Gilding the Web

A delicate balance on each strand.

On mornings when the mist is just right, spiderwebs are decorated with tiny jewels.

There’s a low juniper hedge on our walkies route ideal for arachnids (no doubt it’s a huge buffet) and some mornings, the bling catches the early sun and turns gold. Other times, it’s silver gilding, and while the dogs sniff at the bottom of the hedge, eager for news and the passing report of small animals, I look at the webs and feel a great sense of calm.

I hope you find a tiny bit of beauty today, my beloveds. And I hope the long-legged ones get their fill, once the mist burns off.

Have a good weekend!

Back to Scratching Itch

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I’m settling down to my blog post a little late this Thursday, mostly because I’ve been fighting with print distributors. Well, fighting is a strong word. I’m simply being very clear about expectations and deadlines.

*sips tea*

I tested a new-ish print distro with four books, and have seen a 75% failure rate. Certainly not ideal by any measure, and let’s not even talk about people not bothering to read an email before they cut-and-paste a reply. To be fair, I know the reps are quite probably overworked–which is why I try to make it easy, giving all details for maximum clarity in every. single. email.

To be even more fair, the matter has finally escalated to the level where something has a chance of actually getting done, so that’s a good thing.

Had I been in publishing less than almost two decades (my, how the time has flown) I would probably just have given up on all four editions, but I know when to be stubborn by now. I have been treading the edge of Karen as this thing wears on, because by the gods, I will not be undone by a bureaucracy.

I will say the irritation was great fuel for the morning’s run. I woke up with grandson’s “Oh No!!!” in my head at high volume, so that was on repeat for a nontrivial number of kilometers. I’m still a bit sore (and dotted with various bruises) from the swift and complete moving job we did for a friend Tuesday, too. Stretching, a tonne of hydration, and going to bed early tonight will probably make me right as rain.

Today I get a burrito for lunch, some fun subscription stuff drops for my beloveds, the dogs are relatively calm, and while very warm the weather is not overly awful. And I get to throw both a heroine and her suitor into a Very Dangerous Situation, with bullets flying.

It feels good to be writing again, instead of dealing with distribution hassles, formatting, edits, or proofs. Just scratching the itch for twenty minutes or so on a day when I’m exhausted juggling other chainsaws is not optional. For the rest of this month I’m back to producing new words instead of dealing with the ones I’ve already written, and it is marvelous.

I wish you a lovely Thursday, my friends. May we all get a chance to do something we like today, instead of enduring what we must.

Over and out.

Schlepping and Small Talk

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There’s a forest of Post-it reminders festooning my desk, things are stacked on every horizontal office surface, and even coffee isn’t jump-starting my brain today. I could blame the holiday weekend, but really it’s a function of six months’ work crammed into the last two weeks and now another week full of things having a social component, which wears me out almost as much as multiple edits.

I did mean to clean my office yesterday, but Other Things intervened. I won’t get a chance today, either. I shouldn’t mind so much, but also I won’t get a chance for more than a half-hour or so of writing time. I’m going to be masked and carrying heavy objects for a great deal of the day, and while I don’t mind the workout (I swear to the gods I’m getting a run in today too, I needs it, precious) I am flinching in advance at the requirement to make small talk with people during the schlepping.

Small talk being one of the banes of my existence, naturally.

It must also be Toxic People Home Week, because I’ve spent a nontrivial amount of hours so far patiently repeating, “This is not normal, this is not fine, and you don’t have to put up with it” to people I love, with a heaping helping of “no, that shit’s toxic, it’s a trap, maybe consider not engaging.”

And it’s only Tuesday.

I don’t know if it’s the change of seasons, being out of the house more, the Delta variant, or the horse paste, but it seems like not only are nasty people looking to practice cruelty on not just their usual victims lately but also a whole clutch of new ones. I’m hoping it’s the last gasp of a dying, venomous creature, and that if it’s dodged we can collectively move on.

