Tuesday, With Questions

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.

Tuesday Tuckerizations

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They’re saying 95F today. I’ve already closed the house and turned the AC on. The ceiling fan in the stairwell is going too. Such as it is, we’ve got some remedy against the heat.

In plenty of the country, it wouldn’t be considered bad weather. But here, we are pale temperate mushrooms, and this dries us out. Even the moss in our crevices is cracking. (Hyperbole? Yes, but only a little.)

Of course it means I’ll be able to crouch in my darkened office and work today, since the holiday weekend is over. I managed double wordcount on Cold North yesterday, but only a pittance on Hell’s Acre. Which isn’t bad (just a reminder, you can read the first few chapters of the serial for free) and today I get to write a chapter where I Tuckerize some of my beloved subscribers. It will probably end in their eponymous characters’ gruesome deaths (Avery has a temper, and quite a bit of training in mayhem). I was kind of unprepared for how many people wanted to, erm, risk a violent end in the serial.

Sometimes the deaths are pretty neat–a certain character in Roadtrip Z got to be an end-of-movie hero, bit by a zombie and saving one last bullet in the chamber for himself. (Hullo, MM!) And since I’m writing a combat scene today I have a list of names to use now, and I think at least one is going to switch allegiances mid-fight.

In other news, I got a very nice letter from Reader B. L., who liked Steelflower very much and entreated me to continue the series. I do go back and look at The Highlands War from time to time. If I can open the file without stress nausea burning a hole in my gut I’ll put it on the writing docket.

Unfortunately, it remains one of my most-pirated series. The level of theft means I literally can’t afford to work on it, and the emotional cost is super high too.

But again, if I can get to the point where I can open the Highlands file without the stress nausea, I’ll consider it, because I really do need that arc finished. Originally it was to be a trilogy–the first book where everyone meets, the Skaialan book, and then Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan–incidentally, that last book was to explain D’ri’s scar, and tie a bunch of other narrative threads pretty neatly.

Best-laid plans and all.

In any case, I’ve got to get the dogs walked and my own corpse through a run before the heat mounts to an unlivable degree, so I’m out the door as soon as the last bit of coffee is swilled. Happy Pride Month, everyone, and I hope your Tuesday goes smooth as silk.

If it doesn’t, we can get out the machetes and the RPGs, and teach it not to mess with us.

Over and out…

Mad March Scheduling

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Well. It’s March, it’s a Monday. There is a pea-soup fog; even the cedars across the back yard are hazy and indistinct. I meant to get up early and start my spring-forward on the right foot, but… the dogs were heavy, I was dreaming about a glass labyrinth, and the enormity of a few professional steps I’ve taken lately has come crashing down.

I have to write an agent query letter. I have never had to write an agent query letter, so this should be fun. (Yes, there are a lot of things in publishing I don’t know about. Always learning is the name of the game.)

This week, Serial Time and Nest Egg subscribers get the unedited ebook of HOOD‘s Season Two, and next week they get the edited one–well before it goes on sale anywhere, I might add, though I do need to update the buy links on the book page. I’m hard at work on Season Three, where all the characters come together–the double-crosses are revealed, Ged Gizabón commits murder, Robb Locke commits even more, Parl Jun makes his bid for absolute power, Marah decides to hell with deportment and responsibility because all of Anglene needs to be saved, Bookman Trick finds out he’s not a coward after all, and Alladal finally gets a few things she wants.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And then there’s breaking an embargo, a deadly speeder chase, not one but two jailbreaks, and a whole lot else planned.

I mean, I knew writing Robin Hood IN SPACE was going to be fun, but I didn’t know it would be this fun. I’m eyeing what I have to pull off and rubbing my hands together with glee.

There’s also a podcast I want to listen to, which doesn’t happen often. I should have cued it up yesterday while I was doing housework, but I was busily dancing to the book soundtrack for The Calling Knife. (That’s what the trunk novel is calling itself now.)

