Gin, Saviour?

Of course it brings forth juniper berries, it’s a juniper bush!

I really do have to watch Life of Brian again sometime soon. (Follow the gourd, the Holy Gourd!) Every time I see a juniper, I have to at least smile. And since I’m turning my attention to Hell’s Acre next, and that’s in an alt-Victorian setting, I’m thinking about gin. A lot.

I could also be thinking about gin because a little intoxication might be nice on my shattered nerves. It’s a bloody joke on the universe’s part that I’ve started breaking out in hives whenever I drink. Of course, edibles are legal in my state, so at least there’s that–a door closes and a window opens, so to speak.

I finished the line edits for The Dead God’s Heart yesterday, sent them off, and spent the rest of the day doing other work here and there, not to mention hopping out for bread and milk. At least some people are still wearing masks; the proportion seems to be ticking up a bit. I will admit I was unprepared to see how many of my fellow humans are selfish gits who won’t cover up their disease-holes to help keep others alive and safe. It is a great shock, and I’m still–still–reeling from it.

But the junipers are fruiting, my peonies are still blooming, the foxglove is still lovely, and I’ve a run today after I walk Boxnoggin, who has found out he somewhat enjoys being the only canine in the house but is still unnerved because to a dog, Even a Good Change is Change, and Any Change is Bad, Bad, Bad. There’s also Tea with Lili to consider today before I can turn to the task of rewrapping my nerves and maybe getting a little rest.

Maybe.

We’re almost to the weekend, my beloveds. I hope it’s pleasant and calm for you, in whatever proportion of both you desire. And now I’ve got to finish absorbing this coffee…

Kind Optimism

Welcome to Monday, everyone! Whew.

Late last week (literally at closing time on Friday) I finished the revisions on The Black God’s Heart, and scheduled them to go back to the editor this very morning. I also got the first draft of a really exciting project to a separate editor, which means three full-size manuscripts went out the door.

No wonder I’m feeling a bit woozy. That’s a lot of parturition in a short while.

Never fear, though, I’m not at all at loose ends. There’s groceries to acquire for the next few weeks, and I can now crawl back into Hell’s Acre and get the charity ball sorted, not to mention a few other things. I’ve been aching to get back into New Rome, especially as Avery Black needs to be in far more trouble than he currently is.

There’s even more good news–everyone chez Saintcrow has their Covid booster appointment scheduled and confirmed, with bonus flu shot. I have rarely had the latter before and am not looking forward to possible side effects, but it’s far, far better than suffering (or passing along, gods forbid) either the plague or influenza. My only problem is that every single place offering boosters seems to be actively making it as difficult as possible to schedule, though I am attempting to take the route of kind optimism and telling myself it’s probably because so many people are now getting their shots. I’d rather have it be that than any malevolence, or even incompetence.

I’m not allowed to work today. Thankfully (for some value of thankful, I suppose?) I have a mountain of administrivia to work through, between year-end stuff and things I didn’t get done because I was pushing to get Black God’s out by deadline. The relief of crossing the latter off my master to-do list was intense, let me tell you.

And that’s about all the news that’s fit to print. The dogs are very eager for walkies; things like deadlines and paperwork mean less than nothing to them. I admire their focus on the truly important things, like breakfast and strolling around the block, not to mention skritches, snuggles, and treats.

We’re almost through another year. I plan on entering 2022 cautiously, using a very long stick to open the door. I will not make eye contact in case the new year considers it a sign of aggression, and will be speaking very softly to it, attempting to soothe. I think that’s best, don’t you?

I suppose I’d best get started. The paperwork won’t do itself, more’s the pity.

See you around.

Insomnia, Incubation, Illumination

Monday has rolled around again, with a great deal of cold winter rain. Which is quite pleasing, both to me and the thirsty cedars. Summer was dreadful for us all.

I was lying in bed last night, drifting towards slumber–or, more precisely, staying very still and quiet hoping insomnia wouldn’t notice me–when all of a sudden, I was jolted by the solution to a particular plot problem in Hell’s Acre.

More specifically, I had reached a blockage during a dinner (not a dinner party, but it might as well have been) and had to throw up my hands, leaving the entire damn thing for the Muse to work on under the floorboards while I did something, anything else. The fact that I’m beating my head against revisions for The Black God’s Heart doesn’t help.

Said revisions (there are Problems, fortunately I am in the business of Solutions) are threatening to kick my ass, so I had to throw up my hands and call in reinforcements. I am always very chary of such a maneuver; growing up, asking for help was a sure way to get the stuffing kicked out of one. It’s taken a lot for me to begin to quietly, carefully, in certain very circumscribed ways–and always as a last resort–ask for assistance from selected individuals.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that said carefully selected individuals are flat-out thrilled to be asked, and furthermore, it is possible to get said help without paying an extortionate, painful price for it. Growing up has been good for that much, at least.

The sudden bursts or jolts of insight that occur after one has reached an impasse in a particular work are of a different character, though, and they rely on the same incubation-illumination dynamic as the rest of creativity. So there I was, in the dark, minding my own business, when I realized that the point of the whole dinner wasn’t solely what I originally thought but instead a means of additionally bringing in the complication among Avery Black’s Rooks.