We’ll see.

At least if I get a run in I’ll have my zen and patience fully refreshed. I’m looking forward to it, and looking forward even more to that half-hour of writing time. Both will get me through the day–and coffee, yes. Coffee will help. Everything is an endurance contest now, and while I don’t find such contests pleasant, at least I know how to handle them at this stage in my life.

Small mercies. And it’s a lot easier when one has decided, frankly, that one has no more fucks to give. The Post-its can stay where they are for another day, it won’t hurt anything.

I wish you a pleasant Tuesday, beloveds. Fall approaches, and it’s a great time to go no-contact with horrid people if one can. If one can’t, the grey rock method can also help.

And with that advice, I’m off to walk some lovable, furry brats. See you around.

Horace, of the de Brassieres

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Horace de Brassiere, espresso machine and man about town

There’s been a positive plague of googly eyes around the house lately, since the Princess got an idea from Tumblr. (Apparently halving a bell pepper and sticking googly eyes on it is a good time. Who knew?)

My big Breville espresso machine needs a bit of care, so it’s sitting in the garage waiting patiently for the end of the pandemic. This fellow has stepped in to provide signal service, and for his pains he has been given…eyes.

I’m leaning into my mad scientist urges, I guess.

I was too lazy to go downstairs and get the glue gun, but it occurred to me, in a blinding flash of creative joy, that we had a whole cabinet of school supplies in my office and neither child is going back to school anytime soon. (College, maybe, once the damn pandemic…oh, you know the drill.) So I hied myself down the hall at high speed, startling the dogs into giving chase, and tore into said cabinet like a kid on Yule morning.

One glue stick and two very confused dogs later, I bolted back down the hall, and Horace’s surgery was performed posthaste while I treated him to a rousing rendition of a song about his cousin Phillip (the very worst of the French patent thieves).

…we used to sing that a lot in high school. Sometimes you’ve got to make your own fun, and if some cheap plastic from the craft store helps, there’s no reason to refrain.

Horace wishes you a very pleasant weekend, my beloveds. And so do I.

Puzzled By Cruelty

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Yesterday was all about line edits; Sons of Ymre #1 is inching that much closer to publication. (Yes, as soon as there’s preorder information, I will absolutely let my beloved Readers know.) I was up what passes for relatively late last night–the dogs went to bed without me, and are bright-eyed and fresh this morning while I drag.

I am a night owl by temperament, but years of having to get the kids ready for and delivered to school have left a mark. Now that’s over, the dogs are still on a schedule and creatures of habit who view All Change as Very Very Bad do not take kindly to schedules shifting. Left to my druthers I’d be up around 1pm, work until 3-4am, and fall into bed around 4-5am, depending.

Alas, it is not possible, and my body’s protests must be listened to though they change not a whit of what must be. Ah well.

The news from Texas yesterday put a dent in me, as well. I know a certain proportion of people just plain enjoy cruelty; it is a fact of existence on this planet, like gravity or nitrogen. Still, it’s puzzling. Why spend all your time being a racist, misogynist asshat when there’s a literal infinity of other things to fill one’s earthly time with? These people could go touch grass, learn how to unicycle, write songs, watch some movies, or even just take a goddamn walk.

Instead, they apparently want to be nasty little fascist dipshits. Why spend that kind of effort? It’s absolutely and literally easier to just…not, to simply be kind or at the very least leave other people alone.

I suppose that’s part of why I write. Not deepest, most overarching reason–I am, quite frankly, unable to stop, and have been ever since second grade–but an important one nonetheless. The addiction of some people to cruelty has baffled me literally all my life, starting with childhood caregivers who hurt me apparently just for funsies. It made no sense to Child Me and makes even less to Adult Me. (For whatever value of “adult”, I suppose.)

I wish I knew why. Attempting to understand might be the writer’s curse or just a function of empathy, I haven’t decided. Yes, I’ve written villains; I’ve even written characters who enjoy cruelty for its own sake–Perry in the Kismet series, for example, or a few of the antagonists in Afterwar, not to mention Summer in Gallow & Ragged.