So the work schedule looks like: HOOD‘s Season Three, The Bloody Throne (third and final Hostage book), The Black God’s Heart (which is American Gods meets John Wick meets Conan the Destroyer), and The Highlands War (which is the last Steelflower book for a while; I probably won’t write her and D’ri’s return to G’maihallan). And there’s revisions on Finder’s Watcher to get done, as well as line edits on The Poison Prince–that’s book two of Hostage to Empire. Plus Sons of Ymre and Damage both need another draft, since both are somewhere between zero and first draft status.

I also need to write that damn query letter, and it would be super great if I could also make The Calling Knife leave me alone for a little while. Basically I’m running in circles screaming with my hair afire, but you know I prefer too much work to too little, indeed. And some gardening this month wouldn’t be amiss either.

Right now, though, I should focus on finishing my coffee and getting the dogs walked. The rest of it will happen in due time. Breaking tasks into bite-size pieces is the name of adulthood’s game, and I’ve had all the rest I’m allowed–or want.

Plus, I’ve got this machete handy. Monday had better behave, and March had better straighten up.

*wanders away muttering, slurping at coffee*

Maintenance and Morning

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So last night, while I was doing some site maintenance, a plugin choked and tossed about twenty old, old posts–from 2017–into the blog-subscription-queue. I’m so sorry about that, guys–I hate getting my inbox snowed under, and I can only imagine how much you guys do. I apologize; that plugin has been told to go sit in the corner and THINK about what it’s done, and that was the end of my Wednesday.

I decided, after that, it was time to go to bed.

This morning went from fog to a pink-striped, cotton-candy sky. I watched the sun rise while lying warm and safe in bed, Miss B snuggled against my side and Boxnoggin snoring in a furry lump, as he is wont to do. Both dogs were worn out after yesterday’s rainy fun and games. I found out that yes, I do still need breakfast on running days, and furthermore found out that Boxnoggin can practically drag me home if necessary. (He didn’t have to… but he could have, and it was a comfort.)

Now I’m up, and have a few toads to swallow before I can get back to Sons of Ymre. I think that’ll be the thing I finish next. I have an idea of what I want to do with the story, which hinges on the fact that the Sons can’t really trust their own perceptions in certain cases. Being under constant siege from the whispers of a mad god has a certain effect on one, and it’ll be a hat trick to delineate the mounting dread of a certain main character. Especially once their safe haven is broken into and it becomes a road-trip book.

Other than that, Damage is with a beta reader, I’m clearing my submissions queue by the end of February (which means nothing will be out on sub come April), there’s Season Two of HOOD to CE, proof, and format, the third installment of Hostage to Empire to write now that I have the structure of the book decided, a monthly price on my writing advice column to decide upon–I’m thinking $6/mo–not to mention Season Three of HOOD to get underway–and Guilder to frame for it.

I’m swamped.

You know I like the feeling of having too much work; it’s oodles better than not enough. Some exciting stuff I can’t talk about is coming down the pike, and I might, might be able to squeeze in writing a good chunk of The Highlands War (that’s a fresh new Kaia Steelflower book, natch) for upcoming serial purposes. Don’t get your hopes up yet, though–I’ve so much else to do, I might not be able to, and of course the people who write to me demanding (not encouraging, not telling me how much they like Kaia’s adventures but flat-out DEMANDING) more of that world are doing more harm than good.

I haven’t forgotten that one person who was extremely vocal about demanding other Steelflower books/chapters was the person putting them up on thieving torrenting sites. (Yes, I include a nag and specific typos in certain things, so I can pinpoint who’s listing my stuff on pirate/thievery sites.) So, outright demanding that I write more Kaia makes me want to dig in my heels and is extremely counterproductive.

Anyway, the dogs need a brisk walk to shake off morning fidgets, and I need it in order to shake off the logy feeling of not nearly enough caffeine. I might make myself another jolt if I still feel woolly-headed when we come back home.

Again, I’m super sorry about last night’s snafu, guys. I take being invited into your inbox very seriously, and accidents are embarrassing. You can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be deleting that plugin during the next scheduled maintenance session.

And tomorrow’s Friday. It can’t come soon enough…

Shillin’ My Wares

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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.

Relative Distinction

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Well, it’s Monday, and back to work. I sent off the submissions draft of Finder’s Watcher late Friday night, and then had to catch up on everything I let slide during the push to finish that revision. On the bright side, a tonne of housework got done. The Princess arrived home from work exhausted to find good smells and plenty of snacks, and the Prince remarked that it was nice to see me taking a weekend off, for a change.