It only took weeks of agonizing before the Muse finally dropped that little aside, lighting up the whole back half of the serial’s first season from another angle, so of course I had to make a goddamn note of it, because if one doesn’t write that sort of thing down it might flee into the cracks between sleep and waking, never to return.

I had to run the risk of insomnia finding me if I moved, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, you know. And this morning there was the note, scrawled haphazardly in the dark. Now, of course, it’s safely put in the manuscript margin, inside brackets, and I feel a lot better about things.

So it was a weekend full of (a little) rest and (a lot of) retrenchment, reading giant gulps of Nabokov and getting a truly stunning amount of revisions and housework out of the way. Of course said revisions aren’t even half done and this upcoming week is full of at least twelve-hour working days to catch up from the bloody vapor-lock…

…but that’s the way it goes, and I am lucky to have as much, I know. So here I am, eyeing the next glut of work and the bloody to-do list, and the dogs are lobbying for their walk. They have forgotten entirely the fact that it was pouring when they went out for pre-breakfast bladder-unloading, and will be discomfited all over again when we embark. At least, Boxnoggin will, for he despises the rain. B, of course, is an all-weather pooch, though I’m sure her joints ache a bit nowadays. She is an elderly statesdog, and no mistake.

Welcome to the week, beloveds. Keep your hands and arms inside the carriage, and don’t make eye contact with Tuesday. We have all we can handle right now, and the ride has commenced.

Over and out.

Mark of Survival

I…may have recovered from the zero draft of Ghost Squad #2? Maybe?

I mean, the holiday didn’t help (even though there was pie, my gods, SO MUCH PIE) because I was on tenterhooks the entire time. The idea of getting some cheap Goodwill plates/other crockery for smashing early in the day–just to get the whole thing over with so I can relax–is highly seductive, and I might even brave said Goodwill one of these days before Yule.

If I can find a time when their parking lot isn’t flooded, either with maskless hordes or actual water. Our local Goodwill is…something else.

Anyway, I may have rewrapped my nerves a bit, which means next I turn all my engines toward a little more Hell’s Acre (now on Kindle Vella, too) but mostly onto revisions on The Black God’s Heart. I finished the latter’s zeroes during lockdown (amazing how many things I am saying that about lately) and both books undid me. It will probably be exhausting to revise them, but hopefully not in a bad way. After that I’ve Sons of Ymre #2 to write (Jake and the heroine are both speaking inside my head, albeit softly) and the second book of the Tolkien Viking Werewolves.

So my schedule is bloody well packed but I have a few things crossed off the master to-do list. The Hood omnibus is ready for its drop in January 2022, the zero of Klemp’s book is done, and I survived NaNoWriMo. January should also see Sons of Ymre #1 released, though I have no preorder links just yet. It’s enough to know the book’s on its way.

So I’m in that fragile stage of recovery where I can easily hurt myself by pushing. This is when most re-injury and spiraling back down into burnout generally happens, so I’m not allowed to work too hard.

That’s the balance. Working hard enough to stay afloat, but not so much that I tear all the scars back open. It’s like riding a unicycle while juggling flaming chainsaws and whistling a song one’s only heard once, and the penalty for any dropped note is an earthquake.

Fun, right? Why on earth would I choose any other job? Heh.

It’s Monday. The dogs are ready for their walkies, and there’s a run for my weary corpse to be accomplished–I took last week off and the itch under my skin is well-nigh unbearable. The coffee is almost absorbed; consequently, I am almost, almost fit for human consumption. I’ve also been unsubscribing from many a newsletter this morning, so am almost ready to start the new year with a clean digital slate.

Almost. Year-end housekeeping is generally a chore; this time around it’s a mark of survival. We’re still here, you and me.

Might as well get to work.

Hoping For Temporary

The third and final!

I…might have to rethink November’s schedule.

In a normal year, I would be able to do NaNoWriMo and get other projects done on the side, no problem. Piece of cake, because it’s just a normal workload, after all.

But after two years of pandemic plus a fascist coup1 and a few personal-life events, I think I’m beginning to crack.

In other words, I can write this damn novel or I can get the revisions for Black God’s Heart done. I can’t gear-shift between the two in a single day, as I normally would. And this is driving me, in technical terms, utterly batshit.

I’m used to writing at least four new books at any given time2, juggling between them as they reach different stages of the process. Revisions can generally take up two of those daily working slots, while CEs and proofs are short-term intense efforts requiring a few days of complete effort, all my engines turned to the task at hand. This is the way I’ve worked since the beginning.

But now, it appears I can either work on a new book3, or I can do the revisions. I can’t do both. I’m unsure how long the damn revisions will take (another new thing, thanks, I hate it) and that might push the goal I’ve set myself–finishing Ghost Squad #2 during NaNo–into the realm of utter impossibility.

