champion heavyweight in the misogyny department.

Time to lace up my trainers and take Sir Boxnoggin on a run. Miss B, getting older but not very much wiser (as dogs do) will stay at home today, and that is going to make her a trifle upset. She’ll need some pets and attention when we come home, and will probably chase Boxnoggin around the house, just to show who’s really boss.

We all know it’s her, but she still feels the need to remind the bouncy young Lord van der Sploot that she is the Dowager, and she will not be overlooked. As the Princess often says, I went and got a dog just like me–on both counts. Boxnoggin, like Odd Trundles, is my happy-go-lucky side, and Miss B is my get-down-to-brass-tacks. It probably comes from me being a Gemini.

In any case, it’s time to get back to work. A particularly thorny revision question needs some sweat and feet pounding the pavement to work itself out, and I’d best get started.

Over and out.