Little did either know I’m about to start on another, far more difficult and hazardous round of revisions. (Insert evil laugh here.) So will begin about a month of revising, cross-checking, muttering to myself, and wondering why on earth I made such a complex, fragile world.

I can see why gods are cranky most of the time. There’s always something that needs doing.

In any case, there’s the dogs to walk, a morning run to get in, prep, more prep, and a daily goal or two to set. If I try to look at the entire revision mass I’ll go mad; much better to break it into tiny chunks and chew on each in turn. It’s the Mouse Theory of Revising–each bite mannerly indeed, like the girl who ate the whale in the Shel Silverstein poem.

There’s also a Soundtrack Monday post to get done, since I took last week off. And I probably should have worked on the monthly newsletter, but the engine inside my head’s been in the red for so long things were starting to melt. I’m on a long course now, where I can–and should–take the curves a little more slowly.

That’s me, beating a metaphor almost to death. Sometimes I wonder if I ever experience anything directly without filtering it through the writer in my head, or without comparing it to a screen of other things. Then I think everything is relative, and living is only a matter of distinction.

I also need to finalize next year’s writing schedule. It would be nice if trad publishing would get off its ass and return decisions in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve already had to pull Sons of Ymre from submission to trads because they were sitting on their hands; that’ll probably be a self-pub title this upcoming year. If I can fit in The Highlands War I think I might; that’s been hanging fire for long enough. I at least want to get Kaia back to civilization in Antai before bringing that to a close.

I probably won’t write her and Darik’s return to G’maihallan; piracy continues to rob readers of things they really love. Each time I find the books pirated, I know it’s because some asshole just wants to hurt and violate, and it feels like someone’s spread offal on my bed. The next time one of your friends proudly trumpets that they don’t pay for books, that authors are rich and charge too much anyway, well, there it is.

Anyway, I need to figure out a prize big enough to reward myself at the end of this revision. Which will have to be a doozy, since I go straight into Book 3 of the trilogy after I’m done. And I’ll be revising Season Two of HOOD at the same time. Spaceships in the morning, preindustrial court espionage in the afternoon, evenings and weekends for things that make me feel human again.

It’s not a bad schedule. If I can keep it up for a month or two–Yule notwithstanding–I might feel as if I’ve caught up.

Might.

Enjoy your Monday, my dears. A Soundtrack Monday post is coming up around 2pm PST, for your delectation…

Soundtrack Monday: Terra Firma

Steelflower in Snow

Years ago, the only time I had to myself was a walk after dinner when my ex-husband was home and napping in his chair. I could conceivably leave the kids safely with him, put on some headphones, and walk through dusk or night itself.

Of course, every time I came home there was a mess to punish me for leaving. I still haven’t decided if the ex was consciously pulling that bullshit or if he didn’t even realize he was being an ass. Either way, it was maddening.

Anyway, the walks were a refuge; while I was writing the original Steelflower, Delerium’s Terra Firma was what I imagined playing when Kaia arrived in Hain. If the series ever becomes a movie (unlikely, since the only white person for two whole books is Redfist, though maybe Kesamine counts) that’s what would be playing over the opening montage of several days while the principals get into position.

You can hear Kaia arriving on a ship, Redfist hiding from the guards and deciding to dice a bit in the foreigner’s quarter, and see Darik and Kaia just missing each other in the crowds, Kaia stopping every now and again to watch some street acrobats or pay a bit of tradewire for a snack. There’s even a space in the song where Darik realizes he’s lost the darauq’adai, and his desperation–not to mention his frustrated anger–mounts. Then, you can almost hear Kaia getting drunk and her hand flashing out as she picks Redfist’s pocket.

There are other songs that remind me of Kaia, but this one’s the clearest. Everything about it speaks of Kaia’s world, and more to the point, her grace and beauty. She wouldn’t think herself beautiful, but most of the time I do, and I’m sure Darik does.

It’s a shame he’s keeping such a large secret from her. Of course that won’t end well, it never does. But that’s a story that may not ever be written.

Enjoy the music, my friends.