Now that I think about it, “comfortable with cruelty” is a hallmark of many of my villains or antagonists. Yet those characters, foul as they are, cannot hold a candle to the petty, nasty, apparently endless brutality and mendaciousness of real-life authoritarians. Even Perry, and he was dead set on killing the entire world if it got him what he wanted from Jill.

Fiction has to make sense on some level. Real life, alas, does not.

I wish I understood. It’s long been my fervent belief that understanding breeds compassion, and while I’m fully aware sociopaths and narcissists view compassion as weakness it’s still integral to me, I will keep it that way, and it doesn’t mean I’m unprepared to enforce my boundaries. I can even view the understanding as a way of anticipating the behavior of those who like cruelty for its own sake, so I can protect me and mine from their depredations.

I suppose the only hope is to keep writing. There’s finicky little changes to go over in Ymre now that the bulk of the line edits are done, I just approved a shiny hardback for Moon’s Knight, and today is subscription day. The next major project is revisions on The Black God’s Heart diptych, but there’s a fellow writer’s book to beta read and an article to copyedit for another friend in the queue, so those will be loaded to the cannon first.

Not to mention walkies with a pair of excited, bratty, furry toddlers and a run to get in. The latter, at least, will help me concentrate and get through the rest of the day. I will mull over the mystery of why some people are cruel goddamn dipshits during both, I’m sure, and arrive at no answer other than, “They like it, and the best we can do is protect ourselves from them.”

It is not a satisfying explanation, but at least it grants some succor. It will, as I often say, have to be enough.

Over and out.

Tuesday, With Questions

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I have coffee, and it’s finally not feeling like a Monday anymore. Small mercies, silver linings, and all that.

It struck me this morning, waiting for Horace de Brassiere (my espresso machine, who is a cousin to Phillip, the great French patent thief) to finish his burbling, that if I had to be dealing with these kinds of historical events, I am probably at the best age for it. I’m 45 this year, and all my fucks are gone. As a matter of fact, the number of fucks given in a room automatically drops when I walk in. Not only do I not have any more fucks to give, but I am operating on a fucks-to-give deficit and will automatically cancel out a few when I get within a certain radius.

It’s a nice feeling.

I’ve had a couple questions pop up from more than one person lately, so let me answer them here.


Is there a sequel to The Marked?

I do have the sequel in my head. What I don’t have, sadly, is the time, energy, and cash to write it just at the moment, especially since the e-pirates are getting kind of active lately. If I do manage to finish Oracle–the sequel’s working title–I’ll let you guys know, I promise. As it is, Jude and Press’s first adventure does end at a natural resting-point if it has to be a standalone.

Is there a site or format that provides you the best return on reader purchases? Does purchasing through the Gumroad store net you more proceeds than from Amazon, for example?

I answered this in comments, but I’ll answer it here too: The short answer is, it honestly doesn’t matter. Amazon, for example, tries relentlessly not to pay writers, but the discoverability and the bumping of their algorithm with sales of a particular book can aggregate over time. Other large distro platforms have their pluses and minuses, and direct selling like Gumroad does hand over a larger share of the proceeds but has a tightly scoped-in audience so not a lot of people end up buying there.

The best answer, from a writer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t matter where you bought the book but THAT you bought/checked out the book–torrenting and pirating doesn’t count.

Another thing that’s really helpful is rating/reviewing the book, wherever you bought it. Algorithms tend to bump rated/reviewed books more, so that does good things for a writer’s backlist.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter, it’s all about what’s more convenient for the Reader.

What’s happening with The Highlands War?

A lot of people are writing me about Steelflower lately. This remains my most-stolen series; it’s difficult to write against that current. If you wish I’d write more of Kaia’s adventures, and more quickly, the reason I can’t is because people keep torrenting/pirating/stealing them. It’s not a compliment, it’s a theft, and it feels so much like a violation I have trouble going back to the books even if I had the time and income to write them.