This infuriates me to a degree I am slightly baffled by. There have been only two times in my life the words have flat-out refused to come4 and I am somewhat frightened the current state of affairs presages a third. For someone used to juggling chainsaws with some facility, if not ease, it’s…disconcerting.

Really disconcerting.

I’m hoping this is temporary. I’m hoping a good hard run or two and a couple days’ worth of internal pep talks will remove whatever this damn blockage is. I’m used to being able to will–or simply flat-out endure–my way out of problems; this time, throwing myself against the wall is producing a little less of a dent than usual.

At least the weather is nice and grey. And at least NaNo is only a personal goal, not a hard-and-fast one. Still…the thought that I might be cracking under the strain and becoming unable to work at even half my usual pace is terrifying, and I would really prefer not to have that hanging around while I’m trying to concentrate.

So…if you, my beloveds, are having similar issues, you’re not alone. We’ve been holding on for so long, and the frustration–we could have been done with this and focusing on rebuilding by now, if not for some selfish, racist asshats–is intense, at least for me. If you’re having trouble concentrating, if you’re only working at half speed or less, this is entirely reasonable. I mean, just look at what we’re facing. It’s a wonder any of us bother to get out of bed at this rate, even when forced by the exigencies of survival under late-stage capitalism.

I don’t even have a ding-dang suggestion for overcoming or whatnot. “I suppose we just have to hold on,” isn’t a suggestion. It’s more like a desperate prayer.

Regardless, there’s coffee to finish and the dogs to get out for a walk. Yesterday I spent with the NaNo novel, today I’ll spend with the damn revisions. If something’s got to give, it’s going to have to be Klemp and Beck at the moment. I know they’ll wait, and yet…

Tuesday beckons. I keep giving the baseball bat longing looks.

Time to get started.

Puzzled By Cruelty

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.

Retrenchment

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I should continue blogging. It’s not that I want to stop–I enjoy it, which is a good enough reason for continuing. And it’s not quite a journal or diary, because those are separate and private. I suppose it’s always been a way of shouting into the void, even during the ol’ LJ days.

Man. Livejournal. That takes me back.

Every once in a while I look to see if I want to keep doing it. I used to have more post ideas–there were Soundtrack Mondays and Friday Writing posts, for example. But then 2020 hit, and kept hitting.

And kept hitting, and kept hitting. And kicked for good measure.

I know everything changes. Still, I miss telling backyard stories. (There was a squirrel on the deck while we were having dinner just the other day, and the quick movement when all three of us involuntarily checked for footwear was hilarious.) Norbert the Gargoyle is in a new home–I never did tell you guys how that turned out–and the gnomes, from Emphysema Joe on down, are their usual cranky selves. We have a new crop of squirrels, though–the old ones have either changed their territories or moved on.

Brief is the life of a garden squirrel.

In short, there’s a lot going on, but getting it all down is the difficult part. There’s been so much else to talk about. Plague, war, fascist coup–all of it’s exhausting.

There’s no ringing conclusion or grand decision today. I’m just…looking at things. And I don’t think I want to make any hard and fast resolutions until there’s been at least a short period of calm. The news cycle hasn’t been pummeling me like it did last year, for which I am devoutly grateful, and yet the hole we were cast into is just so deep, getting out is an epic in and of itself.

Speaking of which, how am I writing two epics at once? There’s Hell’s Acre (which premieres in June) and Cold North, both massive undertakings. But then, I’m not really myself if I’m not juggling slightly1 more than I think I can manage. I’ve edits coming down the pike too–a final look at The Bloody Throne, revision on the second half of The Black God’s Heart, and today I hear from an editor about Sons of Ymre.

Publishing is such a delayed-gratification game. It’s unreal. By the time a book hits shelves, I’m already two years farther down the road. Also, Moon’s Knight is resting with a certain other editor now, and if they don’t take it, I’ll be looking for a cover. Because dammit, my beta readers deserve to see that book out in the wild, sooner or later.

The amount of work I managed to get done last year is somewhat shocking. I didn’t think I’d done anything at all. Looking back and realizing “no, Lili, you kept working frantically because the alternative was sinking in quicksand” is…well, not quite uncomfortable, but not pleasant either.

I suppose it’s a measure of hope that I keep going, both with the books and with blogging. I’ve always hoped that seeing the life of a working writer a little closer–though not intimately, I save that for other spaces–might help other writers feel a little less alone. This kind of career is both achingly lonely (when there’s nothing but you and the blank page) and shockingly crowded (when one deals with agent, editors, marketing, production staff, and all the other quality-control staff). The dichotomy can drive one mad.

I mean, if one isn’t already mad just contemplating this kind of work. It does tend to rattle one’s bolts.

Case in point: When I started this post, I was thinking solely about whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I’ve ended up amazed at the amount of work I did last year under some harsh conditions, and am bracing myself for another glut of revisions to fall on my head.

So it goes, I guess. And through it all, the dogs need walking and I need caffeine–the withdrawal headaches are no fun at all. So I bid you a fond adieu, beloved Reader.

But only for a short while. I think I’ll keep blogging after all.

Over and out.