That said, I am considering writing The Highlands War as a serial once Hell’s Acre is finished. We’re at the start of Season One of Hell’s Acre, and there are two seasons planned–so that will take a while, and by the time it’s over I’ll see if people have stopped stealing Kaia’s books. If they have, I’ll probably be able to use the serial slot to at least bring the adventures of Steelflower and the Gang in the North to their conclusion.

I originally planned another, subsequent trilogy dealing with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan, but that’s a lot of epic fantasy to write for little-to-no return and a bunch of people stealing it in the bargain.

I know most of you reading this will say, “But I paid for my Kaia books!” And if you did I am very glad and grateful; you (and Skyla Dawn Cameron) are the reason why Steelflower at Sea and Steelflower in Snow are published at all. I thank you kindly, and I’m very sorry other people are behaving so badly. I wish they weren’t.


I’ve been getting some other questions (more like comments, alas) in the mailbag (and other places) lately, but these are the most common. And now that I’ve finished absorbing coffee, some brekkie is called for before the dogs drag me around the block.

Boxnoggin in particular is in fine form today–he’s not called Baron von Titzpunch for nothing, the dog outright demanded snuggles this morning. Miss B, of course, has her rigid schedule to adhere to, but she also plundered his breakfast bowl this morning since there was bacon grease and the Baron wasn’t quite off the mark quick enough.

Never a dull moment chez Saintcrow, alas and hallelujah. At least the week of Mondays seems over, and the weather is holding.

It’s gonna have to be enough.

Half Off Monday

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Last week was full of Mondays. Every damn day felt like one.

Consequently, I have made the executive decision that this week, I am taking Monday half-off. I’ll get in a chapter of Hell’s Acre and maybe some line edits today, but I’m knocking off early and not going to spend eighteen hours wrestling with print distro problems.

I should probably just open my own publishing house. You know the old joke–the easy way to make a million dollars in publishing is to spend two million.

Still, I’m practically a cottage industry. I work quickly; I can’t help it. The stories, like the spice, must flow.

I did get HOOD‘s Season Three all prepped for distribution. It lands September 21; preorders are live everywhere except Amazon, which doesn’t let you do ebook preorders if you’re not using KDP. (They really, REALLY want writers locked into their proprietary systems, but I am unwilling.) Which is why I also stock .mobi versions in my Gumroad store. The omnibus–all three seasons of HOOD in one nifty volume–will probably be out December-ish, depending on the cover artist’s schedule.

And that’s one series put to bed. Whew. Writing the bulk of Season Three during last year was…not unpleasant, because work kept me from walking into the sea. But still, I had a lot of difficulty on the editing and proofing passes because certain passages reminded me very strongly of 2020’s weeds and thickets.

Now that is a year I would not care to revisit. 2021’s got some lulus, yes, but on the whole I feel a lot better about it than I did about the four preceding years. I’m sure I’m just being set up for some scorching disappointment, true, but in the meantime I’m going to take a damn breath.

Not to mention walk the dogs. They don’t care what we’ve named the days of the week, all they know is that brekkie has been inspected (not eaten, except for the bacon grease) and Mum has finished her coffee, therefore it’s time to drag the biped around the block. I may even need a jacket today; it’s a lovely temperature.

I suppose it’s time to dance out the door. Miss B is under my desk, balefully tapping me with her nose every once in a while. (Once a herding dog, always a herding dog.) Boxnoggin is probably on my unmade bed since I left my bedroom door open, belly-up and snoring but with an ear cocked lest I somehow attempt to leave the house without him. Any move I make down the hall will precipitate a mad scramble on his part, I’m sure.

I should tell you guys about the Fork-Tailed Squirrel, but that can wait for another post. Monday awaits, and needs to be driven back into its cave.

See you around, beloveds.